Friday, January 15, 2010

Tax Tracking: Best Bets On What Santa Fe Will Hike, Plus: Di's Dough; There's Plenty Of It, And: Notes From The Blog Mailbag 

We've been tracking the tax increase issue all week and with the help of lobbyists and lawmakers we think we have pinpointed the most likely tax hikes New Mexicans will get following the end of the 30 day legislative session that starts Tuesday.

First, a statewide hike in the gross receipts tax of either one half or one quarter per cent. If they do the half-cent, they would raise about $250 million and that would be the only one needed as it would raise the $200 million both Big Bill and key legislators want from tax hikes. The other $300 million needed to beat back the deficit would come from spending cuts.

If they do a quarter cent gross receipts tax that would take in $125 million. Then they would probably add that surtax of one percent on incomes of individuals making over $75,000 and joint filers taking in over $150,000. That gives them about $75 million. The third leg could very well be a one percent increase in the auto excise tax which would generate $34 million. That takes them over the $200 million level.

A tax package is not expected to emerge until the final hours of the session, but this outline above is what the wall-leaners are talking about. All of these hikes would probably be approved by Governor Bill with the proviso that they be passed for two or three years, not permanently.

It's the $300 million or more in needed spending cuts for the budget year that starts July 1 that seems more likely to generate the wailing and gnashing of teeth than the tax side of the deal.


Join us on KNME-TV tonight at 7 p.m. for New Mexico in Focus as we join host Gene Grant and panelists Pat Frisch of KKOB-AM radio, Steve Terrell of the New Mexican and journalist Christie Chisholm to discuss the upcoming 30 days of festivities--or dreariness--depending on your point of view.


We were hanging out at Seasons restaurant near ABQ's Old Town the other night when we ran into longtime KOAT-TV President and General Manager Mary Lynn Roper who informed us that the seat we had chosen was the one that Lt. Governor Diane Denish had left only moments before. Hearing that, we quickly checked under the table to see if Di had inadvertently dropped any C-notes, but alas, nothing was there so the meal was on us.

Di has plenty of those notes to keep track of these days. In her '09 fourth quarter money report released Thursday the Light Guv and presumed Dem Guv nominee says she raised $750,000 in campaign donations, bringing her cash on hand to $2.5 million. We sure hope she left a big tip for her waiter at Seasons.

It is this kind of money performance that has R's continuing to fret over fielding a first-tier candidate against her. That's why Pete Domenici Jr, son of former US Senator Domenici, is being urged on by segments of the party. He is expected to make a decision--one way or the other--within days.

Three quarters of a million raised in a quarter when the state economy was being hammered by a powerful recession confirms Denish's status as the early front runner to become the next Governor. That may sound good to her supporters, but it makes nervous nellies out of any strategist worth their voter maps.

Much of the Light Guv's money came in small donations of $25, $50 and $100 as her fundraisers worked to rake money in during tight times. But she had her share of large givers. They included SunRay Gaming which runs the Farmington racetrack, coming in with $12,000; land developer Mesa del Sol gave $20,000; Emily's List in D.C. checked in with $10,000; Lovelace Health Systems donated $5,000; businessman and politico Johnny Cope of Hobbs gave Denish $5,000; tobacco company Altria kicked in $10,000 and the NEA's Fund for Children came with $15,000.

There were also some large donations from out of state law firms. Those may become more of an issue as we go forward and legislators and others start looking at the amount of money the state is paying to contract out legal services as we face these enormous deficits.

Denish currently confronts a very unsettled political landscape. Just look at Massachusetts. But her cash stash prepares her to fight all battles that come her way. And come they will.


From the mail:

Feeding tax increases to the legislature is like trying to cure addiction to cocaine by giving more to the addict. The ills of government in New Mexico like many of the ills of New Mexicans come from obesity. New Mexicans and their government need to trim down.

They write from across the USA. From Dewayne Matthews, VP of Policy and Strategy Lumina Foundation for Education in Indianapolis:

Your blog is absolutely invaluable to this native son of New Mexico, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy and appreciate being able to keep up with the latest movidas. Thank you.

Unfortunately, the updates also include news of the passing of some of the people I was privileged to know and work with, and who taught me lessons that have stayed with me throughout my career. For example,(former Legislative Finance Committee director) Maralyn Budke. I first met Maralyn when she was at the LFC and I was a very green staffer at the Legislative Education Study Committee, and had the privilege to continue to work with her after I moved to the Commission on Higher Education and she to Governor Carruther’s office.

As Carruthers said in the New Mexican article you linked to, Maralyn was, simply put, an outstanding public servant. It was never about her. One thing that might be overlooked is her role in training an entire generation of people that have quietly run state government for decades.

Thanks again for keeping me “in the loop.”

You got it, Dewayne. And thanks to all for stopping by this week. Glad to have you with us.

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