Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM
Dec. 26, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nearly 90 percent of New Mexico residents who are likely to vote in 2020 oppose reinstatement of a tax on food.

Renewal of the tax has been discussed by some interim legislative committees ahead of next month’s session. Lawmakers previously have argued that reinstating the tax on food would allow reduction of the overall tax rate and make the state more attractive to businesses.

But a poll conducted in early December showed opposition was up nearly 10 points from a similar poll conducted in 2015. New Mexico has one of the highest rates of child poverty and food insecurity in the nation, and James Jimenez, executive director with New Mexico Voices for Children, said taxing food could make it worse.

“This is really a backward step,” Jimenez said. “And we’re really disappointed it’s even being entertained as a matter of discussion because it simply doesn’t make sense given New Mexico’s historic poverty levels.”

The poll included 800 New Mexico residents. It was conducted by the national firm Benenson Strategy Group and showed opposition to the food tax is on the rise. This month, 87 percent opposed the tax compared with 80 percent in 2015.

New Mexico eliminated the food tax in 2003. Since then, Jimenez said, the state’s child poverty rate has gotten worse. He pointed to a report earlier this year that showed the share of children living in poverty in the U.S. decreased 2 percent from 2015 to 2016, but increased by 1 percent in New Mexico.

“And we know that children in New Mexico suffer from a high degree of food insecurity, which means that they don’t always know where the next meal is coming from,” he said. “And making food more expensive for children and families just does not make sense to us.”

Nearly all U.S. states have eliminated, reduced or offset taxes as applied to food for home consumption. The polling firm will release more data after the first of the year, around the same time the 2019 legislative session begins on January 15.

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