The real problem is that child care assistance in New Mexico has not been funded as much more than a work support program for parents. We’ve never made the investments that would be needed in order to address the multi-dimensional needs of kids in our state and see the increases in school readiness that we know the program can provide. It’s like setting aside only enough money to buy a subcompact and then complaining that it’s not as roomy as an SUV.
In all, the tax package that was passed last year was a win for New Mexico families with children. It also protected revenue that we need for our classrooms, road repairs, and health care while still giving working families a much-needed break. There is still work to be done in 2020 to make the tax system fairer, but 2019 was a great start.
Officials with Kids Count, nonprofit that advocates for children, said the governor’s $100,000 donation to the newly-created New Mexico Hunger Action Fund is a step in the right direction. “But we also know we need to think bigger,” said Amber Wallin, director of Kids Count. “In order to really address childhood hunger in New Mexico, we need to think about wages, we need to think about tax policy in New Mexico, we need to make sure our low-income working families in New Mexico are prioritized."
“Our state lawmakers made great strides in putting working families first this year – especially families with children,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonprofit group that supported the tax package and commissioned the report. “These tax changes will really help our working families as well as help make our tax code fairer and more stable.”
Bill Jordan, government relations officer with New Mexico Voices for Children, said currently those with the largest incomes in the state pay the smallest share of their incomes in state and local taxes, while those with the lowest incomes pay the highest share. He said 385,000 children will benefit when the revamped tax code returns $64 million to working families.
“It’s fantastic. It’s a really significant step forward for child care assistance in New Mexico,” said Amber Wallin, New Mexico director for the annual Kids Count report on child wellbeing.
He adds that jobs designed to capture wasted methane also would enhance the state's economy. "We've seen, for example, in states like Colorado that have enacted commonsense methane-capture regulations, that the industry can adapt and it can be part of growing the economy," he points out.
Sharon Kayne, spokeswoman for New Mexico Voices for Children, said 27% of kids in our state live in poverty, ranking us 49th on this list, tied with Mississippi, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Only Louisiana fares worse, ranked in 50th place with 28% of kids living in poverty.
When you filed your tax return this year, you may have noticed some changes. Maybe you got a smaller refund than usual or you owed more in state taxes. So what happened to the big fairness measures that the state Legislature just passed?
The nonprofit New Mexico Voices For Children recently issued a news release that cites an estimate that the feds will have as much as a $1 billion shortfall to pay for the count, along with the dire prediction that “Trump’s underfunding … is likely to hurt NM.”