Celebrate Democracy: It’s Tax Day!

by Raphael Pacheco, MBA
April 17, 2018

Growing up in Clovis, New Mexico, my favorite place to go as a kid was Clovis-Carver Public Library. Although it has been several years since I last visited the cozy library right across Main Street from the courthouse, I still see it as my second home. During the summers, my mom, a public school teacher, would take my sister and me to a program called Story Hour where the librarians would read aloud a book to the kids in attendance. After the story, sometimes we would have a guest speaker; it was always someone from the community, like a police officer, or a firefighter, or once we had a zookeeper from Hillcrest Park Zoo bring in some of their animals to talk about. Once Story Hour ended, my mom let me and my sister loose in the library where we proceeded to quietly raise hell. Checking out and reading hundreds of books about Egypt and Goosebumps, about pirates, kings and queens, and folklore and other fiction that transported us to other worlds. Appropriately, somewhere else in the library (hopefully not the children’s section) was a book on what made this beautiful childhood experience possible. A book about taxes. (Fun fact: everything underlined in this paragraph is funded at least in part by state and local taxes.)

While it’s easy to tick off a list of the things we enjoy that are paid for out of our taxes, paying taxes is really a moral duty that we all participate in. It is a contract that we honor collectively because it’s the way we invest in our communities. In fact, some research shows that Americans see being a taxpayer as a role worthy of pride and respect. Unfortunately due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) signed into law last December—not to mention the many trickle-down tax cuts that came before it—the responsibility of paying taxes is not distributed equitably. Namely, the tax cuts that were enacted largely benefit the wealthy and large corporations, according to an analysis done by the Institution of Taxation and Economic Policy on the TCJA. For example, the top 1 percent will receive the lion’s share of the tax cut in nearly every state—and New Mexico is no exception.  New Mexican families with the highest incomes—those with incomes in the top 40 percent—will get 85 percent of New Mexico’s total tax cut. Far more than the 15 percent that the majority of us—those with incomes in the bottom 60 percent—will receive (see figure below).

An uneven, inequitable tax cut is bad enough. Our nation’s tax code is thrown even further out of balance by the permanent tax cuts for corporations made possible through the TCJA. These tax cuts will all simultaneously drive up federal deficits and that will be used as an excuse to force cuts to food assistance, health care, and other programs that benefit millions of Americans. That money would be put to much better use repairing our roads and educating our children.

Cuts to federal programs will only put more pressure on state budgets to compensate for the loss of federal funding. Federal funding accounts for 41.4 percent of all government spending in New Mexico, but thanks to insufficient state revenues, the state has still had to make deep cuts in spending over the past decade. Since the recession, we’ve cut K-12 education by 14 percent on a per-pupil, inflation-adjusted basis and the state could lose a multi-million dollar lawsuit for underfunding education as a result. We’ve cut higher education by 33 percent, which resulted in incredible increases in tuition, and our students have more debt than students in almost every other state. Only a small fraction of New Mexico’s children receive NM Pre-K and state-supported home visiting services and our child care assistance program is serving thousand fewer families than it did in 2010.

Of course, our deep cuts to education were due to more than the recession. They’ve also been the result of state-level tax cuts that went disproportionately to corporations and the wealthy but have done nothing for our sluggish economy. The state’s revenue levels are just barely back to where they were before the recession and now we could face significant cuts from the feds. It is our imperative as a state to create a strong, fair economy and we can do so with cleaner, more equitable tax codes that make corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share and bring in the revenue we need to invest in our communities. New Mexico Voices for Children’s Blueprint for a Prosperous State outlines several common-sense paths to a more prosperous economy.

So call me crazy but I really enjoy Tax Day because I am truly proud to pay taxes. If voting during Election Day is a self-expression of our values, then filing our tax returns on Tax Day is the method through which we celebrate those values. Taxes provide the resources to make shared investments in the things we all care about like a cleaner environment, public health, and quality schools. Ever wonder how White Sands National Monument and other public spaces stay clean? Or how we have this magical faucet in our homes that we can turn on and out comes life-sustaining water that is safe to drink, cook with, and bathe in? Remember your favorite teachers in elementary school and the impact they had on you as a kid? You have these awesome experiences because of investment in our communities through taxes that have led to greater opportunities that we all can enjoy.

Raphael Pacheco is a research and policy analyst and State Priorities Partnership Fellow.

New Mexico Kids at the Crossroads

A Children’s Agenda for Making KIDS COUNT with Candidates

kids playing with bubbles Download this children’s agenda (March 2018; 4 pages; pdf)

There’s a reason we call it the Land of Enchantment—everything from our colorful traditions to our diverse cultures and breath-taking landscapes makes New Mexico so special.

But even the most spectacular traditions, cultures, and landscapes can’t make growing up in New Mexico enchanting for children who don’t have the opportunities they need to thrive. With the highest rate of child poverty in the nation, New Mexico is not providing the opportunities our children need to succeed. And if the future isn’t bright for our children, it’s not bright for our state.

But the good news is that we know what works. We have the power to improve opportunities for New Mexico’s kids in a very big way, and we can do it through public policy.

Elections put New Mexico at a crossroads. Will candidates adopt policies that keep us on the current course or will they opt for a path that will lead us to prosperity?

Prosperity is not possible without investments. The best investments we can make are those that build up our people. Investments in people lead to a skilled, educated, and productive workforce, which is essential to a stable business landscape and a strong New Mexico economy.

What follows are recommendations for investments that will put our people first. Fundamental to all of these recommendations is a fair, responsible, and transparent tax system that generates sufficient revenues to support programs and services that can ensure that all New Mexico kids have the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Economic Well-Being

Children do best when their families have the economic security that comes from having good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. When there are simply not enough of those jobs to go around or when families fall on hard times, policy-makers can enhance economic security for hard-working families with work supports that help provide the opportunities that children need to thrive. To best support economic well-being for New Mexico’s children, policy-makers can:

    • Increase the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) and the Low Income Comprehensive Tax Credit (LICTR).
    • Enact a new state-level Child Tax Credit (CTC) for families with children.
    • Immediately increase the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, rising to $12 an hour by 2022.
    • Immediately restore child care assistance to the previous eligibility level so more low-wage working parents can afford safe care for their kids.[1] Within two years, increase eligibility even more to help working parents who still struggle with child care costs.[2]
    • Simplify enrollment and recertification processes for family supports including Medicaid, the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), and child care assistance, as well as enact express-lane eligibility to reduce duplication of paperwork.
    • Enroll all eligible families in Medicaid, SNAP, and child care assistance and increase participation in other work supports.
    • Reject cost-sharing measures and reductions in benefits or income eligibility for Medicaid.
    • Support a maximum APR of 36% on all small loans, and empower the Regulation and Licensing Department to end predatory lending practices in payday, car title, and tax refund loans, and pawn and rent-to-own schemes.
    • Support low-income housing and enact a comprehensive plan to reduce homelessness.
    • Support increased low-income home energy assistance (LIHEAP) funding.

Education

The most effective path out of poverty is education. But when children from low-resource families start school already behind, they are unlikely to catch up. High-quality early care and learning programs are proven to help prepare children for success in school and in life. Policy-makers should ensure equitable access to an affordable and high-quality cradle-to-career system of care and education for all of New Mexico’s kids. To best support education for New Mexico’s children, they can:

    • Significantly increase funding to achieve universal voluntary parent coaching, child care assistance, and pre-kindergarten as part of a comprehensive pre-school early care and learning continuum.
    • Support a constitutional amendment to use a fraction of the Land Grant Permanent Fund for early education.
    • Significantly increase K-12 per-pupil funding and compensation for teachers and support staff.
    • Ensure that schools whose students have the highest needs receive the most funding by increasing the at-risk factor in New Mexico’s education funding formula.
    • Support evidence-based methods for closing achievement gaps at all stages of education.
    • Increase funding for youth mentoring and after-school programs.
    • Expand community schools and other wrap-around strategies and programs that help families and kids.
    • Increase funding for bilingual education to assure that all children have access.
    • Restore the College Affordability Fund so it can support at least $2 million in distributions per year.
    • Make the lottery scholarship need-based.
    • Expand access to education for adults, including high school equivalency programs, service learning opportunities, career pathways for disconnected youth, adult basic education, and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) programs.

Health

A person’s health should not depend on their racial or ethnic heritage or what zip code they live in, but too often it does. Americans value the ideas of equality that are enshrined in our Constitution but, despite the gains made toward universal health coverage, we are still a long way from true health equity. Policy-makers should ensure that all New Mexico children and families have access to a comprehensive and high-quality system of health care coverage and wellness resources, and that all New Mexicans live and thrive in safe and supportive communities. To best support health for New Mexico’s children, they can:

    • Support full implementation of all provisions of the Affordable Care Act to improve access and achieve health equity.
    • Support full-funding of Medicaid for all eligible New Mexicans and oppose barriers to access such as cost-sharing premiums and co-pays for most Medicaid recipients.[3]
    • Re-open the school-based health care centers that were forced to close due to spending cuts and support the creation of more school-based health centers.
    • Support a rebuilding of New Mexico’s behavioral health system with a special emphasis on access to substance abuse treatment programs.
    • Support treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.
    • Develop and fund a plan to end the Medicaid waiting list for those with developmental disabilities.
    • Support common-sense gun safety legislation, including universal background checks and allowing a judge to prohibit those accused of domestic violence from possessing firearms.
    • Increase funding for child and teen suicide prevention, tobacco-use prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, and alcohol and drug prevention programs.
    • Support strategies to move rapidly toward more wind and solar energy, and strategies to reduce harmful emissions from other energy sources.

[1] Those earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $41,560 for a family of three.
[2] Those earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or $51,950 for a family of three.
[3] Those earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $41,560 for a family of three.

Download this children’s agenda (March 2018; 4 pages; pdf)

Join us at the state capitol to make sure kids count!

Join us in celebrating children and youth as we release our 2017 New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book on the first day of the legislative session. Bring the kids for a first-hand learning experience.

CCYD eVoices event pic
What: Celebrating Children and Youth Day and 2017 New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book release
When: Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, 8am to noon
Where: The state capitol rotunda, Santa Fe

Schedule:
8 am: Advocacy training begins. Learn the ins and outs of talking with your state legislators about the issues that are important to you. This training is free and breakfast burritos will be served (both the training and the burritos are on a first-come-first-served basis).
9 am: Meet with your legislators and visit table displays.
10 am: Press conference for the release of 2017 New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book and the annual “State of the Children and Youth” TEDx-style talks given by local youth.
Noon: Enjoy pizza (on a first-come-first-served basis).

Hope to see you there!

Join us for food advocacy workshops

Advocacy workshop-Food security logo

How Proposed State & Federal Tax Policies May Harm Your Work

 

These advocacy workshop are for food bank and food pantry operators in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas, as well as community leaders, and organizations focused on advocating for food access and food security.

Join us to learn:

  • What the policy threats are around the proposed reinstatement of a tax on food and the removal of nonprofit gross receipts tax exemptions.
  • What the dollar impacts are of those proposed policies on food banks and food pantries and the clients they serve.
  • What to do about it and ways to engage staff, community members, and stakeholders to advocate for your communities.

The workshops are:

  • Albuquerque: Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, 10am-noon, at Roadrunner Food Bank, 5840 Office Blvd. NE, Albuquerque. Download a flyer for this event here.
  • Santa Fe: Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, 2pm-4pm, at The Food Depot, 1222 A Siler Road, Santa Fe. Download a flyer for this event here.

To RSVP or get for more information, contact Armelle Casau, 505-361-1279

Thanks to all who joined us for the Las Cruces workshop!

Hosted by: NM Voices for Children
Partners: Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico, Ngage New Mexico, The Food Depot, and McCune Charitable Foundation

 

Happy Holidays!

HolidayPost

Join Our Team!

We are seeking a full-time Research and Policy Analyst to conduct research and advocacy on public policies that help lift families out of poverty. This analyst is expected to be familiar with quantitative and qualitative research methods. Candidates must have a willingness to travel throughout New Mexico to build and strengthen partnerships, and engage communities of color.

2017 NMVC Staff -square-cropNew Mexico Voices for Children is a 30-year old nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the economic status, well-being, and racial and ethnic equity of New Mexico’s children, families, and communities in the areas of health, education, and economic security by promoting public policies through credible research and effective advocacy.

The ideal candidate will have a demonstrated knowledge of public policies that advance racial and ethnic equity in New Mexico. To effectively accomplish this work, candidates should have a master’s degree, an ability to work collaboratively, and willingness to travel throughout the state.

Download the full job description here (pdf)

Please send questions or resumes to:
James Jimenez, Executive Director
jjimenez@nmvoices.org

Deadline for resume submission is December 15, 2017

Kids Count goes on the road to southern NM

by Sylvia Ulloa, New Mexico In Depth
Nov. 10, 2017

Amber Wallin, Kids Count director for New Mexico Voices for Children, flashed up a photo on a screen during her presentation to childhood advocates and elected leaders in Las Cruces for the first Southern New Mexico Kids Count conference on Thursday. Anyone of a certain age would recognize the black and white photo of a motley bunch of kids in baseball uniforms: The Bad News Bears.

Wallin said people in New Mexico were tired of being those Bears, tired of hearing the same old stats: 49th in child well-being, 50th in education, 49th in community and family. Some were tuning out, becoming numb, or throwing up their hands because it didn’t seem like there was anything they could do to change the situation.

What is her answer to that? “Policy matters,” she said.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in 2013 accepted the Medicaid expansion and the result of that is that the state has climbed in the rankings on health: 37th overall, less than half the number of uninsured children in 2015 compared with 2010, half the number of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs in that same period, and slightly fewer child and teen deaths.

“We’re focusing on telling stories about the good things happening, and also talking from a solutions-based perspective,” she said.

She said that in the past five years, 4,000 more children have gotten access to New Mexico PreK, and 4,000 more families have been served by home visiting programs, which support new parents, lead to more well-child visits and have shown the highest return on investment according the the Legislative Finance Committee.

With a ranking of 49, there is a huge need for solutions.

James Jimenez, director of NM Voices for Children, and Wallin said the numbers are just the start of the conversation. They brought the Kids Count Conference to southern New Mexico for the first time at the invitation of Ngage New Mexico, a local education nonprofit, because they have been wanting to get closer to communities across the state.

Getting people involved at the local level is how to incorporate cultural values and customize solutions to tackle the grim indicators Kids Count tracks, Jimenez said. NM Voices’ next step is to do some of what Doña Ana County is doing, he said, “talking to the people in our communities. We know what the solutions are.”

Also at the conference were elected leaders from southern New Mexico, including Las Cruces City Councilors Kasandra Gandara and Gill Sorg, County Commissioner Billy Garrett, state Reps. Nathan Small, Doreen Gallegos and Joanne Ferrary, and Sen. Bill Soules. Several spoke on a panel about early childhood issues.

“We need to keep the eye on the ball,” said Sorg. “And in this case the ball is poverty. And the way to fix that is education, education and more education.”

Lori Martinez, deputy director of Ngage NM, who moderated the discussion, urged residents to reach out to their representatives, to talk to them about what they think New Mexico needs to do to improve the lives of children in the state.

“We want you to engage with your elected officials. That’s the point of this conference,” she said.

Copyright 2017, New Mexico In Depth (http://nmindepth.com/2017/11/10/kids-count-goes-on-the-road-to-southern-nm/)

Save the Date!

SNM KC conference logoWe’re partnering with Ngage New Mexico to present the inaugural Southern New Mexico KIDS COUNT Conference on Thursday, November 9, 2017, 8am-2pm, at the Las Cruces Convention Center, 680 E. University Ave., Las Cruces.

Among the speakers will be Nick Johnson, Senior Vice President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who will speak about how the national landscape may impact New Mexico.

Get more info and register here.

Did you attend our 2017 KIDS COUNT Conference in Albuquerque?
Check out photos from that event on our Flickr page.