“All the tax breaks in the world for business aren’t going to make a difference if people don’t have money to spend,” he says. They get more money to spend by working at better jobs. And they get better jobs through better education, and through businesses attracted to a state with better infrastructure.”
Tuesday’s meeting of the Revenue Stabilization & Tax Policy Committee included a sobering reminder of the urgent need to find more stable revenue, but it also provided cause for hope – by reforming an unstable, inequitable tax structure, New Mexico can better serve the state’s children and future.
Their top recommendation was to restore income tax rates to the level they were before the cuts of 2003. Those cuts have cost the state $500 million a year, and have gone disproportionately to those with the highest incomes, Wallin said. A family earning $25,000 a year now pays the same rate as one earning $250,000, she said.
James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit that works with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said the New Mexico Legislature’s recent approval of relief measures for small businesses and residents will help mitigate those issues. However, he said, Congress also needs to enact legislation providing more help to families.
He said he would support a bill to expand the state’s Working Families Tax Credit during the coming session, adding, “I think there’s a commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past.” The nonprofit group New Mexico Voices for Children also called Tuesday for an expansion of the Working Families Tax Credit, which reduces state income tax liability for low-income residents.
“You can’t govern with that kind of instability,” said James Jimenez, executive director of the advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children. The economic whipsawing does major harm to education, he said. “When oil prices crash — and this won’t be the last time they do — it means our universities have to charge higher tuition and our K-12 finances suffer.”
Pre-pandemic New Mexico saw a boom in oil and gas extraction, which was mirrored by an increase in state revenue. And while many state leaders opined that this boom was going to last indefinitely, the reality for the industry was far more grim. “In short,” the report states, “while New Mexico posted record oil and gas revenues, the oil and gas industry itself was reporting steep losses.”
“Moving forward, we think New Mexico needs to continue investing in the programs that create opportunities for our families,” she said, adding that meeting basic needs such as food assistance, health care, child care and housing will be crucial.
“While they’re considering exemptions and deductions, they should also be considering some of the poor tax policy decisions the Legislature has made in the past,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, referring to cuts in personal and corporate income taxes more than a decade ago.
Economic analysts warned that New Mexico could be unable to rely on its oil and gas industry as the market continues to struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Lease fees, royalty payment and taxes from oil and gas operations accounted for about 30 percent of the state’s budget in recent years, per a recent study from the Institute for Energy Economics (IEEFA) and Financial Analysis.