Our Legislative Policy Priorities
2020 Special Session
- Link to the fact sheet on what happened during the 2020 special legislative session
- Download our policy priorities (May 2020; 2 pages; pdf)
The Legislature is scheduled to meet on June 18 for a special session to deal with the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. With many unknowns – including the trajectory of the pandemic, how rapidly the economy will get back up to speed, what will happen with oil prices, and what further action Congress may take – lawmakers should not rush to make major structural changes to the budget. It would be wise to approach the special session with the goal of getting the state in a position to meet its obligations until legislators convene in a regular session in January 2021, when we will know more and be able to make better informed changes to the budget and to diversify New Mexico’s sources of revenue. Our policy priorities for the special session and beyond include:
Invest in New Mexico Children, Families, and Workers
During and beyond the COVID-19 crisis, it is important that New Mexico families have access to the early childhood, education, economic, and public health programs that can help families thrive. As we know from the last recession, we cannot cut our way to prosperity, and our state’s unwillingness to adequately pay for these essentials between 2010 and 2018 drove New Mexico to ranking worst or near-worst in the nation in child poverty, childhood food insecurity, and education. It also slowed our economic recovery. New Mexico needs to continue investing in the programs that create opportunities for our children and families and keep people employed. The state should:
- Avoid budget cuts that harm families, children, and workers, and protect progress made in 2019 and 2020 in K-12 and higher education funding, early childhood education and care expansion, and health system improvements that not only help build skills and provide opportunity for kids and families, but that also keep workers employed throughout the state.
- Put money in the hands of New Mexicans who will spend it quickly and locally by: increasing and expanding tax credits and rebates for New Mexico families in need; expanding eligibility and funding for the General Assistance Program to all residents who meet income qualifications regardless of immigration status; and creating an unemployment insurance program for those workers not eligible under federal rules.
- Ensure all New Mexicans can meet the basic needs of their families by: creating a basic health plan or Medicaid buy-in plan that is available to all residents, regardless of immigration status; expanding food security resources by increasing the state SNAP supplement and expanding the SNAP supplement to provide a minimum benefit for families who do not qualify for federal SNAP, but are financially eligible; eliminating TANF work requirements and increasing benefit amounts; restoring the unemployment insurance cuts made to the dependents of laid-off workers; and ensuring a food tax is not reinstated.
Ensure New Mexico Has Adequate Financial Resources
New Mexico’s state and local governments are facing enormous costs in containing, treating, and responding to the current public health emergency at the same time that tax revenues are falling with the economic downturn that has followed the pandemic. Falling and fluctuating oil prices bring additional uncertainty and decreased revenues from the oil and gas sector. In order to prepare and plan for falling revenues, the state should:
- Utilize all available federal COVID relief funding by pushing for increased federal relief for the state and for local governments, pushing for flexibility in spending those funds, and using federal funds in ways that maximize relief for New Mexicans who need it the most. (For more on what already-enacted federal relief will mean for New Mexico, see our series of fact sheets here.)
- Utilize reserve funds as needed to fill in budget shortfalls to prevent program cuts and keep New Mexicans working.
- Protect existing revenues and, if necessary, raise revenue by: not enacting more tax cuts for those who don’t need them; repealing past ineffective tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy; and considering new revenue options such as a health insurance premium tax that would go to supporting the health care, education, and other vital programs that New Mexicans need now and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Safeguard Transparency and Access to the Policy-making Process
In order to provide the opportunity for all New Mexicans to observe and participate in the policy-making process, even while tackling new challenges related to social distancing, the state should:
- Ensure transparency in Special Session policy-making by: releasing budget proposals at least ten days in advance of the special session; announcing hearings and sessions at least 24 hours in advance; webcasting all hearings and floor sessions; and ensuring that there is a process for obtaining public input on proposed legislation and budget changes.
- Ensure language access for non-English speakers regarding policy changes and how and when to apply for existing and new relief programs.
Our Legislative Policy Priorities: 2020 Regular Session
Extending the Working Families Tax Credit: The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) is a state-level income tax credit available to low- and lower-middle-income working adults that is linked to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In 2019, New Mexico raised the value of our WFTC from 10% of the federal EITC to 17% of the EITC. Because the EITC and New Mexico’s WFTC have positive impacts on child and family outcomes, we again urged lawmakers to increase the value of the WFTC (to 20%) and to extend the credit to people who are currently excluded from receiving it. This includes workers who file their tax forms with an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) and younger workers (18- to 24-year olds) without children. We also recommended an increase in the amount (to 30%) for families with young children. Link to our policy brief and fact sheets here.
Increasing the Low-Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate: In New Mexico, those with the lowest incomes pay the largest share of their income in state and local taxes while those with the highest incomes pay the smallest share. This tax rebate (referred to as LICTR) for the poorest New Mexicans helps make our tax system fairer. But because this rebate hasn’t been increased in decades, it doesn’t work as well as it is supposed to. Increasing LICTR is also a much better way to help low-income seniors than the proposals to exempt social security from income taxes. Link to our 2019 fact sheet here.
Repealing the capital gains deduction: This tax deduction almost exclusively benefits those with the highest incomes and it results in work from wages being more highly taxed than profits from the sales of stock, bonds, and real estate, etc. It’s one more way in which our tax system is unfair. While the deduction was lowered in 2019 from 50% of all capital gains income to 40%, it still represents a huge giveaway that goes almost exclusively to those who least need it. Link to our fact sheet here. Link to our 2019 gif-splainer blog here.
Ensuring a more complete Census 2020 count: The decennial census is used to draw congressional and legislative districts and to allocate more than $6 billion in federal funding every year through programs like Medicaid and SNAP that support children’s health and well-being. But because New Mexico has one of the highest rates of hard-to-count communities in the country, the state has some big hurdles to clear to ensure that every New Mexican is counted in Census 2020. In 2019, the Legislature established the State of New Mexico Complete Count Committee and appropriated $3.5 million for census outreach and education and to help support local complete count committees around the state. This was a good initial investment, and more money was appropriated this year to ensure a fair and accurate count of all New Mexico residents. Link to our policy brief here.
Fixing the child care cliff effect: When working parents begin to climb the income ladder, they can lose the child care assistance that allows them to work – even though the assistance is worth far more than the raise in pay they have received. Because this makes them worse off financially, many parents have no choice but to decline raises or move their children to low-quality child care to reduce costs. Link to our 2019 fact sheet here.
Improving college affordability in New Mexico: Even though New Mexico has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, we target very little of our state financial aid to those who could not afford to attend college without financial assistance. This is no way to educate our future workforce, attract good jobs, and solve poverty. Link to our 2019 fact sheet here.
Expanding early childhood care and education services and fully funding the ECECD: While the state has made great strides in expanding access to programs that are proven to improve child outcomes – such as home visiting, high-quality child care, and pre-kindergarten – we are still nowhere near having universal access to these programs. The state made a good start by creating the Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) last year. This year it created a small permanent fund for early childhood services, but we will still need substantial investments from other sources including the Land Grant Permanent Fund and the General Fund in order to offer world-class services. Link to our fact sheet on ECCE here. Link to our policy brief on the ECECD here.
Fully funding Medicaid: As the single largest health insurance provider for children in New Mexico, Medicaid is an invaluable part of our health care landscape. It also helps keep a huge share of our child population healthy, which helps them grow and learn. And, because it brings hundreds of millions of federal dollars into the state, it’s an invaluable part of our state’s economy. The federal government gives New Mexico $4 for every $1 we put into Medicaid, we would be foolish not to fully fund the program.
Expanding programs that address food insecurity among children, youth, and families: New Mexico children face major challenges when it comes to having enough food to eat, but there are common-sense policy solutions that we can take to end food insecurity and improve children’s health, well-being, and opportunities to reach their full potential. Link to our 2020 food insecurity fact sheet here.
Fighting hunger by NOT taxing food: Despite the high rate of opposition to reinstating the food tax, some lawmakers continue to pursue this bad policy. If the Legislature could find the money to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the well-connected, it can find money to pay for vital services like education, health care, and public safety without making it more expensive for our families to feed their kids. Link to our fact sheet on food insecurity here.
Professional Licensure: Like most states, New Mexico has a shortage of professionals whose occupations require licensure – most notably, doctors, dentist, and teachers. Although it is a federal law that requires immigrants to have documentation in order to become licensed, the federal government allows states to enact policies that provide a pathway for qualified immigrants to access professional licensing. This year, New Mexico utilized its legal right to remove obstacles for qualified immigrants, joining the many other states that have already done so and strengthening our workforce and economy. Link to our fact sheet here.
These fact sheets are part of our Roadmap to a Stronger New Mexico initiative. Find out more and sign up for email alerts here.