Military personnel eyeing proposed tax breaks

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A proposal by Gov. Bill Richardson that would offer income tax breaks to military members and retirees is good news to some Clovis residents.

Active-duty military personnel who are New Mexico residents, under the proposal, would not be required to pay state income tax on their federal salaries, and retirees would receive a 50 percent tax deduction on wages and salaries and other earned income, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Under the proposal, tax relief for an estimated 19,000 active-duty and retired military residents statewide would total nearly $18 million, the report said.

In addition to the military personnel, businesses, for-profit hospitals and tens of thousands of individual New Mexicans would receive a tax reduction under proposals outlined by Richardson, AP reported.

Jan Finch’s husband is an Air Force master sergeant. The couple purchased a home in Clovis and plan to stay after he retires, she said.

A processing supervisor at Cannon Federal Credit Union, Finch said her husband still maintains Texas residency, but she said the proposed tax breaks could sway him to change legal residency and will definitely be helpful after her husband retires locally.

Obviously a political strategy timed for election, it helps Richardson get her vote, Finch said. “I would say so. Those are things you look at you — you want to make it better for where you live. I’ve always been raised a Republican but I definitely will vote for him. I think he’s great,” she said.

LeeAnn Lam, a disabled Air Force veteran living in Clovis, is the wife of a retired Air Force member. Tuesday morning she said she and her husband did some calculations of the proposed tax breaks over coffee.

“It only comes to about $700 a year,” she said. “That is a little bit of a tax break. It’s not a lot, but at this point anything is helpful.”

While she believes Richardson is promoting his proposal in part because of the upcoming election, she said it doesn’t change the good it would do for eligible people.

“I understand he wants to try to get the military to vote for him,” she said. “It’s to get the military people — but you know I’ll take the benefits. He has done some good for the area really, so I would probably vote for Richardson again.”

Lam said she and her husband have chosen to reside in New Mexico in part, she said, because of strong veteran programs and benefits. “I think that New Mexico treats its veterans fairly decent compared to other states,” she explained.

As a program support assistant for the Department of Veteran Affairs in Clovis, Lam said she sees a rise in retirees choosing to stay in or move to the area recently and cites veteran programs, affordable cost of living and a slow pace of life as the reason.

But not everyone is impressed with the proposal. Donna Vannes, the wife of an active-duty military member at Cannon said she maintains residency in Texas, and neither she nor her husband has plans to switch to New Mexico anytime soon.

“I already get my tax break,” she said, referring to the fact Texas does not charge an income tax to its residents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.