Lawmakers proposing tax hikes

By Steve Terrell: The Santa Fe New Mexican

Despite the fact that Gov. Bill Richardson and conservative Democrats who control the state Senate are opposed increasing taxes, a band of lawmakers Thursday are proposing various tax hikes.

And one senator in the newly formed group called the Working Families Caucus, told reporters there are 22 votes in the Senate in support of some type of tax increase. That’s the minimum number of votes needed to pass a bill. But, Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque said it has not yet been determined which tax proposal would win that support.

Eight senators and nine House members attended the news conference at the Capitol at which they outlined their various proposals.

Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque said the idea is to have richer people pay more taxes so that state services won’t be cut. Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque noted that individuals making $16,000 a year pay the same rate as millionaires. Under the current personal income tax structure.

Many of the tax proposals listed by the group have been discussed in recent weeks. Among those are:

— Raising personal income taxes on upper-income New Mexicans. Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, D-Albuquerque, said he’ll sponsor a bill that would create higher rates for people making $200,000 or more.

— Raising income taxes on multi-state corporations by requiring a different tax reporting method. This is a bill which has been championed for years by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. Corporate lobbyists will be out in force to defeat this bill, Wirth said.

— Creating a 1-percent income tax surcharge on people earning more than $150,000

— Increasing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol and imposing gross receipts tax on soda pop.

— Imposing gross-receipts tax on items purchased on the Internet from businesses that don’t have a physical stores in the state.

In addition to taxes, some of the lawmakers said they support some of the recommendations by a task force to consolidate several state agencies.

Others said one way to save money is for the state to stop jailing non-violent offenders.

In his state of the state address Tuesday, Richardson said he favors a “middle ground” of budget cuts coupled with temporary tax hikes. “… increasing taxes — alone — is irresponsible and not the answer to balancing the budget. I will not give anyone a blank check to raise taxes and over-burden hard-working New Mexico families. Nor should we roll back important tax cuts and incentives that we’ve used to create jobs and open New Mexico for business.”

The governor has recommended $200 million in tax increases to help balance next year’s budget, though he’s yet to specify which taxes.

At a news conference Thursday he expressed reservations about several tax measures sponsored by the Working Families Caucus, including the 1-percent income tax surcharge and the sales tax for online purchases of goods. However, the governor stopped short of flatly opposing the proposals.

Richardson said at a news conference that he remained open to taxing soft drinks and candy, which could generate $18 million, although he opposes reinstating the gross receipts tax on other food.

He acknowledged that it will be difficult to win approval of any tax increase in the Senate.

“I know there’s potential disagreements in the Senate on the revenue issue. I respect that,” said Richardson.

Contact Steve Terrell at 986-3037 or sterrell@sfnewmexican.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.