Local business leaders and politicians were treated to a visit Friday from State Representative Brian Moore and Senator Clinton Hardin. The two Republican legislative representatives for Quay County were in town at the Holiday Inn for the 2004 Roundhouse Review luncheon to report on happenings during the recently concluded legislative session in Santa Fe.
Representative Moore characterized the legislative session as very active.
“It was a fast and furious 30-day session,” said Moore. “We now have a 4.4 billion dollar budget, entailing a 6 per cent increase in government spending overall.”
Senator Hardin and Representative Moore both lamented that Gov. Bill Richardson axed the tax on food purchased at grocery stores. Rep. Moore, who owns a grocery store in Clayton, said he believes that the tax will wind up being shifted elsewhere.
“We could easily see higher prices on other items at other businesses,” said Moore. “We are already seeing an increase in gross receipts taxes for other businesses.”
Senator Hardin said he believes it will be logistically difficult to administer taxation now that the food tax is taken out of the equation.
“Stores are used to sending in one tax form a month which covers all sales,” said Hardin. “Now, stores will have to break down their reporting of sales into overall gross receipts, food items and non-food items. There will be difficulties figuring out exactly what stores owe and what the state will do with the taxes collected.’
Rep. Moore said that reduced taxes, in general, do not always lead to positive results across the business spectrum.
“Most people think reducing taxes is a good thing,” said Moore. “But user fees for companies increase in the wake of reduced taxes. For instance, contractors for public works projects now have to pay a $200 fee to enter a bid on a project.”
Senator Hardin said he was impressed with Gov. Richardson’s aggressiveness during the legislative session.
“After several years of relative stagnation, we are seeing an element of change,” said Hardin. “But the problem with change is that change takes some time in order to measure its impact.”
Rep. Moore cautioned community leaders that there is a potential financial problem looming in the future.
“Right now, gas and oil prices are high.,” said Moore. “That is a good thing around here because that gives the local economy more money to spend, but those oil prices will not always be so high. Community leaders will need to prepare to lower spending in the future.”
Both Democrats and Republicans attending the luncheon applauded the efforts of both representatives. There was particularly loud applause for Senator Hardin when it was noted that he pushed a bill through the legislature that will give $140,000 to fund the Mesalands Community College Rodeo Team.