Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Albuquerque Journal 

State budget like terrible movie rerun


There’s nothing like spending 62 days on the public’s dime kicking a can down the road.

That’s what Santa Fe did in the regular 2017 session, and it’s what it did in the two days of special session last week.

As Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said Thursday when lawmakers adjourned for the long holiday weekend, “If you feel like you’re watching a movie for the second time, you’d be correct.”

Rather than reform what by all accounts everyone agrees is an abysmal gross-receipts tax system filled with loopholes and disparities, or demand accountability from capital outlay spending, lawmakers moved some money around, banked on an improving oil and gas revenue outlook, tried to raise taxes piecemeal and sent Gov. Susana Martinez a package of bills that looked an awful lot like what they sent her in March.

Which she vetoed then and vetoed again Friday.

Martinez had said after lawmakers recessed Thursday that while the latest budget work was more to her liking, “let me be clear: I will veto all tax increases that hit my desk. The legislative leadership knew that from the beginning and chose to pass these tax hikes regardless.”

Yes, it appears the basic budget will be balanced as required by law — way to do the bare minimum — and New Mexico will be able to limp its financial way toward 2018.

But limping does not inspire confidence, does not attract investment or jobs, does not provide certainty for expansion or retention, does not shore up reserves or protect bond ratings, does not give anyone the impression the folks in charge of the Land of Enchantment have a clue about running a successful state.

Instead, there will be a complex bond transaction few New Mexicans will understand designed to get the state through the next fiscal year. There will be another panel to study tax reform. There will be more sweeps of money that has been sitting idle for too long because it likely never should have been appropriated in the first place. And there are those vetoes of tax increases that were dead even before arrival.

Sixty-two days of negotiations later, there are no big changes, no big projects, nothing that hollers New Mexico is an independent Western state that bucks trends or forges a path. Instead, it’s a state stuck in the Great Recession (New Mexico has the worst unemployment rate in the nation) still banking on federal entitlements (almost half the population is on Medicaid and one in four receives food stamps) and finite energy revenues that fall victim to every Saudi prince’s whim.

The end result fails to identify new revenue streams, to ensure taxpayer money that is spent is spent well, to push forward instead of just running in place.

Padilla’s right: It’s a familiar movie.

And it wasn’t any good the first time.

— Albuquerque Journal


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