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Did the governor change her position on the food tax?

SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez made some news this week when she said she’d be open to reimposing the food tax, as long as it’s part of a broader effort to overhaul New Mexico’s tax code.

It was a surprise in some ways because she has so consistently opposed bringing back the tax on food, which was abolished in 2004.

In March, in fact, she slammed Senate Democrats and accused them of pushing “massive tax increases on food and gas.” And in 2013, her spokesman said flatly that she didn’t support reimposing the food tax.

On the other hand, the governor this year has consistently supported broad changes to the gross receipts tax system — with a push to eliminate the deductions, exemptions and credits that make it so complicated.

And the exemption on taxing food, of course, falls into that category.

In any case, it doesn’t sound like the food tax is likely to come back soon. Neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to like the idea much, and the tax-overhaul proposal that moved the farthest in the last session left food exempt from gross receipts taxes, while focusing on other exemptions.

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For readers who want to scrutinize the governor’s position more closely, here are her last two substantial comments on the issue:

— In March, after the Senate voted to override her veto of a bill that would have allowed teachers to take more sick leave before damaging their annual evaluations, the Martinez administration responded by accusing the Senate of supporting a food tax.

“It’s no surprise that within hours of the governor telling Senate leadership that she would not support their massive tax increases on food and gas that they would pull this stunt,” spokesman Michael Lonergan said in a written statement March 14. “Rather than embracing broad-based tax-reform that provides for a lower and more fair tax rate for all, the Senate wants to jam through massive stand-alone tax increases on our families, and this override was the petty action of a bitter Senate.”

— On Wednesday, after a speech to business leaders in Albuquerque, the governor told reporters she’d be willing to consider the food tax as part of a broader overhaul of the tax system.

“I would not support increasing the taxes on food if it’s a standalone piece,” she said. “It has to be something that is going to be considered in a very broad tax reform that broadens that base and lowers the gross receipts tax for all the consumers.”

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