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Martinez: Too early to assess federal health plan

SANTA FE – New Mexico and other states stand to lose some federal funding under the Republican health-care plan passed by the U.S. House last week.

But Gov. Susana Martinez isn’t eager to comment on it yet. She told reporters Wednesday that it’s premature to weigh in on a proposal that hasn’t made it through the Senate, where it may undergo significant changes.

“To give an opinion on that at this point would be irresponsible,” Martinez said when asked about the Republican plan. “It’s going to change and change over and over in many ways. We are keeping an eye on it.”

Indeed, some Republicans in the Senate have already expressed skepticism about the measure, which narrowly passed the House amid unanimous opposition from Democrats. The proposal could be rewritten entirely before the Senate takes final action.

The stakes are high for New Mexico, which opted under Obamacare to expand Medicaid coverage to more people. The Republican plan would repeal and replace much of Obamacare.

Martinez, a Republican, said she supports health-care changes that would lower premiums while still “taking care of the most vulnerable.”

FOOD TAX FLIP? : 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 flatly told the Journal 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.

Dan McKay: