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Think tank targets proposed ABQ gas tax

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A local think tank has launched a campaign to defeat a proposed 2 cent per gallon gasoline tax in Albuquerque before the measure even makes it on the ballot.

The Rio Grande Foundation, a libertarian-leaning group, unveiled its #NoABQGasTax education campaign on Thursday. The accompanying website – www.noABQGasTax.com – contains a petition asking city councilors to reject the proposed gas tax increase, calling it a regressive tax that would hurt lower- and moderate-income households.

“Local tax burdens are out of control,” the website states. “We CAN stop this tax increase, but citizens need to tell the City Council and Mayor that they are taxed enough already!”

The Rio Grande Foundation helped defeat a proposed soda tax in Santa Fe earlier this month.

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Albuquerque City Council President Isaac Benton, a Democrat, is proposing the measure to generate additional funding for road repairs and enhancements. Under the proposed ordinance, city voters would have final say on whether the gas tax is enacted.

But before it could end up on the ballot, the measure would need to be approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Richard Berry.

“I think we have a lot of tax increases going on,” Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing told the Journal. “Locally, we’ve had a mental health tax at the county, the otter tax, the Bernalillo County just-because-we-can (gross receipts) tax. We could have state increases, though that looks less likely. … I think enough is enough, and I think it’s important that we fight back.”

Gessing also said the ordinance is vague about where money generated from the tax will go. And in its news release, the Rio Grande Foundation states that the tax “would not be dedicated to road construction or new river crossings, but to ‘rehabilitate transportation systems,’ such as the despised Albuquerque Rapid Transit system.”

Benton countered that revenues from the proposed gas tax are “clearly not” for any project like ART, and he added that if that’s not clear they will make it clear.

Revenues generated from the tax “could help us greatly in our huge backlog of outdated roadways,” Benton has said, noting that much of the city’s roadway system was built between the 1960s and 1980s and isn’t compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. “It’s a tough time for revenue for municipalities,” Benton said. “This is something we should have a debate on and have everyone vote their opinions.”

The ordinance would generate an estimated $4.8 million a year in new revenue. The city would be able to use that new revenue stream to secure significantly more in bond funding for road projects.

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