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Sen. Smith: House tax package is irresponsible approach

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, center, speaks at a meeting of the Legislative Finance Council on Thursday at the Roundhouse. Smith is skeptical of proposals to take more money from the state Land Grant Permanent Fund. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, center, speaks during a November 2018 meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee at the Roundhouse. Smith is skeptical of a House tax package that would generate more revenue for the state. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — One of the top budget gurus in the Senate is not a fan of a sweeping tax package passed last week by the House.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, the influential chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, laid out his objections to the bill in a Senate floor speech today.

“I personally cannot support that tax bill at all,” said Smith, who explained he opposes raising certain tax rates at a time the state has an estimated $1.2 billion budget surplus.

The package passed by the House last week — via a 40-25 vote — would increase the personal income tax for upper-income New Mexicans by creating new tax brackets.

It would also raise the tax on motor-vehicle purchases, impose a tax on internet sales, expand an existing tax credit for working families and enact a new tax break to offset the impact of recent changes to the federal tax code, among other provisions.

House Democrats who support the measure — it would generate an estimated $358 million for state government and roads in the coming year — describe it as necessary to give the state more revenue stability to keep paying for higher teacher salaries and other education programs in future years.

But Smith suggested the legislation is not responsible in its current form. He said it might be more acceptable if pared back, though he didn’t specify which provisions he would like to see removed.

The legislation, House Bill 6, is currently pending in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. If approved by that panel, it would then advance to the Senate Finance Committee.

Meanwhile, Smith also expressed concern about a proposal to eliminate the $50 million annual cap on state film incentive spending, a plan pushed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“We’re putting in more (money) into the film credit than we are on early childhood programs,” Smith said.

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