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Guest Column: Legislature must address budget crisis with no tax raise

Jason Harper

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Pick which New Mexico you’d rather live in.

A New Mexico with a healthy $3 billion safely tucked away in reserves and no overspending? Or a New Mexico that is facing a budget crisis, with about $2 billion of excess expenses and no way to cover it?

Unfortunately, we’re all in the second scenario, thanks to the reckless spending spree of the majority of the state legislature last January. How on Earth did we get here?

Let’s try to unpack this together.

Financial studies show that the most our state budget can safely grow is 4 percent each year. But the majority in control passed a 20 percent increase in just the last two years!

This house of cards was built on unpredictable revenue from the then-high price of oil, but now prices are near an all-time low. Add in a weakening of our economy because of the pandemic, and it’s nothing short of a financial disaster.

I sounded the alarm the last two budget cycles, proposing alternative spending plans — ones that would not increase your taxes and would not count on unreliable oil prices. But it fell on the majority’s deaf ears.

This summer, the legislature must realign our budget with our drastically reduced revenues. So how will we do that?

The latest news is that the majority in control wants to pass unprecedented tax hikes and take money out of your pocket to pay for their mistakes.

Where in the world do they think working families will get the money for tax hikes? Many New Mexicans have endured heartbreaking losses.

Many have lost their jobs – more than 90,000 unemployment claims in New Mexico in the past month – many have been sick and had medical expenses, and many are struggling to just keep their pantry stocked. You can’t get blood from a turnip.

The legislative majority might also resort to their past fixes. They might raid funds from your kids’ schools again.

They might force public employees to take unpaid time off again. And they may eliminate teacher raises.

But there is a better way. This is our chance to correct what never should have happened in the first place.

We Republicans want a new budget that will be based on reliable sources of revenue, will provide assistance to our local economy and will let you keep more of your hard-earned money. We will be advocating for:

  • New Mexico tax relief/stimulus for you and your family.
  • Assistance to New Mexico small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
  • Help for small businesses in navigating red tape and accessing federal loans from the federal COVID-19 relief bill.
  • A six-month delay in renewal dates for teacher licenses that expire this July 1, and other similar professional licenses.

Now is the time to put families ahead of politicians and lobbyists. Now is the time to put people before party lines.

Pick the New Mexico you want to live in. Then contact your state legislators and give us our marching orders.

(New Mexico Rep. Jason Harper is a Republican representing District 57, which encompasses much of Rio Rancho.)

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