Council member states he, Keller discussed tax cuts - Albuquerque Journal

Council member states he, Keller discussed tax cuts

In just his 10th day back on the Albuquerque City Council after four years away, Dan Lewis last week unveiled a series of new bills tackling hot-button issues like taxation, police oversight and mayoral emergency powers – proposals that prompted some quick criticism from Mayor Tim Keller’s office.

Regarding Lewis’ effort to repeal a three-eighths of 1% gross receipts tax increase the council passed and Keller signed in 2018, a mayoral spokeswoman told the Journal, “It’s unfortunate Councilor Lewis wants to cut law enforcement funding when we really need it.”

Lewis, in turn, cited a recent meeting he said he had with the mayor and his chief of staff.

“Tim specifically told me personally that the city currently has more money than it needs and that you could make a serious case for a tax cut,” Lewis told the Journal.

Did Keller say that?

The mayor’s office is not denying it.

But it is chiding Lewis – Keller’s 2017 mayoral opponent – for discussing that chat with a reporter.

Dan Lewis

“Instead of complaining to the media, the Mayor discusses lots of ideas and trusts in private conversations,” spokeswoman Ava Montoya wrote in a response to a Journal inquiry about it. “When it comes to ordinances, running the numbers, working with professional staff, and understanding the tradeoffs is critical. If Dan is serious about results, he should do his homework first.”

The city implemented the tax on July 1, 2018. The enabling legislation required that at least 60% of the resulting revenue go to public safety. That requirement expired two years ago.

But Keller’s office says the tax – budgeted to yield $53.6 million this fiscal year, but on pace to far exceed that – still supports public safety programs.

Lewis, however, disputes that it would negatively impact public safety. He also disagrees that he’s over-sharing.

Mayor Tim Keller

“I would not characterize a conversation with the Mayor and his Chief of Staff as private,” Lewis said in a statement. “We both want a tax cut and I’m glad to do the homework to return money to taxpayers while funding public safety and city services. I’m looking forward to working with the Mayor on this.”

Lewis served two terms on the City Council from 2009-2017 but did not immediately seek a third term, opting instead to run for mayor in 2017. He ultimately lost to Keller in a runoff.

Lewis successfully campaigned last year to reclaim the District 5 council seat and began his new term Jan. 1.

QUEZADA CLARIFIES: As the Bernalillo County Commission recently debated various initiatives to combat homelessness – specifically whether to pursue state funding for a transitional/affordable housing development next to a Southeast Albuquerque recovery support center – Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada said he supported the request because the county needs to try new approaches.

He also cited a friend’s death as an example of how existing initiatives are not sufficient.

“I know from experience that some of the stuff we do we think we’re doing a really good thing, but one of my friends was murdered in a hotel room that we gave him a voucher to stay,” he said. “Because it’s OK to have a roof over your head, but there’s no counseling, there’s no supervision.”

The Journal asked the county for details about anyone who was killed in the last year while using a county-funded motel voucher.

A spokesman responded:

“Here’s the clarification on this issue: Commissioner Quezada says that he did not mean that the county gave the man a voucher, only that he received some type of assistance from the city or county. (County) housing does not issue vouchers and behavioral health and public safety are unaware of the death that the commissioner is referencing,” county spokesman Tom Thorpe wrote. “The commissioner says the man was homeless and died from what was termed an overdose, but the commissioner says there was no investigation.”

LOCAL LEADERSHIP: Both the Albuquerque City Council and the Bernalillo County Commission elected new leaders last week.

The council elected Isaac Benton – its longest-serving member – as its president and Dan Lewis as the vice president. Brook Bassan will head the budget committee.

The commission voted Adriann Barboa as its new chairwoman and Walt Benson as the vice-chair.


Jessica Dyer: jdyer@abqjournal.com

CORRECTION: In the original electronic version of this story, some words were deleted in editing in this column. These words and this quote have been restored to match what appeared in the print newspaper.

“Tim specifically told me personally that the city currently has more money than it needs and that you could make a serious case for a tax cut,” Lewis told the Journal.

 

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