Elections have consequences. After four years of “progressive” leadership by Mayor Tim Keller and a left-leaning Albuquerque City Council, the election of November 2021 saw a more center-right council. While much attention was given to the fact that Tim Keller was reelected by a wide margin despite the city’s spiraling crime problem, Albuquerque voters didn’t actually vote for the status quo.
Now, we are starting to see a shift toward a more moderate approach to the issues from City Council. Better legislative proposals are in the pipeline, but with a 5-4 majority and a hostile mayor, getting these ideas past the finish line will be a challenge requiring grassroots support.
A starting point is reducing gross receipts taxes. Back in 2018, shortly after taking office, Mayor Keller and the new “progressive” council majority raised the (regressive) GRT by three-eighths of a cent. This was a major tax increase considering that the city’s overall GRT “take” before the tax hike was 2.375%. That made Keller’s tax hike a nearly 9% increase in Albuquerque’s rate.
And, not surprisingly, that tax increase led to rapid spending growth in the city’s budget. Even when the annual budget freeze in the 2021 budget due to COVID-19 is included, the city’s budget is up 27% under Mayor Keller.
Unfortunately, when the City Council met recently to discuss Councilor Dan Lewis’ plan to cut just one-eighth of a cent off the GRT (not the full amount added in 2018), Keller’s chief financial officer Sanjay Bhakta claimed “this is the worst time possible” to cut taxes.
Considering that, among numerous other wasteful spending programs, the city has just undertaken a $3 million plan to make city buses “free” to riders (that’s on top of millions in annual transit subsidies), it would seem the city could do something to help residents who continue to be pummeled by rising inflation. Unfortunately, it seems that Mayor Keller and his administration remain opposed to this reasonable tax reduction.
There are other exciting efforts underway to move Albuquerque in a more pro-freedom direction. The big question is whether Keller will stand in the way of everything or if he’ll choose his battles. For example, Councilor Brook Bassan has proposed ending the city’s plastic bag ban which recently passed City Council.
The unnecessary and environmentally irrelevant ban on plastic bags makes daily life more difficult for thousands of Albuquerque residents. Those bags are often reused and can be recycled. They are hardly the environmental problem their opponents claim. According to Our World in Data, the entire continent of North America generates less than 1% of the “mismanaged plastic” on the planet.