SANTA FE — With rising costs of food, gas and other basic supplies showing no signs of dropping, New Mexico taxpayers could be in line to get a new round of financial relief from the state by as soon as this spring.
A bill providing $750 rebates for individual taxpayers — married couples filing jointly would get $1,500 checks — was unanimously approved Thursday in a Senate committee and could be poised to advance quickly to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk.
The measure, Senate Bill 10, would provide rebate checks to an estimated 875,000 tax filers around the state, regardless of income level. But that number also includes married couples, meaning the total amount of adults receiving financial relief under the proposal could be even higher.
State Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke told senators the agency could start processing rebate checks as soon as six weeks after the bill is signed by the governor.
“We really want New Mexicans to receive this relief quickly,” Schardin Clarke said.
Legislators already approved several rounds of rebates worth up to $1,500 per household last year, amid a state revenue boom fueled by increased oil production and an uptick in consumer spending.
The revenue bonanza has shown no signs of slowing down this year, as revenue estimates unveiled in December project revenue levels will continue to surge through the coming budget year — with roughly $3.6 billion in “new” money projected to be available.
Given that backdrop, some lawmakers have called for an overhaul of New Mexico’s tax code.
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said Thursday that lawmakers could pass both the rebate proposal and a tax package during this year’s 60-day legislative session, though he cautioned against enacting tax cuts that would reduce future revenue levels.
“I think there’s room to do a piece of this as part of the tax discussion we’re going to have,” Wirth said. “There’s room to do both.”
Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, suggested he’d like to see even larger rebates, but also asked Schardin Clarke why some of his constituents have reported not receiving rebate checks under last year’s legislation.
“If they didn’t from last year, are they going to get them this time?” Brandt asked.
In response, Schardin Clarke said most rebates have been processed and sent out, but said a small number remain held up due to identity verification concerns or other technical issues.
Lujan Grisham’s recent support for rebates represents a shift of sorts, as the Democratic governor in 2019 questioned whether rebates would help grow New Mexico’s economy.
During last year’s gubernatorial campaign, Lujan Grisham also criticized Republican Mark Ronchetti’s proposal to cut state income tax rates and provide annual rebate checks for state residents, saying those plans could lead to future budget cuts for New Mexico public schools.
However, the rebate package currently touted by the governor would still leave the state with ample money to spend in other areas — or to set aside for future years.
Top budget officials in Lujan Grisham’s administration have urged lawmakers to use the state’s windfall on one-time expenditures due to the risk of future revenue dips. Other spending areas targeted by the governor include rural health care, free school meals and statewide water projects.
In addition to the $750 rebates for taxpayers, the legislation approved Thursday would also make available $30 million in financial relief for New Mexico residents who did not file 2021 tax returns, a group that could include some retirees.
The bill was approved via a 10-0 vote in the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee and now advances to its second assigned panel — the Senate Finance Committee.
The legislation also carries an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately upon being signed by the governor, provided it’s approved by at least a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate.
How the rebates would work in their current form
- Rebate eligibility would be tied to 2021 tax returns
- Rebate checks would cost state an estimated $1 billion
- Checks could be mailed out by this spring, depending on approval timeline
- Individual taxpayers would get $750 rebate; married couples filing jointly would receive $1,500 check
- Non-taxpayers could apply for additional $30 million in financial relief funds