Chamber leaders assess impact on businesses after legislative session - Albuquerque Journal

Chamber leaders assess impact on businesses after legislative session

This year’s 60-day legislative session saw several bills related to health care, taxes, education, crime and gun safety pass.

Some didn’t, such as the bill that would have created a state-run paid family leave program.

The Journal reached out to three chamber leaders – New Mexico Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rob Black, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ernie C’deBaca and Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Terri Cole – to get their thoughts on this year’s legislative session.

The following responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Journal: What were some wins and losses for businesses in New Mexico during this year’s legislative session?

Ernie C’deBaca

C’deBaca: The Hispano Chamber was mainly focused on anti-crime initiatives and bills that pertain to small businesses. We believe that our platform helped in our advocacy for the passage of House Bill 234, Robbery and Organized Retail Crime, led by Rep. Marian Matthews and other anti-crime related bills. We lobbied for the defeat of paid family medical leave and advocated that such an initiative in the future be considered together with initiatives that incentivize our small business owners, not burden them with costly mandates.

Though there were only a handful of bills passed that will have a positive impact on the business sector in New Mexico, the Legislature passed a historic $9.57 billion spending package that includes: 1) increases in (Local Economic Development Act) and (Job Training Incentive Program) funding; 2) an increase of $15 million in tourism advertising funding; 3) a $230 million allocation for road/highway construction; 3) a $55 million appropriation for regional airport upgrades; 4) $124 million for broadband expansion; 5) $1.2 million for a data integration assessment and a data management plan to promote broad but responsible sharing of data; and, 6) many other funding increases for critical departments as well as individual appropriations for small local projects.

In total, there were no significant bills passed that would have negatively impacted health care, technology, energy (oil and gas, renewables, utilities), retail or hospitality interests in New Mexico.

In fact, most of the significant bills that would have had wide-ranging impacts, like paid family medical leave, a rewrite of the Unfair Trade Practices Act, an age-appropriate internet design bill, minimum wage increases, nurse staffing, local/community choice energy, a climate/carbon reduction initiative, an environmental protection focused rewrite of the Oil and Gas Act, private right of action and the green amendment did not pass.

Terri Cole

Cole: It was a very difficult session, but overall and despite an increasing lack of appreciation for the contributions of small businesses to our communities, we accomplished a considerable share of the Chamber’s agenda.

Lawmakers exceeded spending targets, which is concerning. However, they made some smart fiscal moves, transferring $450 million to the permanent fund and financing the $1.2 billion capital projects bill without any debt, both centerpieces of the Chamber’s fiscal recommendations.

The tax package provides $140 million in personal income tax relief and cuts the (gross receipts tax) rate each of the next four years. We proposed broader reform and more relief, but these were positive steps nonetheless. Choosing not to address tax pyramiding on small businesses was a missed opportunity. The capital gains deduction shouldn’t have been changed. We’re stunned how much time was spent pushing higher (personal income tax) rates; fortunately, they were stopped.

No new general mandates on businesses were passed and defeating the paid family/medical leave tax and mandate – pushed without any meaningful engagement with the business community – was an against-all-odds victory on something that would have devastated our state’s small employers.

Sadly, crime was the forgotten topic – no action on closing the revolving door, fentanyl trafficking, DWI, or violent crime. A signature victory was the bill cracking down on organized retail theft – long overdue and important.

On education, several of the Chamber’s recommendations to improve school leadership (higher principal pay, training residencies, professional development) were passed. Thankfully, the Legislature soundly rejected a charter school moratorium and didn’t choose to replace the (Public Education Department) secretary with a mostly elected state school board.

Rob Black

Black: Overall the legislative session was a good session for business and our economy. The New Mexico Chamber of Commerce believes the following were key wins for the state:

• House Bill 234 – championed by Rep. Marianne Matthews, Speaker Javier Martínez and Sen. Moe Maestas – closed legal loopholes in current law and created the crime of organized retail crime to combat the growing and costly issue. This is a win for our business climate and for public safety.

• House Bill 160 allows the Department of Transportation to provide access to and waive fees on right of ways, including our public roads, to help with broadband infrastructure build out in rural and frontier New Mexico that is usually cost-prohibitive.

• House Bill 481 allows school districts to gain access to funding specifically for instructional materials that are aligned with the Science of Reading, building off the current teacher reading training in the early grades.

• We supported House Bill 118, which would create an office in the Economic Development Department to support entrepreneurs.

• Senate Bill 382 will provide a $25 million investment into the bioscience development fund and allows for partnerships with private investment organizations.

• Senate Bill 11, Paid Family Medical Leave, House Bill 25 and House Bill 28, minimum wage increases, HJR4 and SJR6, “green amendment,” and Senate Bill 520, were all bills we opposed as bad for New Mexico’s ability to grow and diversify our economy – and we’re glad to see them defeated.

• We are concerned that House Bill 547, (which is a) tax package, creates an ongoing $1 billion liability for state government without really making the structural reforms needed to grow our economy in a way that makes New Mexico less dependent on oil and gas revenues.

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