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Politics: Enter at your own risk

Santa Fe, NM - This morning, Democrats in the House Labor and Economic Development Committee voted to kill House Bill 8, a tax reform package sponsored by Rep. Jason Harper that passed the House unanimously during the regular session in March. After the Democrats voted it down, it was announced that the Legislative Finance Committee believes the reforms to be revenue neutral.

"Not one House member, Democrat or Republican, voted against this package in March, and yet every Democrat voted to kill it today," said Republican Party of New Mexico spokesman Tucker Keene. "Our current gross receipts tax law is antiquated and riddled with loopholes and carve outs built for special interests and industry lobbyists. Rep. Harper recognized how much this hurts our small businesses who can't afford lobbyists and sought to reform this broken system. He worked tirelessly for years to craft a sensible plan with which both Democrats and Republicans can be happy."

After Democrats in the Senate killed the bill in March, Rep. Harper took into account the concerns of some Democrats, and made small changes to the bill to help ensure its successful passage during this special session. Democrats today ignored these changes and rejected the bill on its face. Meanwhile, our economy still begs for reform.

"Our state needs true tax reform to make our economy competitive again, and this bill should not be a divisive issue," said Keene. "Harper has worked to compromise and remove the points of contention so legislators could pass these necessary reforms and get our economy moving, and yet Democrats lacked the political courage to stand up to high-powered lobbyists and special interests to do the right thing for New Mexico."

Santa Fe, N.M. - Today, House Democrats in the House Labor and Economic Development Committee rejected House Bill 8, a hastily created plan to reform New Mexico's tax code that sought to balance the budget by increasing health insurance premiums on the sick, while carving out tax havens for hedge fund managers and the well-connected. With little time to understand the details regarding the bill's impact on the state's finances, concerned groups and citizens urged legislators to take the time to study who would be affected by such a comprehensive tax reform plan.

"It is vital that we strike a balance between what is good for all New Mexicans, the well-off, working families, and the poor," stated Representative Miguel Garcia (D-Albuquerque). "Under this plan, healthcare costs would rise for working families, but there is nothing here to offset those new costs. Where is the shared responsibility? This bill lets those with the highest incomes off the hook."

"If we pass this bill as it currently stands, New Mexico would have the highest health insurance rate in the nation," said Representative and Chairman of the House Labor and Economic Development Committee Bill McCamley (D-Mesilla). "House Republicans are proposing a plan that is a lot like Trumpcare in that it balances the budget on the backs of sick people while at the same time carving out exemptions for hedge funds and capital gains for the well-connected. The fact that all current analyses associated with this bill are all over the place is another sign that this proposal was not ready for primetime. I do believe in the intention to reform our tax code, but this needs a lot more work to ensure it moves all New Mexicans forward."

According to HB 8's Fiscal Impact Report conducted by the Legislative Finance Council, there are so many unknowns about the bill that properly analyzing all aspects would create a report "at least as long as the bill itself" which numbers 430 pages, making it "difficult for legislators and citizens to understand." Preliminary studies, however, show that state coffers would take an estimated hit of $100 to $150 million if such a plan were enacted, hitting hospitals, healthcare providers, and many patients the hardest.

As of today, the general budget plan, House Bill 1, that was passed by both the House and Senate includes an appropriation to study comprehensive tax reform and awaits the Governor's signature.

House Bill 8, died in a party line 6-5 vote and will not be heard on the House floor.

Santa Fe, NM - Today House Democrats on the Labor and Economic Development Committee voted to kill House Bill 8, a bill introduced by Rep. Jason Harper (R-Sandoval) to reform New Mexico's tax code. Harper's bill would have overhauled the state's sales tax structure to broaden New Mexico's tax base and lower the overall tax rate for all New Mexicans.

HB 8 was a revised version of House Bill 412, a bill Harper introduced during the regular session held earlier this year. HB 412 was co-sponsored by two senior Democrat lawmakers, Sens. John Arthur Smith (D-Luna) and Carlos Cisneros (D-Taos), and it had broad bipartisan support.

The bill was heavily scrutinized during the regular session, including intense analysis in three marathon committee hearings. HB 412 was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on March 8, 2017, but it failed to advance through the Senate after receiving overwhelming opposition by numerous lobbyists and industry special interests.

The current version of Harper's tax reform bill contained compromise language he included in response to feedback he received after the session, but much of the legislation was similar to what was proposed HB 412.

House Democrats claimed that Harper's bill was too large and complex to take up during the special session, saying the matter should be studied further.

"Unfortunately, this sounds like the same old disingenuous Santa Fe-speak for ducking the issue of tax reform. New Mexico's taxes have been studied to death. I have no confidence that the Democrats will take action based on yet another study, but I hope they'll prove me wrong," Harper said.

"Last week we learned that New Mexico has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 6.7%. Our children are fleeing this state in search of better job opportunities elsewhere, and Democratic legislators are showing no sense of urgency. I'm disappointed that the Democrats have chosen to continue their dithering while New Mexico's private sector collapses," Harper added.

Harper noted that efforts to reform New Mexico's tax code date back to at least 2003 when a blue-ribbon commission was formed to study the issue and recommend changes. These reform efforts intensified during the past two years with in-depth studies conducted by both the Department of Finance and Administration and an interim legislative committee, the Revenue Stabilization a and Tax Policy Committee.

Yesterday, the House Democrat Majority pushed through a $157.3M tax increase on hard-working New Mexican families when they voted for House Bill 2. The bill will impose new taxes on internet purchases and hospitals in New Mexico. HB 2 did nothing to address the overall instability and inequity of New Mexico's tax code.

All told, during both the regular and special session this year, Democrat legislators have proposed over $1.5 billion in new taxes on New Mexicans.

Santa Fe, NM - Tonight the House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1, legislation to sweep money from various state funds to the general fund and public school capital outlay fund. The bill includes a provision to sweep $71 million from the state fund earmarked for use on legislative pet pork projects.

During the regular session, Rep. Jason Harper (R-Sandoval) proposed suspending pet pork projects for one year to help the state meet its funding needs for this upcoming fiscal year. His proposal was roundly rejected by House Democrats at that time.

This time, Senate Bill 1 passed unanimously with all 64 representatives present voting in favor of the measure.

"I suppose this is a case of better late than never," said Harper. "Perhaps if there had been more of an effort by my Democrat colleagues in the majority to collaborate on ideas like this one during the regular session, we could have avoided the need for a special session altogether."

Senate Bill 1 will now be sent to Governor Susana Martinez for her action.

Santa Fe, NM - This morning, Rep. Jason Harper's tax reform compromise bill, HB 8, which passed unanimously in the House during the 2017 legislative session, will be up for consideration in committee during the special session. Democrats had previously declared that there was not enough time in the special session to deal with tax reform, but recognized that this critical piece of legislation was too important not to hear.

"Budget negotiations during this special session must include meaningful tax reform," said Republican Party of New Mexico spokesman Tucker Keene. "This tax reform bill that Rep. Harper has proposed will do a great deal to modernize our state's antiquated tax system. The simplified tax system laid out in this bill, that Democrats unanimously supported just two months ago, will help spur economic growth, attract new businesses to New Mexico, and increase state revenue at the same time. The bill deserves the consideration of every member, Democrat and Republican alike."

Rep. Harper's bill is based heavily upon a similar plan he put forward during the regular session, HB 412, which passed unanimously through the House in March. Rep. Harper has worked on this compromise for more than two years, and the result is a thoughtful, bipartisan plan that would help our state immeasurably.

Santa Fe, NM - Earlier today, Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature voted to override Gov. Martinez's veto of their irresponsible budget, that cut critical funding for cancer treatment and need-based financial aid programs that students rely upon.

"Democrats are ignoring the will of the voters and slashing programs they rely upon," said Republican Party of New Mexico spokesman Tucker Keene. "These programs provide working class students with the assistance they need to go to college. The UNM Cancer Center treats children suffering from cancer. These should be among our legislator's highest priorities, not the programs Democrats cut first to protect wasteful pork projects and an overfunded legislative retirement fund."

The House Republican budget plan would not only restore funding to those programs that Democrats cut, but increase funding for the UNM Cancer Center an additional 27 percent, and an additional $2 million for higher educational financial aid. These funding increases would be paid for by transferring money from the overfunded Legislative Retirement Fund and by placing a one year hold on pork projects.

CORRECTION: The special session will begin on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 12 noon.

Santa Fe, NM - Today, the House Republican Caucus announced their budget plan for fiscal year 2018 in advance of next week's special legislative session in Santa Fe. The Republican plan would meet the funding needs of state government operations and increase support for critical health and education programs without increasing the tax burden on New Mexicans.

The plan crafted by House Republican legislators will provide funding for critical government services like institutions of higher education, the legislative branch and magistrate courts for FY2018 and protect against the possibility of state employee layoffs.

The House Republican plan will also provide a 27% funding increase for UNM Cancer Center as well as an additional $2 million to support needs-based higher educational assistance for low to middle income students.

"New Mexicans are demanding that we end the political brinksmanship and get real about the state's budget," said Rep. Larry Larrañaga (R-Bernalillo). "This plan covers New Mexico's budget needs for the upcoming fiscal year and increases funding for cancer care as well as support for students working to obtain a college degree. I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to adopt these proposals so we can resolve this budget impasse fairly and for the benefit of all New Mexicans."

Support for Cancer Care

The NM Democrat budget for FY 2018 slashed precious funding for the UNM Cancer Center and Pediatric Oncology services. The House Republican plan would reverse these cuts and increase funding by $1 million, representing a 27% increase for cancer care services.

Financial Assistance for NM College Students

The Democrat-designed budget also cut higher education financial assistance programs by $700,000. Programs affected by this cut include needs-based aid programs such as the student incentive program for dental and veterinary students and work study assistance. Financial aid for Vietnam Veterans would also be affected.

The House Republican plan blocks these cuts and provides an additional $2 million in higher educational financial assistance.

Shared Sacrifice

Instead of raising taxes on hard-working New Mexico families, the House Republican budget proposes to shift approximately $12.5 million from the Legislative Retirement Fund to the state's General Fund for operating expenses.

Currently, the Legislative Retirement Fund is funded at 145% of solvency. By comparison, the state general plan for active state employees is funded at 67% of solvency and the retirement fund for New Mexico's teachers is funded at 62%.

Pause Pet Pork Projects

House Republicans will request a one-year suspension of legislator-designated funding for pork-barrel projects to make approximately $60 million available for the state's general fund.

The House Republican Caucus advocated for this idea during the regular session, but Democrats rejected the proposal to protect pork projects like fish hatchery improvements, railroad passenger car upgrades and office repairs.

"These ideas bridge the divide between the proposals advanced by Democrat leadership in the Legislature and the concerns raised by Governor Martinez," said Larrañaga. "New Mexicans want this situation resolved quickly to remove the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the state's budget. This plan meets everyone's goals without harming New Mexico's families with unnecessary tax increases. I look forward to discussing these reasonable proposals with my Democrat colleagues as we prepare for the special session next week."

The New Mexico Legislature will convene in Santa Fe for a special session on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, at 12 noon.

Santa Fe, NM - Today, the House Republican Caucus announced their budget plan for fiscal year 2018 in advance of next week's special legislative session in Santa Fe. The Republican plan would meet the funding needs of state government operations and increase support for critical health and education programs without increasing the tax burden on New Mexicans.

The plan crafted by House Republican legislators will provide funding for critical government services like institutions of higher education, the legislative branch and magistrate courts for FY2018 and protect against the possibility of state employee layoffs.

The House Republican plan will also provide a 27% funding increase for UNM Cancer Center as well as an additional $2 million to support needs-based higher educational assistance for low to middle income students.

"New Mexicans are demanding that we end the political brinksmanship and get real about the state's budget," said Rep. Larry Larrañaga (R-Bernalillo). "This plan covers New Mexico's budget needs for the upcoming fiscal year and increases funding for cancer care as well as support for students working to obtain a college degree. I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to adopt these proposals so we can resolve this budget impasse fairly and for the benefit of all New Mexicans."

Support for Cancer Care

The NM Democrat budget for FY 2018 slashed precious funding for the UNM Cancer Center and Pediatric Oncology services. The House Republican plan would reverse these cuts and increase funding by $1 million, representing a 27% increase for cancer care services.

Financial Assistance for NM College Students

The Democrat-designed budget also cut higher education financial assistance programs by $700,000. Programs affected by this cut include needs-based aid programs such as the student incentive program for dental and veterinary students and work study assistance. Financial aid for Vietnam Veterans would also be affected.

The House Republican plan blocks these cuts and provides an additional $2 million in higher educational financial assistance.

Shared Sacrifice

Instead of raising taxes on hard-working New Mexico families, the House Republican budget proposes to shift approximately $12.5 million from the Legislative Retirement Fund to the state's General Fund for operating expenses.

Currently, the Legislative Retirement Fund is funded at 145% of solvency. By comparison, the state general plan for active state employees is funded at 67% of solvency and the retirement fund for New Mexico's teachers is funded at 62%.

Pause Pet Pork Projects

House Republicans will request a one-year suspension of legislator-designated funding for pork-barrel projects to make approximately $60 million available for the state's general fund.

The House Republican Caucus advocated for this idea during the regular session, but Democrats rejected the proposal to protect pork projects like fish hatchery improvements, railroad passenger car upgrades and office repairs.

"These ideas bridge the divide between the proposals advanced by Democrat leadership in the Legislature and the concerns raised by Governor Martinez," said Larrañaga. "New Mexicans want this situation resolved quickly to remove the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the state's budget. This plan meets everyone's goals without harming New Mexico's families with unnecessary tax increases. I look forward to discussing these reasonable proposals with my Democrat colleagues as we prepare for the special session next week."

The New Mexico Legislature will convene in Santa Fe for a special session on Tuesday, May 24, 2017, at 12 noon.

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