I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Guv taps freshman lawmakers for input on food tax
Gov. Bill Richardson has called several freshman lawmakers to ask for their input on whether he should sign or line-item veto the food tax.
Freshman state lawmaker Ben Rodefer was working in his garden in Corrales last Wednesday, recuperating from a tough previous six weeks that included a 30-day regular legislative session followed by a four-day special session, when the surprise caller shook him out of his reverie.
The former U.S. cabinet secretary, former presidential candidate and New Mexico’s two-term governor wanted the first-term Democratic lawmaker to tell him what he thought he should do – sign or line-item veto a food tax provision in a bill the Legislature passed during a recent special session.
Rodefer to Richardson: You’ll look like a hero
“If you can find a way of covering it without cutting education and without us calling us back, do it (line item veto),” Rodefer said, recalling his conversation with the governor. “You’ll look like a hero.”
Rodefer wasn’t the only freshman lawmaker Richardson reached out to last week. He also phoned first-term Democratic lawmaker Karen Giannini, who said she was also surprised to hear from the governor.
“I told him I hated the food tax—the last anyone needs now in this recession is tax on food. Every week people will be shopping for food and noticing in a very real way the increases they have to pay,” Giannini wrote in an e-mail to the Independent Tuesday.
“But my worry is that if he doesn’t sign the bill, where will the money come from to reach the budget the legislature passed? The governor said he can come up with the money from multiple sources (which I find interesting as the Legislature wouldn’t have addressed the food tax if there was another option). I told him as long as health care and education are not harmed more with his “fix” I would recommend he veto the food portion,” Giannini wrote.
Food tax harms low-income New Mexicans, critics say
The food tax has generated a generous amount of controversy and buzz over the past two months.
Advocates are demanding Richardson line-item veto the provision, saying it will harm low-income and middle-class New Mexicans. The provision automatically re-imposes a gross receipts tax on food in the state’s municipalities.
A line-item veto, however, would cancel $68 million in revenue the state is counting to help close next year’s projected budgetary shortfall of several hundred million dollars.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday afternoon that the governor is leaning toward vetoing the tax.
Freshman Democrats are vulnerable in 2010 elections
Many first-term Democratic lawmakers could be vulnerable to challengers this year. The economy is terrible. People are losing jobs. And this year isn’t shaping up as the Democratic sweep that 2008 was, meaning first-term Democrats likely will face stiff challenges from GOP challengers.
Need look no further than the announcement Tuesday by the New Mexico Republican Party that the GOP was challenging Democrats in 27 New Mexico House seats held by Democrats. “This is the largest number of seats the party has targeted in a decade,” the press release announced.
Add all that up to the state Legislature making some tough budgetary decisions in a special session, and incumbent state lawmakers are looking at a tough election year.
The phone calls illustrate the political calculations that sometimes go into such decisions, particularly in a tough election year. Richardson is expected to make his decision on the food tax provision tomorrow.
Gwyneth Doland contributed to this report.