Most New Mexico residents want to preserve state funding for schools and instead raise taxes to address state budget shortfalls, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
Some 72 percent of 402 registered New Mexico voters surveyed statewide said they oppose further cuts to public education, according to the poll, conducted by Research & Polling Inc. for the nonprofit New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.
The voters who said they were against cutting school funds or reducing state contributions to teacher pensions stretched across the political spectrum.
State lawmakers and Gov. Susana Martinez have recommended additional cuts to education funding as one way to plug a $70 million deficit in the state’s budget for the current fiscal year, caused in part by a decline in oil and gas revenues. Most state agencies, including public education, were cut by 5 percent or more during a special session that began in October.
While lawmakers seem to have resolved the revenue shortfall for the current operating budget, the poll requested by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty measures the pulse of where voters would prefer money comes from to operate the state in the years ahead.
The state is likely to need additional revenue sources in the year ahead as a Republican-controlled Congress moves to upend the Affordable Care Act and President Donald Trump pushes to renegotiate a trade deal with Mexico and defund cities that insist on providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. Newly insured people and an increase in health jobs, along with trade across the border with Mexico, helped shore up the state’s flagging economy when oil and gas revenues dropped. More than a fourth of the state’s revenues are tied to oil and gas.
The poll released earlier this week found New Mexico voters have some opinions on how lawmakers choose to boost state revenues and close any funding gaps. Most of those surveyed said the money should not come from education programs.
According to a summary of the poll, 74 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans surveyed said they were against reducing Medicaid services; 66 percent of all voters surveyed supported a tax hike on alcohol and tobacco products.
Voters split more strongly on the question of increasing business taxes. A little more than one-fourth support a sales tax on online sales, while a fourth were neutral and 43 percent opposed such a tax.
Some 40 percent of those polled opposed a scheduled reduction in the top state corporate income tax rate from 6.6 percent to 5.9 percent by 2018, while 39 percent supported the reduced rate.
“Our policymakers should listen to the views of New Mexicans who support fair tax solutions,” Edward Tabet-Cubero, executive director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said in a statement. “The longer we wait to raise revenues for highly valued programs, the more damage is being done.”
Gov. Martinez opposes raising taxes and has repeatedly said she prefers to close the revenue gap with a combination of cuts to government programs, government pension contributions and payments to local governments.
The Research and Polling survey included voters with both cellphones and land lines.