COMMENTARY: It’s amazing watching the New Mexico Legislature. They want to name the green chile cheeseburger as New Mexico’s burger. But they are ignoring that Texas is about to get New Mexico’s crop water in court, so the only green chile available for burgers may come from Colorado.
And that’s not all. The Legislature was called into session primarily to deal with a large amount of money missing from the budget. The first thing said by some leaders in the House and Senate was that New Mexico government is too big to cut. Too many New Mexicans have been hired to fire any of them.
They got that from the banking crisis of 2008. It worked for the bankers then and seems to be working now. Thanksgiving will be awful if some of the state worker cousins gets laid off and others do not.
Since state government cannot be cut, taxes must be raised. That is exactly what the citizens do not want. But the next election is many months away and many of the leaders in the Legislature didn’t have an opponent in this last election so the citizens have no control.
Making it worse is the betrayal in the Legislature. Years ago Gov. Bill Richardson, who spent every second running for president of the United States, had a plan to make New Mexico better and get lots of press while doing it. The food and medicine tax was abated, while that amount of money was made up for by raising fees.
He was celebrated for his plan — which almost got him to Washington, but for a few details. New Mexico was out the money for his run at the presidency but no one seems to care. Anyway, that Richardson plan compensated by increasing fees for the loss of revenue from the tax on food and medicine.
The rank-and-file New Mexicans paid the same amount of money out of the family budget each month, but people who were struggling daily would struggle less. Fast forward to today, where, since the Legislature cannot cut the too-big-to-cut state government, some are proposing going back to taxing food and medicine — but the fees are going to be raised also.
To make us feel better, if that is possible, the Legislature is not putting all of the taxes back on food and medicine. But the counties were supposed to be held harmless by Richardson’s taking the taxes off food and medicine. The Legislature was supposed to make up the loss of taxes. Then the Legislature decided to not do that, but let counties raise that money themselves in taxes. Already then taxes doubled, since the fees were raised.
The revenue was neutral when taxes were taken off food and medicine and fees to the state were raised. Counties then raised the taxes since the Legislature would not share any of that extra state money from fees. Now some are proposing bringing back taxes on food and medicine while raising the state fees even more. Essentially, the citizens get taken three times.
And what the Legislature this session was supposed to do was fix the economy and find a way to deal with the loss of so much water in the Texas lawsuit. Without water for crops there isn’t going to be green chile, onions, alfalfa and pecans. There will be plenty of pecan firewood for sale.
These things will make the state much less attractive for businesses. Taxes going up and minimum wage going up. You know the minimum wage is price-fixing. It’s fixing the price of labor. Politicians don’t care.
What’s the tipping point in New Mexico? The edge where many businesses and citizens leave? When enough leave, the budget crisis gets worse. Can’t cut the state government because it is too big to cut. If New Mexico had enemies who wanted to harm the state, what would they do differently in the Legislature? Nothing.
We will find out what green chile cheeseburgers made with Colorado green chile taste like since the Legislature is doing nothing to replace the water lost to Texas. At least the green chile isn’t coming from New York City.
Michael Swickard is a former radio talk show host and has been a columnist for 30 years in a number of New Mexico newspapers. Swickard’s new novel, Hideaway Hills, is now available at Amazon.com.