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May 25, 2024

Legislature passes financial relief bill in special session

A bill to provide financial relief to New Mexicans quickly worked its way through the Legislature in a special session on Tuesday.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called legislators into the special session largely to pass this bill. It took nearly 12 hours for lawmakers to send the legislation to her desk.

The legislation would provide $500 in individual tax rebates to those who file taxes, or $1,000 to the head of a household who is married. The payments would come in the form of two payments, one in June and one in August.

The legislation also provided a separate program, capped at $20 million, for those who do not file income taxes, including those who do not have sufficient income to file taxes. This would be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Much of the debate came from the House side of the process, with debates over whether the relief payments violated the state’s anti-donation clause, with some Republicans arguing it would. Democrats said it was covered by an exemption within that portion of the state constitution.

Ultimately, the bill passed the House on a 51-13 vote. The House amended the bill once, to move the second payment from September to August and the second amendment to make sure the people would not be able to receive both payments.

Republicans attempted two unsuccessful substitutes on the House floor. One would have only provided payments to those who owned gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles, with lesser payments for owners of hybrids. The other would have struck the section for relief payments for those who do not file income taxes.

“I believe this substitute proposal targets some of our most vulnerable people in the state, including senior citizens who are not filers,” bill sponsor state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, said of the latter attempt.

State Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, brought the substitute and said that if it did not pass, it would violate the state’s anti-donation clause.

House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said he voted against the bill because not doing so would “violate our oath” to uphold the federal and state constitutions.

“The harm is that there will be some low income people who will not receive much, much needed financial assistance,” Chandler said when asked about removing the section.

The debate in the Senate was less contentious

“We know that inflation is here,” Senate Finance Committee chairman George Muñoz said in a statement.

He noted that the amount of money being put into the New Mexico economy through the bill would not make “even a tick” of difference in inflation when compared to federal interventions.

Other Republicans largely spent their time praising the oil and gas industry, which they said was the main cause for the revenue surplus in the state.

In all, the bill will result in $677.4 million in money from general fund revenues, split between the next two fiscal years.

Chandler, and other sponsors, explained the reason why the payments were split between June and August is to split it between the current and next fiscal year.

The legislation passed the Senate on a 35-1 vote. Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, was the lone Senator to vote against the bill.

Legislators also passed a feed bill, which paid for the special session. It also included $4 million for renovations and upgrades for the Legislature.

This article was originally posted on Legislature passes financial relief bill in special session

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