NM legislators should protect working families

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It’s been a rough few years for New Mexico’s working families. A stagnant economy has meant high unemployment, low wages and cuts to key programs that help families survive. But it appears the state’s economy and revenue picture
have begun to recover. With the current revenue outlook it is time the Legislature made New Mexico’s children and families whole.

Those least able to absorb tax increases or cuts to basic services like health care should be protect-ed and prioritized in the 2018 tax and budget decisions being made. Raising revenue by closing corporate loopholes that benefit narrow corporate interests will be import-ant to blunting the effects of a weak economy and a federal government that is less supportive of working families under the current administration.

With the exponential growth of online shopping, companies such as Amazon are not only making unprecedented profits, but they are coming at the expense of small and local businesses in New Mexico. By not paying their fair share of taxes, the Amazons of the world are also hurting the state’s ability to pro-vide basic services for New Mexico families. In addition, we can and should ask nonprofit health care providers to pay gross receipts taxes. These two revenue measures would help our state leaders balance the state budget and restore some of the cuts made in the 2017 session.

All three branches of the federal government are currently controlled by one party. That makes the role of state leaders crucial to protecting the weakest among us. With the recent passage of the Trump tax bill it is clear that New Mexico legislators will be the last line of defense for working families in our state.

While the tax bill is being lauded by corporate leaders and the richest among us, the plan is a disaster for most poor and working families. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s analysis of the Trump tax plan, the lion’s share of the tax cuts in 2019 will go to the richest 1 percent of New Mexicans. Only 2 percent of the tax cuts will go to the poorest New Mexicans. Worse still, by 2027 60 percent of all taxpayers in New Mexico will see a tax increase. Trump’s plan will worsen income inequality, which is already a problem in New Mexico where the percentage of people in poverty in New Mexico was the third worst in the nation.

With its long term fiscal effect, adding $1.5 trillion to the national deficit, we can expect increased pressure to roll back funding and coverage for Medicare and Medicaid. As a state with one of the highest utilization rates for Medic-aid, New Mexico’s working families could be hit hard. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, New Mexico has the highest share of federal Medicaid spending among U.S. states, with the 2015 federal share of Medicaid spending at 79.4 percent. New Mexico also has the lowest rate of employer-provided health insurance with only 36 percent of people insured by their employer.

With the huge giveaway to large corporations and the richest Americans recently signed into law by the Trump administration, we need New Mexico legislators to stand up for working families by protecting basic services and asking those who can to pay their fair share. The U.S. Constitution divides power between states and the federal government for good reason. When decisions at the federal level hurt people at the state level our system empowers state leaders to act. It’s time like these when we need our state officials to do what’s right for working families.

Eric Griego is state director of New Mexico Working Families Party, which is a part of national progressive political organization focused on an economy that works for all Americans and a democracy in which every voice matters. The views in this column are the author’s alone and do not reflect the view or opinions of New Mexico In Depth.

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