New Mexico residents can expect to receive a state government check in the mail this year.
Questions remain, however, about a proposal by lawmakers and the governor to ease the financial strain of rising gas and grocery prices as the Legislature prepares to convene for a special session this week.
The bigger question: How much economic aid is on the table for struggling families?
Nobody gave a clear answer.
Some Democrats have suggested issuing $250 checks in mid-March when talks about a possible tax refund began.
House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, said Friday he heard a proposal under consideration would distribute $350 to single taxpayers and $700 to families. But he said he hopes lawmakers will make sure all New Mexicans get a refund, whether or not they file a tax return.
Sen. Bobby Gonzales, D-Taos, who leads a small Labor Reimbursement Committee, said Thursday the plan is still a “work in progress.”
House and Senate Democrats met last week with members of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration to determine a figure for the rebates and how much the initiative would cost the state, Gonzales said. He declined to provide further details.
The governor’s office also did not provide any details about the proposal.
If lawmakers and the governor approve a reimbursement bill, the state will likely spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the initiative. For example, legislation giving $250 to every state resident over the age of 18 — more than 1.6 million New Mexicans — would cost $400 million, while an average rebate of $500 would cost $800. millions of dollars.
The issue is one of two to be considered at the next extraordinary session, which is due to begin at noon on Tuesday. In addition to a tax refund, lawmakers will decide on a new version of a $50.4 million spending bill that the governor vetoed earlier this month. The legislation, known to lawmakers as the “Junior Bill,” would fund hundreds of initiatives in their districts.
For most New Mexicans, an initiative to strengthen their wallet is likely to attract the most attention.
Chris Nordstrum, spokesman for the Senate Democrats, said those are the only two issues scheduled for the session, which he said should last one or two days.
He too declined to talk about possible reimbursement amounts which are being discussed.
“The goal is to come up with a number that will have a meaningful impact on New Mexicans, but taking into account the cost and being fiscally responsible,” he said. “There’s not even a range that no one is willing to talk about.”
While lawmakers initially discussed a plan to send checks only to taxpayers, Nordstrum said they were trying to find a way to send checks to “everyone” regardless of their tax status. and to be “as inclusive as possible” in the distribution of the money.
The refund proposal comes at a time when New Mexico is teeming with revenue. Lujan Grisham signed a record $8.5 billion budget in March for fiscal year 2023.
New Mexico is one of several states discussing initiatives to help offset rising costs for residents.
Georgia recently approved rebates of $250 to $500, while Maine is still working to provide up to $850. Indiana has approved $125 rebates for residents.
The aid will probably be welcome but will not be enough to cover the rising costs. According to a recent CBS News report, Americans will see their spending increase by about $2,000 a year.
Amber Wallin, executive director of Albuquerque-based New Mexico Voices for Children, a child welfare advocacy group, said Friday that “any relief will help” families in the state still reeling from the economic effects. of the COVID-19 pandemic and low-income people struggle to pay bills.
Her organization would like “people at the bottom of the income scale to receive a little more money because they are the ones who need help right now,” she said.
“We know that there are families who are struggling to buy food, who are struggling to pay the next rent. If the state can give more money to low-income people, that would be great” , she said.
The state has already taken steps to ease the tax burden on new Mexicans.
In March, Lujan Grisham signed a sweeping tax reform bill that cuts the gross receipts tax rate for the first time in 40 years. The measure also includes tax refunds of up to $500, a child tax credit of up to $175 per child, tax exemptions for military veterans and tax credits for hospital nurses who work at full time, among other measures.
Maddy Hayden, the governor’s spokeswoman, noted the changes in an email Saturday written in response to questions about the current refund proposal.
Although she did not provide details of the financial assistance discussed between legislative leaders and Lujan Grisham, Hayden wrote, “Combined with assistance provided during the regular session through rebates ($500 for joint filers, $250 for single filers), we are providing hundreds of millions in direct and meaningful financial assistance to parents, workers, seniors and families in New Mexico this year. »