Democrats celebrate major legislative victories over education and taxes

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The Democrats-led New Democrat Legislature has sent a $ 7 billion spending plan to an Allied Governor, which provides for increased spending on low-income students, teachers' salaries and infrastructure. closing of the annual legislative session, Saturday.

In the final minutes, lawmakers approved a bill on the objections of many Republicans who would increase taxes on sales, income and investments while offering a larger family tax credit.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and legislators oppose a deadline set in mid-April to provide a district court judge with a plan to redress the troubled public education system from the state or to possibly confer on the judicial authority the authority over the resources of public schools.

Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House of Representatives Brian Egolf of Santa Fe, said the budget would inject as much money as possible into public education without risking layoffs in schools if the recession was happening.

"This is a first step in a process of comprehensive education reform lasting four to five years," he said.

Democrat parliamentarian Sheryl Williams Stapleton of Albuquerque said lawmakers were following court instructions to provide new resources for Native students and other minorities who speak an indigenous or foreign language. at their home.

A general fund budget for the fiscal year beginning in July would increase annual public education spending by 16%, to reach $ 3.2 billion. New Mexico schools depend almost entirely on US dollars.

A booming oil sector in the Permian Basin that straddles the Texas-New Mexico dividing line gives the state government a financial windfall even as Democrats have consolidated power over the House and all elected positions from across the state.

Democrat lawmakers, taken aback by the departure of a Republican governor, pushed for the adoption of reforms regarding gun control, regulation of oil fields, labor rights and the first pay rise. minimum of the state for a decade, rising from $ 7.50 an hour to $ 12 by 2023 here.

"The tax reform is done, the minimum wage is done," said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, saying the session was the most productive more than a decade. He promised to revive a bill blocking the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, which is opposed by Republicans.

Much of the state's budget surplus – more than a billion dollars this year and next year – will be reinvested in improving infrastructure hardware, high-speed Internet routes.

"What we have done is provide resources to improve our education system, improve our infrastructure, to ensure that new initiatives, such as outdoor recreation programs, see the day, "said Gallup representative Patricia Lundstrom, president of the Main House. budget committee. "There is a lot."

Economists have warned that surpluses could evaporate sharply with a change in oil markets. Legislators have spent the last hours of the session negotiating a tax bill that could provide new, limited revenue streams to support teacher compensation and public services.

Lujan Grisham praised the bill on taxes, without yet signing it, both as a quick fix to the 2017 federal reforms that limited tax exemptions for families – and a step forward towards a stable income of the state.

"The best time to repair your roof is not when it's raining, it's when the sun is shining," said Lujan Grisham about efforts to increase sales taxes on cigarettes, internet and vehicles.

Conservative tax legislators were wary of tax increases plus a government surplus. Some Democrats wanted to shift the tax burden to high-income residents.

"For us, one of the priorities was to incorporate progressivity into the tax code," said Representative Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque.

Compromise legislation would increase capital gains taxes and would likely increase the upper bracket of personal income tax from 4.9% to 5.9% for those earning $ 210,000 or more and co-payments declarants earning $ 315,000. A sharp increase in other state revenues would suspend the tax rate increase.

According to the representative of the political party, Jason Harper, of Rio Rancho, the state "is about to raise taxes because we are spending too much money".

Once the session ended, Republicans in the House immediately labeled it "one of the worst" in recent history and accused Democrats of not respecting the rules in order to get passed. laws.

Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said the Democrats choked the debate and often refused to work with the Republicans.

"This is the year Santa Fe imposed its will on the rest of the state," Montoya said.

House Republicans praised the Senate, dominated by conservative Democrats, for stopping some of the most liberal bills.

The Senate voted against an effort to lift the dormant criminal ban on abortion imposed by the state.

On Friday morning, the legislature passed a bill to set up an independent ethics commission to complain about the behavior of public officials. The seven-member commission was authorized by a state-wide vote in November 2018, following several high-profile public corruption scandals.

The bill limits the commission's powers of subpoena to requests authorized by a judge.

The governor has already signed important changes in the control of firearms purchases and legislators have passed a bill to ensure that people who have been ordered to stay in the firearms gap use firearms.

A bill, called the Energy Transition Act, was waiting for the governor's signature to encourage utilities to shut down a large coal-fired power station and invest in solar panels and wind turbines. The version of a "New Green Deal" in New Mexico is aiming for a generation of carbon-free electricity in a generation.