NM Republicans Show True Colors, Vote Against 89% of New Mexicans

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A stark display of Republican priorities in New Mexico came to the fore today (to the detriment of all New Mexicans), as evidenced by two key committee votes.

Here’s what happened today:

As Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican so concisely put it:

In a straight-party vote, a bill that would have required more information from lobbyists and the people who hire them just stalled in the House Regulatory & Public Affairs Committee.

That’s right. Republican House members continue to show their true stripes now that they’re in the majority and continue their march against transparency and governmental openness by siding with special interest lobbyists.

Rep. Jeff Steinborn’s HB 155 would have done a few supremely common sense things, including:

  • Requiring lobbyists to disclose the legislative or administrative issue for which the lobbyist is employed
  • Requiring expenditure statements and lobbying expense reports to include the cumulative total of expenditures incurred by the lobbyist or their employer listed by each recipient, indicating the amount spent and a description of the expenditure by category
  • Lowering from $500 to $100 the amount of aggregate contributions that triggers mandatory reporting of identification information for other contributors
  • Requiring registration and expenditure statements and lobbying expense reports to be posted on the Secretary of State’s website in searchable and downloadable formats at least monthly throughout the year and as expeditiously as possible when the legislature is in session;

ALEC Chair (and Chairwoman of House Regulatory of Public Affairs) Rep. Yvette Herrell had this to say about the Republican decision:

Committee Chairwoman Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, said the bill was asking for “too much information.”

If that quote doesn’t sum up exactly how Republicans view governmental transparency and the influence of special interests on our democracy, I don’t know what does.

The other bill killed by corporate conservatism today was Rep. Miguel Garcia’s HB 137, which would have given a much-needed tax break to working families and created two new tax brackets for high-income earners.

Basically, under Rep. Garica’s bill, the vast majority of working families would have gotten a tax cut and the rich would have to pay a little more. The bill was revenue neutral and simply changed the personal income tax rates.

Every Republican on the committee – Reps. Yvette Herrell, Jim Smith, Nora Espinoza, and Bob Wooley – voted against it. Every Democrat – Reps. Patricia Roybal-Caballero, Debbie Armstrong, Wonda Johnson – voted for it.

Of note in all this is how New Mexico voters actually feel about tax rates and lobbyist disclosures (not that the NM GOP seems to care much at all about that).

For example, a recent poll commissioned by Common Cause NM found that 89% of voters think it is a good idea to require lobbyists to make public the bills and issues they have been hired to lobby on. Further, 64% of voters say New Mexico’s elected officials are more responsive to lobbyists than voters; only 19% say they are more responsive to voters. Hmm, I wonder where voters might get such ideas?

The Center for Civic Policy also released results of a recently commissioned poll today that shows where New Mexico voters actually stand on these common sense issues:

A majority (55%) say their incomes are falling behind the cost of living. Few (5%) believe their incomes are rising above the cost of living while a third (34%) say they are staying even. Of those who perceive their incomes falling, a majority (53%) feel state policy decisions play a major role.

A significant majority (76%) of voters believe that in three years, in 2017, New Mexico should have a higher minimum wage than it does today…When probed further about the exact higher wage they support, a majority (59%) favor a wage $10.00 per hour or higher.

Legislating comes down to choices, and voters overwhelmingly prefer “investing in key priorities like education, healthcare, and job creation” (62%) over “reducing taxes on businesses and individuals” (19%) when forced to pick. Just 15% volunteer both. Voters get that New Mexico needs investments in its people. When it comes to taxes, voters slightly prefer “targeting tax incentives to just small business in New Mexico” (41%) over “reducing taxes on all businesses in New Mexico” (32%). Voters simply do not have any appetite for broad based tax breaks this year, especially those that would go to the wealthy and big business.

The 2015 Landscape Poll was conducted by Third Eye Strategies. This was a survey of 601 active voters in the state of New Mexico. Respondents were interviewed between 6:00 and 9:00 pm on January 6th-8th and January 11th-14th. In 95 out of 100 cases the responses to this survey should be within 4.2 percentage points of those that would have been obtained from interviewing the entire population of likely voters.