Wirth: Session was productive

By Senator Peter Wirth

The 2012 legislature adjourned February 16th with progress on many fronts. We passed a solid budget that restores past cuts to teacher and state employee salaries. A wide variety of local and statewide projects were funded giving our construction industry a jump start at this critical time. And a bill is sitting on the Governor’s desk that makes out-of-state “big box” retailers pay their fair share of New Mexico’s corporate tax. Highlights are outlined below.

Tuesday night February 28th from 6-8 pm at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion, 1607 Paseo de Peralta in the Santa Fe Railyard, Rep. Brian Egolf and I are holding a town hall to discuss the legislative session, capital outlay and redistricting. I invite you to attend.

Some good news on the budget horizon:

New Mexico is coming out of its worst fiscal crisis since statehood. For the first time in four years, revenue projections going into the session were positive and we began mid-January working with a projected surplus of about 250 million dollars.

The challenge with budget projections is they are estimates which factor in a number of variables including the price of natural gas and oil. To give you some sense of how energy prices impact our state, a ten cent change in the mcf (1000 cubic feet) price of natural gas is a twelve million dollar plus or minus impact to the budget. A one-dollar increase or decrease in the price for a barrel of oil is a three million dollar change.

The 5.6 billion dollar budget for Fiscal year 2013 is fiscally responsible and keeps reserves at nine percent. We emphasize funding core governmental programs like education, health care and public safety. I am particularly happy to see some new funding added for pre-kindergarten, drug courts and to help our judicial branch of government.

There is a lot more that needs to be done to move our state forward. I am confident, however, that we have restored the strong foundation needed to create future successes for New Mexico.

Senate Bill 9 really helps New Mexico businesses:

After eight years of introducing legislation to put some fairness into our tax code, this year both legislative chambers approved Senate Bill 9, a bill making out-of-state “big box” corporations pay their fair share and lowering the top corporate tax rate. This compromise legislation is not the broad corporate tax reform New Mexico needs, but is a very important first step.

Senate Bill 9 awaits the Governor’s signature or veto. Her choice could not be clearer — help our New Mexico businesses or continue giving tax breaks to out-of-state corporations.

Signing this bill would send an important signal that New Mexico is ready to get serious about tax reform. We have a tax code that is a mess with rates that are too high and almost a billion dollars in exemptions, deductions and credits. It is time that Democrats, Republicans and Independents work together to figure out how to broaden the tax base and lower tax rates.

Please e-mail, call or write Governor Martinez asking her to sign Senate Bill 9. Click http://www.governor.state.nm.us/Contact_the_Governor.aspx  for contact information.

Many thanks to the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, and all the local businesses who supported our effort. Combined with a coalition of New Mexicans spearheaded by Move-On New Mexico, these new voices in the discussion helped offset the continued efforts by the corporate lobbyists to paint Senate Bill 9 as “anti-business.”

New condominium compliance with zoning:

Another bill I sponsored which awaits action from the Governor is Senate Bill 10. This legislation allows local governments to require newly created condominiums to certify when they are formed that they comply with local zoning requirements.

Currently, the condominium form of ownership can be used to bypass zoning, putting innocent buyers into an illegal unit and exceeding density requirements in our neighborhoods. Senate Bill 10 does not solve past abuses but will prevent this from happening in the future.

Super PACs will operate in the dark this election cycle:

One very important bill which died the last morning of the session after a Republican filibuster in the House was Senate Bill 12. This legislation would have required independent expenditure committees, known as “Super PACs,” and non-profits to disclose donors when these groups expressly advocate for or against a candidate or “educate” voters shortly before primary and general elections.

The US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United gives corporations the constitutional right to make unlimited donations to these Super PACs. What we are seeing play out in the Republican Presidential primaries is coming to New Mexico this year. It only seems right that voters know the source of this funding so they can make educated decisions at the polls.

Lots of tough negotiating went into Senate Bill 12 and we were very close. I am committed to putting this law on the books in 2013 should I have the privilege of serving another term in the Legislature.

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