Where’s the beef? Have Dems abandoned progressive agenda?

Governor Susana Martinez speaks to reporters, March 18, 2017.

The gavel drops at noon Mountain Time.

As legislators gather to deliberate once again on a budget and revenue bills, the battle lines have been drawn.

Governor Susana Martinez and her Republican allies in the House seem poised to battle over a so-called GRT reform bill, which is being introduced by Representative Jason Harper (R – Rio Rancho), and is modeled after his HB 412 from the regular session.

The Democrats, if they follow the fighting words of Speaker Brian Egolf (D – Santa Fe), appear to be digging in on just saying no to taking up any revenue reform measures other than “… imposing a gross receipts tax on internet sales – online giant Amazon has already begun collecting tax from in-state customers – and reducing the tax break for nonprofit hospitals,” as reported in the Albuquerque Journal (click here for entire Journal story).

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D – Santa Fe.

The Democrats in leadership have also joined with some Senate Republicans in calling for an interim study of revenue reform measures, but given the history of foot-dragging on any serious revenue reform to appease special interests, it’s no stretch to see this as a cover tactic.

Left languishing amongst the detritus of New Mexico’s version of the Kardashians’ reality show are the people of New Mexico, who are tired of existing in political purgatory   at the bottom of every socio-economic measure of the quality of life.

The Democrats gained back control of the House of Representatives last November, and increased their numbers in the Senate, which they have controlled for years.

Yet they seem paralyzed by their own leadership when it comes to offering a progressive agenda of their own.

The Candle has been told by advocates that leadership in the Democratic caucus is determined to hold off any effort to introduce a serious and progressive counter to the conservative reform believed to be in the offering by Republicans in the updated version of HB 412.

(As an aside, the same Speaker and thirty-two House Democrats voted with thirty Republicans for HB 412 in March, calling it a bipartisan effort at revenue reform – click here for an Editorial of The Candle about the flip flopping.)

While Speaker Egolf has insisted the special session is not the place to deliberate the new version of HB 412, he has deliberately taken a pass at offering anything resembling the promised reforms offered during his campaign to elect a Democratic House.

Some Roundhouse regulars have suggested Egolf is concerned about a challenge to his own leadership from conservative Democrats like Representatives Debbie Rodella (D- Espanola), Carl Trujillo (D – Santa Fe), and Roberto “Bobby” J. Gonzales (D- Taos), and is avoiding a progressive agenda to protect his job as speaker.

And there is certainly circumstantial evidence supporting that theory, when one closely observes the agenda Egolf has driven since he took over the levers of power.

As a result, anyone on the left can be forgiven for bringing up that old line from the Wendy’s commercial: “Where’s the beef?”

About an hour before the special session begins today, New Mexico Working Families Party (NM WFP) members and supporters, as well as other advocacy groups, will be holding a rally seeking fairness and a sound budget for the average, hurting New Mexican.

The NM WFP has already staked out their opposition to the efforts of the Governor and the Republicans, but have also suggested they would like to see something progressive from the Democrats, as they wrote in an email call to arms, which The Candle received yesterday:

“Regressive tax increases like a food tax should be taken off the table, cuts to education and vital services should be overturned and we urge our legislators to only pursue tax reform in this special session if it is fair and progressive — focusing on removing tax cuts for the highest earners, raising the corporate tax rate and passing a capital gains tax increase.

“We do not need to put our families on the chopping block year after year.”

Most rank and file Democrats in the House and Senate have been rather quiet about the absence of anything progressively substantive coming from their own leadership.

So The Candle sent them all an email “letter” this morning asking if they would “be willing to support any of the following, or similar measures, that call for revenue increases and reform which were filed during the regular session but never got a floor vote for third reading in the Democratically controlled House during the regular session (see list of examples below):

HB 201 – NEW TOP INCOME TAX BRACKET [Died on the Speaker’s Table.]

SB 231 – INCREASE CIGARETTE & E-CIGARETTE TAXES [Passed 24-16 by Senate, killed in Democratically controlled House Committee.]

SB 314 – RAISE LIQUOR TAX FOR CERTAIN BEVERAGES [Killed in Democratically controlled Senate committee.]”

A copy of the full emailed letter can be seen below, and we hope, as requested, legislators will respond … after all it’s what they are supposed to do.

The Candle will update this report with any responses we receive.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dear Democratic New Mexico Legislator,

Would you kindly take a few minutes and answer the question asked at the end of this letter? The Candle will be publishing responses.

While the Governor and Republicans have presented their proposal for tax reform, working families are wondering if the Democrats will offer one or several of their own, and make good on their promises to level the playing field.

In the heat of the 2016 election cycle, the New Mexico House Democratic Campaign Committee sent out fundraising emails with solicitations like the following:

“We need an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. Instead of cutting programs we should be asking everyone to pay their fair share.” – Excerpt from email from NM House Dems, 8/15/16.

 “House Republicans refused to make the powerful and well connected pay their fair share and instead balanced the budget on the backs of hard working New Mexicans. Rather than delay yet another corporate tax reduction, they only made deep cuts to things like crime prevention programs, programs for seniors, education, and more.” – Excerpt from email from NM House Dems, 10/6/16.

 “During the special session [Fall, 2016], House Republicans put special interests and corporations over hard working New Mexicans every chance they got. They voted every time to protect tax cuts for the powerful and well-connected at the expense of everyday New Mexicans.” –  Excerpt from email from NM House Dems, 10/14/16.

As the special session begins today, will you introduce or be willing to support any of the following, or similar measures, that call for revenue increases and reform which were filed during the regular session but never got a floor vote for third reading in the Democratically controlled House during the regular session (see list of examples below)?

HB 201 – NEW TOP INCOME TAX BRACKET [Died on House floor after table motion.]

SB 231 – INCREASE CIGARETTE & E-CIGARETTE TAXES [Passed 24-16 by Senate, killed in Democratically controlled House committee.]

SB 314 – RAISE LIQUOR TAX FOR CERTAIN BEVERAGES [Killed in Democratically controlled Senate committee.]

Answer:   Yes ___             No ___

Explanation or comments (If any):

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Thank you,

Bruce Wetherbee, editor

The Candle

(505) 501-1570

thecandlepublishing.com

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