Higher taxes on the horizon

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Lawmakers develop $230M tax increase package

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — New Mexicans will pay higher taxes on goods and services they buy, including food, under a compromise, budget-balancing package in the Legislature.

Proposals approved by the House and Senate will increase taxes by more than $230 million next year to help finance public schools and government programs.

Lawmakers hope to finish work on the budget package and wrap up a special legislative session Wednesday. Each chamber must approve the same tax and budget measures before the proposals can go to Gov. Bill Richardson.

“I think this is a good compromise even though I really don’t care for it much. But it’s something that we can all live with,” Senate President Tim Jennings, a Roswell Democrat, said of the tax increases.

The House worked past midnight to approve a proposed 75-cents-a-pack cigarette tax increase. The higher tax will remain in place for four years. It will generate $33 million next year, with a third of the money earmarked for public schools. The current state tax is 91 cents and the federal government imposes a tax of $1.01.

The cigarette tax passed on a 41-26 vote and was sent to the Senate. Three House

Democrats opposed the measure and one Republican supported it.

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