Tax increase package OK’d

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Gross receipts, food, cigarettes to be affected

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — The Legislature approved a $5.6 billion budget on Wednesday and the largest tax increase package in more than two decades to help pay for public schools and government services next year.

Passage of the measures moved lawmakers close to the finish line of a politically charged special session. Clashes over tax increases and government spending previewed likely campaign themes in this year’s elections.

Half of the Legislature — all House seats — and the governorship are up for election. Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson is term limited and can’t seek re-election.

Lawmakers sent the governor a measure that will generate more than $200 million by raising several taxes. Included is a one-eighth cent increase in the state’s 5 percent gross receipts tax on goods and services. New Mexicans also will resume paying a tax on food, which will average about 2 percent statewide.

Pending in the Senate was a proposed 75-cents-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax to raise $33 million, and measures to finance capital improvement projects.

The special session will continue at least another day. The House and Senate decided to come back Thursday for what could be a final mop-up.

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