Lobbyist shares insight into GRT bill

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By Tris DeRoma

Scott Scanland, a lobbyist for Los Alamos County and the Los Alamos Public Schools, explained to members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Jan. 12 how state legislators may react to Senate Bill 17, a bill to keep gross receipts taxes flowing into the county from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.


State Sen. Carlos Cisneros (D-6) and State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-43) are sponsoring the bill.

Scanland said he talked to legislators over the summer, when the state budget picture looked bleak.

“The budget situation was a little gloomy, and we were able to put forth a pretty persuasive argument that you don’t want to shoot a hole in your foot, and blow a hole in the budget and not pass the legislation,” Scanland said. “The Senate Finance Committee members really got it.”

He said that viewpoint continues to hold true, even though the state is projecting it will have more dollars to spend for the next budget.

Scanland expects the bill to make a smooth transition from the Senate Appropriations Committee into the Senate Finance Committee.

However, that once it hits the Senate Finance Committee it may sit for a while, and that’s OK.
“It’s not a negative or a positive, they will just hold all the bills until the budget is worked out, they know what the finances are… it’s very choreographed,” Scanland said.

The big challenge, he said, is when the bill hits the House Tax Committee.

“Many of the House Republican members understand the bill, they understand the problem, but there might be some resistance because they would like to see a broader tax reform package,” Scanland said. “They all voted against the bill last year. Again, it’s not like they hated the idea… it’s just that they were just holding off for the bigger package.”
Regional Coalition Chairman and Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales wanted to know if the opposition to the bill was clear on what could happen to Los Alamos County and the region if the bill failed.

“Do they just believe that this will be just absorbed by the county and everything will be hunky dory? It’s almost a lackadaisical feeling that in the name of tax reform, we’re just going to hold off on this until we get an agreement in place,” Gonzales said. “There’s a real impact on local service. Without much of a tax base, it won’t be able to fill the gap that’s going to get lost up in the county.”

Gonzales did acknowledge the state needs tax reform, but also said this could suddenly become a real problem if a non-profit entity secures the lab contract and the bill fails to pass.

Legislators and the community at large have voiced concern that if a non-profit entity, such as a university, gets LANL’s next management and operations contract, the millions of dollars proceeds the county gets from gross-receipts tax will disappear, since the state does not collect gross receipts tax from non-profit entities, such as national lab contractors. SB17 would fix that.

However, many Republicans in the legislature have tried to implement a massive tax reform bill that would remove many exemptions that have been given to special interests and corporations since the 1960s.

Last year, State Rep. Jason Harper (R-57), a member of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, referred to the state’s tax code as a “Swiss cheese, loophole, winners and losers, friends of politicians, lobbyists disaster of a tax code” when trying to get their tax reform bill passed last year.

The idea is to broaden the tax base, increase revenue and lower the tax rate at the same time by getting rid of those exemptions, according to the Republican-sponsored bill.

“I don’t think they have anything personally against this bill, they don’t want to hurt Los Alamos County, they don’t want to hurt the state,” Scanland said. “They just have this philosophical thing they’re on… they’re hanging together in the hopes they can do a bigger package.”

Los Alamos coalition member Chris Chandler urged her fellow coalition members from the eight other communities to talk to their state representatives about the issue.

“There’s an important case to be made to maintain that revenue stream on so many levels that I encourage you to talk to whoever is representing you, because it’s very important for your community too, not just Los Alamos,” Chandler said.