One big tax proposal seen among many of slight importance

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By Harold Morgan

The final day for introducing bills into the 2013 legislative session came Valentine’s Day.
My attention has gone to examining the diversity of the state, and I haven’t paid detailed attention to the session. Huge controversies have stayed hidden in the woodwork. Not that nothing is happening. Legislators have introduced 1,218 bills. Some are duplicates, with one introduced in the House and one in the Senate. A few are “dummy bills” with language about serving the public good that can become real bills later if needed.
Still, much stuff is kicking around the Roundhouse. For those concerned about taxes, the New Mexico Tax Research Institute (www.nmtri.org) provides an invaluable tracking resource through its free online newsletter, “Tax Matters.”
The urge to tinker with the tax code appears a common element in obscure proposals. Certainly all these proposals will make New Mexico better. After all, the tax code is a fragmented mess, so what’s one more totally reasonable exception. Let’s do something for group A or industry B.
The exception to my little-stuff generalization comes from two San Juan County Republicans, Rep. Tom Taylor and Sen. William Sharer. Let’s pretty much start over with the tax code, they say in House Bill 369 and Senate Bill 368. The bill is 207 pages. They even propose dumping “funding acts,” whatever those are, relating to minor league baseball stadiums and university athletic facilities.
Taylor and Sharer deserve an A++++ for what was clearly a massive effort to put the bill together. With six House and four Senate committee referrals, the bill is going nowhere this year. But if it restarts consideration of a complete overhaul of the tax code, good will come of it.
Less consequential proposals abound. Specific valuation procedures for property taxes on algae or geothermal equipment used to generate electric power is found in SB 387 from Sen. Carroll Leavell, Jal Republican. Algae is produced in Lea County in case anyone thinks Leavell, an insurance man, has gone weird.
Rep. Brian Egolf, one of the Legislature’s Santa Fe liberals, wants a tiered refundable tax credit for those buying an energy efficient home with a certain “home energy rating” number. HB 135 got a do pass from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Egolf chairs. Five Republicans on the energy committee, presumably subsidy wary, voted no.
Expansion of the $3,000 or $5,000 rural health care practitioner tax credit to occupational and physical therapists, social workers and speech-language pathologists would come from HB 427 introduced by Rep. Rodolpho Martinez, Bayard Democrat. The person wanting the money must work in “an approved, rural health care underserved area.” Navigating the bureaucracy might be a problem. Approval for taking the credit would have to come from the state Department of Health upon approval of an application describing the applicant’s “clinical practice.”
Two Albuquerque Democrats, one a young liberal, Sen. Jacob Candelaria, the other an old lion, Rep. Ed Sandoval, offer SB 109 to increase the existing “working families tax credit” to 15 percent of the available federal tax credit. “Working family” seems related to income level and number of children. I guess those making more money don’t work. About 200,000 New Mexicans claim the present ten percent credit. The change would cost the state $26 million.
From Las Cruces freshman Democrat Sen. William Soules comes SB 318 to “create the sustainable energy investment tax credit.” In the legislative Fiscal Impact Report, the Taxation and Revenue Department expresses definition problems with “sustainable energy technology” and “long term production and commercialization potential,” which TRD calls “a rogue and subjective definition.”
The harsh words help explain why nearly all bills introduced meet an appropriate fate; they do not pass.