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H0llywood welfare is not the right answer

January 15, 2019

“What happens in Santa Fe only makes sense in Santa Fe” should replace “New Mexico True” as a state slogan, or maybe we should try — “Your money is a terrible thing to waste, except in Santa Fe.”

New Mexico is in the rare position of having a budget surplus. This is the result of keeping government spending in check and months of higher-than-expected oil prices.

Our $1.1 billion surplus comes after three years of near insolvency, where the state had to steal from every school board that had tucked away a few dollars under the mattress. These one-time dollars are being treated as income we will have every year because amnesia and irresponsibility are making the rounds in Santa Fe.

Democratic leaders are suggesting we spend nearly every extra dollar and increase annual spending by at least 10 percent. Not stopping there, some want to increase income taxes and raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon. All of this on top of their idea to raid the permanent fund and to give 25 percent of our surplus to Hollywood executives. Not finished yet, they want to remove any limit of taxpayer dollars to Hollywood going forward.

Is this what New Mexico voters wanted when they gave unchecked power to a single party in November? We don’t think so, and therefore we’d like to make the case for a more reasonable set of priorities.

First and foremost: We think that raising taxes on New Mexican families and businesses makes absolutely no sense when we have a $1.1 billion surplus. While they are debating how much to give Hollywood, we believe a portion of the surplus should go back to New Mexican taxpayers in a rebate.

Second: We have a historic opportunity to invest one-time dollars in our children and our schools. We want to give bonuses to teachers and return monies swept from schools when oil revenues were down.

Third: Our overstressed and underfunded roads desperately need a substantial investment to get us back on track after several lean budget years.

Fourth: We need to raise our yearly education budget by 4 percent to increase classroom funding and teacher pay. Democratic leaders are suggesting a 10 percent increase. That is not only unsustainable, it’s just plain irresponsible. Such an increase would force us to raise taxes as soon as the crude oil market adjusts down again. We all hope that oil revenues stay strong, but years of market volatility cannot be ignored.

We believe these concerns are New Mexicans’ top issues, not a $200 million handout to Hollywood. Santa Fe’s spending priorities should reflect yours; instead, we get a constant parade of bad investments, such as the Rail Runner, the spaceport, a supercomputer and now, Hollywood welfare.

House Republicans hold 24 seats, so the Democrats can tax and spend without restraint, and have indicated their intention to do so. Voters will need to hold them accountable when they raise your taxes, reduce services or steal from school reserves.

Our proposals are good for all New Mexicans and merit bipartisan support. Santa Fe logic, however, places a higher priority on Hollywood millionaires than on your community.

Reps. Jim Townsend and Rod Montoya are Republican members of the House. Townsend represents District 54, which spans portions of Eddy, Otero and Chaves counties. Montoya, from District 1, represents San Juan County.

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