Monday, March 01, 2010

Sen. Bernadette Sanchez: Garbage In, Garbage Out on "Tortilla Tax"

Garbage

Sunday morning we were treated to a twisted diatribe in the Albuquerque Journal by Sen. Bernadette Sanchez (D-Albuquerque 26) attacking Allen Sanchez and the NM Conference of Catholic Bishops and defending her misbegotten "tortilla tax." Her proposed bill (SB 10) raised the hackles of just about everyone with a conscience when she introduced it during New Mexico's regular legislative session last month. Bernie says she's going to try again during the special session that Gov. Bill Richardson says he'll call today at about Noon.

In the op-ed, Bernie reveals that she found it "deeply disconcerting" to be "under attack" by Allen Sanchez et al. on her proposed food tax. She says, "...it is my hope that before Allen Sanchez and his allies in the Catholic community send out attack dogs [emphasis mine] armed with poorly thought out sound-bite slogans and wasteful but eye-catching "tortilla demonstrations," they probe more deeply into the facts."

I guess she's willing to brave the criticism of the Catholic Bishops when it comes to taxing tortillas and other food staples not included on the crazy WIC list of "approved" foods, but she felt it necessary to follow the Bishops to the letter in her continuing battle against my civil rights and the domestic partnership bill. Of course, what she's really doing in both cases is following the orders of the leaders of the ConservaDem-GOP coalition that's running the NM Senate.

Bernie Takes Orders
When Senate Pro Tem Tim Jennings of Roswell and Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith of Deming say jump, Bernie asks only "how high?" and votes accordingly. She's loyal to the Senate leadership, not her constituents or New Mexico's hurting citizens. How else do you think she remains the Chair of the Conservation Committee and gets to be a member of the Judiciary Committee -- even though she's not an attorney? It's her seat on Judiciary, after all, that keeps the domestic partnership bill and other progressive legislation bottled up. Last year she agreed to pass the domestic partnership bill out to Judiciary without recommendation, after walking out of the room on the first vote. This year, however, she made it clear she would vote no, period. She got her orders.

Garbage Food Tax Defense
Bernie's main defense of her tortilla tax is that it wouldn't fall on the poor because they get food stamps. Earth to Bernie: Earnings can be no higher than about 130% of the federal poverty guidelines to qualify for food stamps. That leaves out a whole bunch of low-income and middle-income workers who are struggling in this horrible economy created, in large part, by the very monied interests that Bernie and the others are working so hard to protect from any income tax or capital gains tax hikes.

Meanwhile, as noted in a report on New Mexico taxes by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, our revenue system is horribly regressive even without an additional food tax:

More so than most other states, New Mexico relies primarily on its poorest residents to pay for needed public investments. The very best-off New Mexicans pay effective tax rates that are less than half what the very poorest families must pay. This upside-down tax system is primarily due to New Mexico’s heavy reliance on regressive sales taxes, and its below-average reliance on the progressive personal income tax.

I don't know where Sen. Bernadette Chavez and Senate Dem leaders are getting their info to justify their mission to make an already regressive tax system even worse, but it's clear they're using garbage data to produce garbage legislation. Garbage in, garbage out.

March 1, 2010 at 11:03 AM in Economy, Populism, Food and Drink, NM Legislature 2010, NM Legislature Special Session 2010, Poverty, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Legislative "Leaders" Reportedly Refuse to Tax Wealthy, Big-Box Corporations in "Budget Deal"

Rightwing New Mexico lawmakers who haven't been in the secretive "leadership" scrum working on a budget "compromise" have been just as much in the dark as we have about what's going on behind closed doors. But now word is being leaked that the "deal" executed by Dem "leaders" in the NM House and Senate is just more of the same -- a refusal to do what most rank and file Dems support. It's another bow to the right wing.

What we have is a broken record playing over and over again. The weak "solutions" being proposed AGAIN are just as out of touch and out of date as vinyl record albums. The underlying premise seems to be to tax those who are already suffering in order to avoid -- at almost any cost -- taxing those who have profited exorbitantly over the past decade or more because they haven't been paying their fair share of taxes. In tandem, the plan to make more cuts in education, Medicaid and just about every other state operation across the board seems alive and well, despite the fact that significant cuts like this were already enacted last time.

Same As It Ever Was
The proposals being leaked are retreads from the regular session -- a hike in the general gross receipts tax and cigarette tax, some kind of gross receipts tax on food that's "non-nutritional" (a form of the tortilla tax) and some kind of vague tightening up on individuals who live out of state and owe New Mexico taxes. This would apparently raise about $233 million in additional revenue, to address a shortfall that appears to be in the $500 million to $600 million range, or more. The rest would reportedly be cut from the state budget across the board.

Regressive Once again, we have Democratic "leaders" failing to represent their constituents and, instead, depending on regressive taxes, as well as politically correct "sin" taxes, to fill a void created in part by revenues lost when they gave our richest citizens a tax cut in 2003. In addition, they refuse to require that big-box stores run by national chains like Walmart and Home Depot pay the same taxes to the state that all small businesses pay (combined reporting). 

A majority of states -- including Colorado and even Texas -- have now passed laws to stop the multi-state corporations from evading state taxes. However, I guess Governor Richardson and the "leaders" in the Legislature would rather tax anybody and cut anything than make those with the cash pay what they should. I find it appalling -- making small businesses pay a tax that's evaded by corporations using top-dollar law firms. And not only do Democrats support this travesty, so do Republicans -- who have long claimed to be the party of small business. 

Progressive Re-Enact a Progressive Tax System 
This fear and loathing of the kind of graduated, progressive taxation that once helped to create and maintain a strong and large middle class in America is rampant these days. Clearly, too many Democrats have bought into the right-wing frame on taxes, apparently unable or unwilling to defend the very thing that made for a nation characterized by upward mobility and secure working and middle classes.

Instead, way too many Dems join the right-wing whine that if we tax the wealthy and corporations what they should be taxed, Santa Fe millionaires will depart for parts unknown and all the big-box stores in New Mexico will close up shop. Spare me. Even if this were true (which is highly doubtful), would we really want our state populated with people and businesses so selfish and venal that they don't want to be here if they have to pay taxes according to their income and profits -- like everyone else?

Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) had this to say about taxes in an email sent to supporers today:

The key is to find something that works for the state that won’t slow down economic recovery and won’t burden businesses. To me this "ideal" solution involves restoring progressivity to our higher income tax brackets. We destroyed progressivity ... when we flattened all those upper brackets into one single rate (4.9%). That’s what everyone now pays: millionaires and multi-millionaires as well as all those married couples earning as little as $26,000 a year of taxable income."

I hope Sen. Ortiz y Pino and other progressive lawmakers are prepared to fight for this, not just pay it lip service. We know what they would prefer, but are they willing to raise a ruckus about it?

Not only did Gov. Bill Richardson push through an income tax cut that lowered the top bracket from 8.2% to 4.9%, he slashed the taxes on capital gains in New Mexico by a whopping 50%. In a press release, he called these cuts the "boldest" of any state. This might have been palatable when oil and gas revenues were rolling in like crazy, but does it make sense now?

Does anyone recall New Mexico's most well off suffering under the taxes in effect before the cuts? No. Me either. Yet, Dem leaders in the Legislature still refuse to confront the Governor on his repeated threats to veto any reversal on his generous gifts to the wealthy and corporations. Sadly, even Hispanic leaders in the legislature apparently would prefer to shackle their constituents with taxes on the things they need to live than upset Governor Richardson on taxation.

Real Dems: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
I understand that Democrats who are really Democrats are between a rock and a hard place given the current legislative power structure, particularly in the Senate. We've got right-wingers like Senate Pro Tem Tim Jennings and Sen. John Arthur Smith calling most of the shots, while pretending to be Democrats. They retain their power by colluding with Republicans, not by representing Democratic values. The unholy coalition of bought-off "Conserva-Dems" and Republicans makes it hard for real Democrats and progressives to get anything through a committee structure specifically created by the coalition to be obstructionist and anti-Democratic.

For instance, take the makeup of the Senate Corporations Committee, through which most tax measures must initially flow. Of the six on the committee who call themselves Democrats, only Sen. Tim Keller voted for progressive tax measures in the regular session -- and he was no doubt chastised for doing so by all the wrong people. Dem Senators Phil Griego, Lynda Lovejoy, George Munoz, John Sapien and David Ulibarri consistently vote with Republicans on SCORC and/or protect the Governor's positions on taxation, not those of their constituents.

The Senate Finance Committee isn't much better, led by Sen. John Arthur Smith -- who apparently gets a bigger rush out of cutting funding for services and protecting tax breaks for the wealthy than anything he can find to do in lonely Deming. When the legislature is in session, it's his time in the spotlight, and boy does he love it. They call him "Dr. No," but I prefer to call him "Sen. Me Myself I."

The SFC also is home to the anti-domestic partnership duo of Sen. Carlos Cisneros and Sen. Pete Campos. They vote according to what the Catholic Bishops order on that bill, but feel entirely free to vote for a "tortilla" tax that's opposed by those same Catholic Bishops. Think about it. These two represent districts populated by many who are suffering the worst consequences of the economic emergency, yet they'd rather make those people suffer more than pass any kind of progressive tax measure. Why do they keep getting re-elected? You'd have to ask the voters in their districts.

Middle

Don't Cave -- Fight and Advocate Publicly
So, anyway, where does this leave us as we head into a special session that the Governor says is coming Monday? I know what I'd do if I were a State Rep. or Senator -- I'd vote NO on every cut and tax until the most productive taxes on the wealthy and corporations were in place. Instead of caving to the status quo protectors, I'd say, "go ahead, pass this horrible budget bill and the cuts to services and regressive gross receipts and "sin" taxes, but not with my vote. You can do it over my dead body and I'll be happy to loudly and directly point out to the media and voters over and over again that it was YOU who did it, in collusion with right-wing Republicans."

Of course, in order to take a strong, activist stand like that, legislators would have to put the public before their own ambitions within the legislature. They might well face a nasty backlash from the GOP-Bought-Off-Conserva-Dem coalition, as well as from the Governor if they dared to draw a principled line in the sand, come what may. Are they up to the task? We'll soon find out. 

These are not ordinary times. The economy is not in an ordinary recession. The working class, the middle class and the poor are all being ravaged by forces set into play by the investor class and immoral ponzi scheme operators who run our major Wall Street firms and banks. This will only change if we demand that elected officials who call themselves Democrats ACT like Democrats. We no longer have the luxury of tolerating Dems who go along to get along. 

If need be, our Democrats in office need to be just as outspoken, tough and obstructionist as the dark forces on the other side. Otherwise, the bad guys will just keep on winning and paying no penalty for abandoning the urgent needs of their constituents and communities.

February 27, 2010 at 12:56 PM in Children and Families, Corporatism, Democratic Party, Economy, Populism, Gov. Bill Richardson, Healthcare, NM Legislature Special Session 2010, Poverty, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

NM Voices for Children Gets 3-Year, $1.4 M Grant From WK Kellogg Foundation

New Mexico Voices for Children today announced it has received a $1.4 million grant that will allow the nonprofit to work on improving the economic status of low-income families in New Mexico by implementing a statewide effort to enhance early care and education systems. The grant amount will be awarded over a three-year period.

"This is very exciting for us because it allows us to work on early care and education, which are key to eliminating child poverty," said Eric Griego, Executive Director of NM Voices for Children, in a statement released by the organization. "The grant will allow us to explore the external support systems that children -- especially those from low-income families -- need in order to succeed in school."

A big component of the grant will be to educate policymakers and the public about how aspects of child poverty impede a child's ability to learn. New Mexico has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation, according to U.S. Census data.

"An investment of this magnitude is a real vote of confidence by Kellogg in our ability to create lasting change," said Anne Simpson, M.D., the organization's Board Chair. "We're both honored and excited to take on this work," she added.

The grant will also allow the child advocacy organization to bolster its internal capacity for other work. More than 80 percent of the non-profit's funding comes from grants by private foundations such as W.K. Kellogg, the Annie E Casey Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, McCune Charitable Foundation, and Brindle Foundation.

New Mexico Voices for Children was founded 22 years ago by a group of pediatricians to address environmental conditions inherent to poverty that negatively impact a child’s health and well-being.

Established in 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa. For further information, please visit the Foundation’s website at www.wkkf.org.

New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico's children, families and communities.

February 25, 2010 at 02:56 PM in Children and Families, Education, Eric Griego, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brian Colón Guest Blog: No Tax for the Side Tortilla with My Bowl of Red Chile

BrianColon130This is a guest blog by Brian Colón, Democratic Candidate for Lt. Governor.

There is nothing better than a bowl of red chile with a tortilla at any one of our state’s amazing family-owned restaurants. As New Mexicans we take great pride in our food. It is part of our heritage and the identity of our state. These foods are also staples which feed a population of New Mexicans who are among the poorest in the nation and who are disproportionately of Hispanic and American Indian descent.

Unfortunately the State Senate recently voted to ignore these realities and increase the economic burden on working New Mexicans by raising taxes on such staple foods as tortillas. Like most New Mexicans, I was shocked and outraged by the proposed tax increase on foods such as tortillas, taco shells, salsa, chile powder, dried chile pods, canned soup, potatoes, pasta, spaghetti sauce and Spanish rice which recently passed the State Senate.

Already, New Mexico’s lowest income earners are saddled with the unfair burden of higher taxation. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently concluded that New Mexico’s system of taxation is regressive and unfairly places a higher burden on earners in lower tax brackets, while higher earners pay less of a percentage than our low income New Mexicans. In addition, the report concluded that, even without the inclusion of the proposed tortilla tax, New Mexico already has a “comparatively high reliance on gross receipt taxes.”

To quote Gerry Bradley of New Mexico Voices for Children, “The lower your income, the higher the percentage of it you pay in sales taxes ... because lower-income families generally need to spend all of their income on day-to-day necessities that are taxed, while those in higher brackets can set some of their income aside.” Increasing the burden on the poor is not a solution to our budget impasse.

Just last weekend I drove more than 700 miles and attended events in seven of our state's 33 counties. In these counties I continue to witness the diversity of our people and our economy. A good deal of our state’s economy comes from locally grown, prepared and distributed food such as chile and tortillas. New Mexico is rich with farming history from Pueblo and Acequia traditions to modern methods. I agree that we need to revitalize our farmland and encourage consumption of foods that are closer to home. It is both healthier for the environment, and healthier for New Mexicans' waistlines. Encouraging a healthier diet, with more fruits and vegetables, is laudable. However, it is not a justification for implementing a regressive form of taxation on our lowest-income earners.

Our economy is suffering and our tax base is eroding, but balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class, many of whom depend on government services for day-to-day survival, will aggravate our state’s economic woes. That is why I have proposed that our state end the big-box tax loophole for out-of-state retailers. Our tax code should benefit the local small business owners, not out-of-state mega stores. Only New Mexico and Oklahoma fail to tax big-box stores, and it is time for New Mexico to join the rest of the country in eliminating this loophole.

In addition, I believe that our state must reform our tax code. We should implement a more progressive form of taxation, one that is fair to all hard working New Mexicans. We should also look to eliminate areas in the budget that are wasteful or overly redundant, and no longer serve a purpose. Across the board cuts, especially cuts that will hurt children and the poor, are unconscionable and should not be passed.

As always I am looking forward to my next bowl of red chile in one of our 33 counties, but hope, like many other New Mexicans, that I am not forced to pay a premium for that tortilla on the side. It would be a terrible waste of government to hurt lower- and middle-class New Mexicans, and a terrible waste of food to have to skip the tortilla and not be able to scoop up the rest of the red or green chile in my bowl.

This is a guest blog by Brian Colón, Democratic Candidate for Lt. Governor. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, email me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

February 16, 2010 at 01:59 AM in 2010 NM Lt. Governor Race, Brian Colon, Children and Families, Food and Drink, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2010, Poverty, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Reps. Chasey, Maestas, Gutierrez Blast Food Tax Passed by Senate Finance Committee

NO FOOD TAX Tortillas

As I wrote yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee passed SB 10, a bill that would tax all the food in the grocery stores except for a narrow list of "basics" that the New Mexico WIC program allows. As you can see, it's an odd list indeed, and very confusing. I have to wonder if the Senators who voted for the bill even glanced at the WIC list before they acted. 

The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, St. Joseph’s Community Health Services and others protested against the food tax by passing out 12 thousand taxable tortillas with 'No Food Tax' stickers yesterday at the Roundhouse. And at least a few Democratic legislators are speaking out against the food tax:

“The House will not pass a tax on food. We sent several responsible revenue enhancements to the Senate that didn’t include taxes that would hit the poor hardest of all. The House proposed a temporary increase on the highest income earners and a temporary gross receipts tax that would be dispersed across the board. This bill is unconscionable,” said Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Bernalillo).

“If you put 20 PhDs in a room they could not think of a more regressive proposal than the food tax. In our same situation Marie Antoinette asked why the poor don’t just eat cake. The Senate is suggesting just that by introducing this food tax. We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas said. “I’ve brought forth House Bill 234, a progressive measure, that would create four new tax brackets starting at $100 thousand for new tax filers and would only affect the top 15% of taxpayers. Some opponents of my bill are on record in support of the food tax; probably the most regressive tax measure we could impose on our state.”

Rep. Joni Gutierrez (D-Dona Ana) suggested that House members donate all their tortillas to those less fortunate and who would be affected most by a food tax.

“The House of Representatives received tortillas today in protest of the food tax. We realize that there are so many people less fortunate than us so I ask that all House members donate their tortillas to St. Elizabeth’s Homeless Shelter,” Rep. Gutierrez said. “The response has been overwhelming. We are glad to do our small part in recognizing the hardships that people are going through and what the food tax would impose on them.”

Fred Nathan at Think New Mexico, which also opposes the tax, pointed out some of the craziness. For example, the peanut butter in a run-of-the-mill PB&J sandwich would not be taxed (unless it is organic), but the jelly and the bread would be taxed. SB 10 goes way beyond non-nutritional foods to tax things like nuts; eggs that are free range, low cholesterol, brown or organic; sliced, shredded, baby, cooked and frozen carrots; goat, Ricotta and sliced and shredded cheese; honey; butter; yogurt; canned soup; fruit-nut mixtures (trail mix); potatoes; pasta and macaroni; spaghetti sauce; white rice; cooking oil; coffee and tea; and lunchmeat and hotdogs. 

SB 10 would also tax many food staples that New Mexicans rely upon like tortillas, taco shells, salsa, chile powder, dried chile pods and Spanish rice. In fact, more than half of food that is currently nontaxable would become taxable. In addition, it would be a total nightmare for grocers (and their customers) who would have to separate out foods that are taxable and those that are not.

Who Voted So Far for the Food Tax?
Not surprisingly, no other state has adopted this approach to revenue raising, or anything like it. Yet we had seven Democrats on the SFC vote for it: Senators John Arthur Smith, Carlos Cisneros, Pete Campos, Howie Morales, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Mary Kay Papen and Nancy Rodriguez. And the bill was sponsored by Sen. Bernadette Sanchez (D-Albuquerque). All the Republicans on the SFC voted for it too, except for Rod Adair (R-Roswell).

The bill previously passed thru the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee (SCTC) without recommendation on a vote of 5-3, where the narrow WIC list test was added in by amendment to replace the food stamp list, which is more extensive. Dem Senators who voted for the food tax there were: Phil Griego, Tim Keller, John Sapien and David Ulibarri (who also votes no on domestic partnerships). Dem Lynda Lovejoy voted no. Republicans Kent Cravens and Dianna Duran also voted no. Dem George Munoz and Repub Mark Boitano were excused.

If you're against this crazy tax -- which is being proposed to replace taxes passed by the House to temporarily raise income taxes on our wealthiest citizens by 1.5% and temporarily hike the gross receipts tax by a half a percent -- please contact your Senators and Representatives NOW.

February 13, 2010 at 01:16 PM in Children and Families, Hispanic Issues, NM Legislature 2010, Poverty, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, February 12, 2010

(Updated) NM Sen. Bernadette Sanchez "Excited" About Her Tortilla Tax Despite Opposition by Catholic Bishops

Tortillas
Photo by Matt Reichbach

Update: The Senate Finance Committee passed SB 10 today, without any chance for public comment. Only Rod Adair (R-Roswell), voted no. I say, shame on the SFC Democrats for supporting this regressive tax while not demanding a tax increase on the wealthy: Senators John Arthur Smith, Carlos Cisneros, Pete Campos, Howie Morales, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Mary Kay Papen and Nancy Rodriguez. Remember, Pete Campos is one of those who votes against domestic partnerships because the Catholic Church opposes it. I guess that doesn't matter on this bill.
************
The photo above shows tortillas being stacked in the Roundhouse in Santa Fe today to protest SB 10, a bill sponsored by Sen. Bernadette Sanchez (D-SD26, Albuquerque) that has passed the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee reportedly decided it will be part of the Senate's budget plan. 

The bill would reapply the NM gross receipts tax on many food items, including bread, tortillas, pasta and macaroni made with white flour, as well as potatoes, canned soup, butter, honey, yogurt and nuts. I'm not kidding you. Only "staple foods" as narrowly defined by the NM WIC program, or "fresh or frozen meat, poultry or fish with no additional ingredients or only minimal additional ingredients," would continue to be exempt from the gross receipts tax.

The Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) estimates the tax would increase revenues by $138 million in FY11 and $145 million in FY12.

Seems the members of the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) -- led by anti-tax, pro-education-cut crusader Sen. John Arthur Smith -- can't bring themselves to adopt the temporary 1.5% surtax on our wealthiest citizens passed by the House or make the big corporations that own businesses like Walmart pay their fair share of taxes in New Mexico like small businesses do. No, they're set on taxing food items of their choosing so they don't have to upset the monied bigwigs who made money hand over fist during the financial feeding frenzy that preceded this "recession." To hell with the working poor and anyone else struggling in this economic maelstrom caused by the greediest among us.

According to an article in the Albuquerque Journal today:

The budget plan adopted unanimously Friday by the Senate Finance Committee counts on about $154 million in new revenue. That revenue would be generated by the tax of non-nutritional foods, as well as $16 million from a bill sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, that would ratchet up income tax compliance on out-of-state residents.

Other House-approved tax measures — a temporary increase of the state's gross receipts tax base rate and a surtax on high-earning state residents — aren't included in the Senate's plan.

You will remember Sen. Bernadette Sanchez as one of the lawmakers who just can't bring herself to support domestic partnerships (SB 183 this year) -- in other words, basic civil rights for people like me. She's used two excuses to explain her stubborn refusal to change her mind on this issue: her constituents don't support it and the Catholic Bishops oppose it. Polling last year showed 63% of her constituents DO support domestic partnerships, either strongly (42%) or somewhat (21%), so that leaves only the Catholic Bishops' opposition as a believable excuse for Bernadette's position on LGBT civil rights.

Well, guess what? The New Mexico Catholic Bishops also strongly oppose Bernadette's tortilla tax:

"This is a tax on the poorest people of New Mexico," said Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. "When working poor go to the store, they buy the cheapest items on the shelf."

... opponents accused the bill's food list of being discriminatory and say the tax could fall more heavily on low-income New Mexicans. "We shouldn't be talking about white bread or brown bread," Allen Sanchez said.

A statement released yesterday by NM Conference of Catholic Bishops, St. Joseph Community Health, NM Conference of Churches about the food tax had this to say:

"Families that are already struggling to put food on the table in this economy will find their dollars stretched even thinner every time they go to the grocery store," said Allen Sanchez, Director of the Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The list of foods that will still be exempt from the gross receipts tax is so narrow it would be impossible for any family to live on," he added. "It will especially be a burden to rural families who have fewer options when they purchase groceries."

The bill, sponsored by Senator Bernadette Sanchez, initially exempted foods that can be purchased under SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program), but the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee amended it to exempt instead the narrower list of approved foods under WIC.

Bernadette's response? In the Journal today, she said, "I'm really excited about this bill."

So Sen. Sanchez apparently obeys the Catholic Bishops when they come out against my basic civil rights, but ignores them when they berate her tax bill as a punishment of our most economically disadvantages citizens. Rather hypocritical, wouldn't you say?

I wonder how other Senators who explain their no votes on domestic partnerships as being obedient to the Catholic Church -- like Sen. Richard Martinez and Sen. Pete Campos -- will vote on this food tax when it comes onto the Senate floor. Any bets?

February 12, 2010 at 11:37 AM in Children and Families, Economy, Populism, Faith Community, Food and Drink, NM Legislature 2010, Poverty, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (15)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

NCLR: Congress Must Create Jobs to Rebuild Communities Hit Hardest by Recession

New data from the U.S. Department of Labor confirm that minorities continue to suffer disproportionately from rising unemployment, according to a statement released by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Joblessness in communities of color is pushing more families into foreclosure and hindering the nation’s economic recovery, says NCLR, the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

While national recovery efforts have created more than 600,000 jobs, the unemployment rate in December was 16.2% for Blacks and 12.9% for Latinos, compared to 10% nationwide. NCLR’s analysis of the numbers shows that Latinos are overrepresented in industries where unemployment is highest. Meanwhile, federal foreclosure prevention initiatives are not available to the unemployed, making it even harder for them to keep their homes.

NCLR recommends that Congress put Americans to work on projects that benefit their communities. For example, hiring workers to repair and rehabilitate abandoned and foreclosed homes would help protect neighborhoods and tackle the housing market bust, which is expected to leave more than 1.3 million Latino families in foreclosure over the next four years. Investing in nonprofit service providers is another effective way to meet local needs while employing millions of people in a short time.

“The government cannot afford to continue to disregard the severity of the economic crisis in communities of color. Congress must do more to ensure that all workers, including Latinos and Blacks, have access to new employment opportunities,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “Job creation should be aimed at reviving and rebuilding the hardest-hit communities.”

“Even before the recession began in 2007, African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities had disproportionately absorbed the ill effects of our economic shortcomings. Areas of concentrated poverty have reached rates of 50% and higher for African American men between the ages of 18 and 30,” stated Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy. “We are urging Congress to take action now to reassure this country that it is committed to the creation of much-needed jobs and resources in affected minority communities that will ultimately benefit us all.”

“Job creation must remain our top priority,” said Heather Boushey, Senior Economist, Center for American Progress. “We need policies that help those most in need, which often have the largest bang for the buck in terms of impact on economic stimulus.”

“Minority farmworkers, among those affected the most, are continuing to get hit with staggering unemployment numbers,” said David Strauss, Executive Director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. “Just as Congress bailed out financial institutions during this economic crisis, it now needs to protect America’s working class by passing legislation that creates jobs that include minority workers.”

Read NCLR’s latest analysis of the unemployment data here. Also, find detailed proposals of NCLR’s recommendations to Congress at www.nclr.org/JobsNow.

For more information, visit www.nclr.org | http://www.facebook.com/nationalcounciloflaraza | http://www.myspace.com/nclr2008 | http://twitter.com/nclr.

January 9, 2010 at 01:45 PM in Agriculture, Economy, Populism, Hispanic Issues, Jobs, Minority Issues, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Coalition Representing Over One Million New Mexicans Opposes Reimposition of the Food Tax

Hey Governor Richardson and NM Legislators, are you getting the message yet? Don't even think about trying to get blood from a stone -- i.e., trying to wring more tax dollars out of hands of those who can least afford it. Our wealthiest citizens did just fine before their taxes were significantly cut in 2003. The measure decreased the top state income tax rate from 8.2% to 4.9%, phased in over several years. We need to put it back where it was. Those who have made out like bandits over the past eight years need to pay their fair share now that the Bush "recession" is in full swing.

And while we're at it, let's make multi-state corporations doing business in New Mexico -- like Walmart, K-Mart and Home Depot -- to pay income tax on the profits they make here. Let's use the "combined reporting" method of taxation, as do a majority of states that tax corporations.

Above all, don't reapply the tax on foods.

The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, the New Mexico Conference of Churches, AARP and the Santa Fe Alliance business group are among a growing list of organizations that have joined with Think New Mexico to oppose the reimposition of the food tax. Other members of the coalition include Bread for the World New Mexico, Farm to Table, La Montanita Co-op and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

Together, the membership of these organizations is well over a million New Mexicans. For example, the Catholic Church serves more than 600,000 New Mexicans and AARP has about 280,000 members.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce recently proposed that New Mexico reimpose the tax on food to combat the state’s budget deficit. The food tax was repealed by Governor Richardson and the Legislature four years ago. It had originally been levied in 1933 as part of a “temporary” and “emergency” tax. Today, only two states fully tax the sale of groceries: Alabama and Mississippi.

The coalition opposes the reimposition of the food tax in part because the food tax is an extremely regressive tax: those who are least able to afford it bear the greatest burden. New Mexico households with incomes between $10,000 and $15,000 spend on average 16.2% of their income on groceries, while households with income greater than $75,000 spend on average 3.8% of their income on groceries, according to a statement released by the coalition.

The food tax is also an anti-family tax because larger families purchase more groceries and would therefore pay a greater share of the food tax. The food tax would cost an average family of four about $250 per year.

Yesterday, Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish announced her opposition to reimposing the food tax. Denish stated: “When families are pinching and scraping to get by, taxing the basics like milk and bread is just not right. We need a solution to the state's budget problem, but it should not come at the cost of making tough times even tougher for regular New Mexico families.”

December 11, 2009 at 01:38 PM in Diane Denish, Economy, Populism, Gov. Bill Richardson, NM Legislature 2010, Poverty, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 Albuquerque Homeless Persons' Memorial Vigil Set for Dec. 10

From NM Coalition to End Homelessness:
Everyone is welcome at the 2009 Albuquerque Homeless Persons' Memorial Vigil on Thursday, December 10th, in Albuquerque. Join communities across the nation as we remember those who passed away in 2009 while experiencing homelessness. We will be accepting donations of new socks and gloves at the Memorial Vigil.

  • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM: Gather at the Memorial Wall at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless. AHCH is on the NW corner of 1st & Mountain. The Memorial Wall is on northwest side of the building (See map.) Casa Los Arboles staff & residents will be serving green chile stew beginning at noon. There will be a short ceremony at 12:45 PM.
  • 1:00 PM: Begin march to First United Methodist Church
  • 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM: Memorial Vigil at First United Methodist Church (4th & Lead)

Flyers (pdf): Half Page or Full Page. Please post and distribute widely. Everyone is welcome.

If you have questions or would like more information please contact Lisa Huval at Lisa-H@nmceh.org or 217-9570.

November 23, 2009 at 11:29 AM in Events, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tom Udall: Skip Two Meals on Feed America Day, Donate to Hungry

The U.S. Senate has designated this coming Thursday, November 19 -- exactly one week before Thanksgiving Day -- as “Feed America Day.”

Senator Tom Udall, a sponsor of the bipartisan “Feed America Day” initiative, said that in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the bill encourages Americans to skip two meals this Thursday before Thanksgiving, and instead donate the money they would have spent or food to a local charity or food bank for the hungry. (See below the break for info on where you can donate.)

“As we approach the Thanksgiving festivities, it is my hope that individuals will take the time to think of those in their community who may be struggling to keep food on the table,” said Senator Udall in a statement released today. “To miss a few meals and make a modest donation to a local food pantry is a small thing, but if many of us join together in this effort, we can have a large impact. And a large impact is what we must have if we are to keep our families and food pantries afloat this year.”

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2008 nearly 50 million Americans -- including almost one child in four -- suffered from food insecurity and struggled to get enough to eat. The figure represents the highest level of hunger in the U.S. since the federal government began keeping track. In New Mexico, food insecurity impacts 14 percent of the population. Click for the full USDA report.

“As the economic downturn has struck our nation, employment rates have dropped and more and more New Mexico families have had to turn to food banks and other emergency food services to meet their day-to-day needs," added Udall. "Our emergency food providers are being stretched to their limits to try to meet the current demand for assistance.”

S. Res. 334 was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M.; Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Robert Casey, Jr., D-Penn.; Richard Lugar, R-Ind.; Richard Durban, D-Ill., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Food Banks and Charities:

One suggestion is to donate to the Roadrunner Foodbank in Albuquerque, which distributes food through a statewide network of more than 600 emergency food pantries, group homes, low-income day care centers, shelters, soup kitchens and six smaller, regional food banks. In turn, these organizations provide emergency food boxes, group meals and direct distribution to approximately 240,000 low-income people each year. Individuals needing food go to the partner agency for food, not the food bank.

The New Mexico Association of Food Banks provides info on organizations that accept donations and distribute food, as well as locations in each county where folks can pick up food.

Feeding America is the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Its mission is to feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.

The American Indian Center in Albuquerque has a great need for donations because they were wiped out by thieves this past weekend.

New Mexico Magazine provides a list of charities in the state.

November 17, 2009 at 02:43 PM in Food and Drink, Poverty, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tragic Reasons We Need Health Care Reform Now: Names of the Dead

Here is Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), reading some of the tragic stories about the unnecessary deaths of Americans who lacked health insurance. These and similar accounts have been submitted by friends to his website NamesOfTheDead.com. Just listen, and think about how important it is that we pass the strongest reform bill that can get through the Congress.

October 28, 2009 at 08:53 PM in Economy, Populism, Healthcare, Obama Health Care Reform, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's Really Making Us Sick? Free Dinner and Showing of 'Place Matters'

From the New Mexico Health Equity Working Group: You are invited to a FREE showing of Place Matters from the award winning video Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? The event, sponsored by the NMHEWG, will take place on Tuesday, October 27th, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Wells Fargo Theater. FREE dinner at 5:30 PM, video from 6-6:30 PM with discussion after. Families welcome.

Unnatural Causes has won the award for best Science/ Television/Radio/Film program from the National Academies (National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council).

The linkages between education, economic status and health are well documented. The Place Matters segment serves as a good introduction to the series as a whole and looks closely at why one’s address is such a strong indicator of one’s health. We hope that various legislators and APS Board Members will join us for the video and discussion to follow.

October 26, 2009 at 08:46 AM in Children and Families, Economy, Populism, Events, Film, Healthcare, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0)