NM House Republican Leader James Townsend (R-Artesia)
This Independence Day holiday, while many of us will celebrate with backyard barbeques and neighborhood fireworks, bureaucrats in Santa Fe will be busy updating their accounting codes to prepare for the influx of new tax revenue. It will be a happy time for fans of big government.
I can’t imagine that our country’s founding fathers envisioned the current governing reality in our state. The Revolutionary generation built our country on the principles of limited government and individual freedom. They enshrined our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the very document that declared our independence as a self-governing nation.
Unfortunately, over the last 243 years, these ideals sometimes have been used to provide cover for objectives that limit individual freedom rather than protect it. Take the tax increases passed by partisans in Santa Fe earlier this year.
New Mexico’s booming oil and gas industry produced a $1.2 billion revenue surplus in Fiscal Year 2019, and it’s on track to generate an additional $1.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2020. These surpluses could grow once the final numbers are tallied.
After years of austerity, legislators should have been mindful to address critical issues while controlling the size of government programs as a hedge against future revenue downturns. Instead, they went on a spending spree.
Democrat legislators increased recurring expenses by 12%. For the first time in New Mexico’s history, general fund expenditures will exceed $7 billion.
Democrats were on such a shopper’s high that they quickly blew through the oil and gas windfall. They then elected to pick the pockets of New Mexico’s overtaxed middle-class to the tune of $1 billion over the next four years.
Spending advocates said the increases were necessary to ensure equal outcomes for all New Mexicans. Proponents of the tax hike say that most New Mexicans won’t be affected unless they buy cars, shop online, or do business outside of the state. Well, who do you think does these things? The hard-working women and men who form the backbone of our state’s economy, that’s who.
Marie Antoinette once told starving Parisians to eat cake if they didn’t have bread. Likewise, Democrat legislators seem to think that New Mexico’s middle-class families have unlimited reserves that can be tapped at any time to pay for new government programs. It would be a downer to acknowledge that many families have no extra wiggle room in their household budgets to accommodate these new taxes.
The reality is that many New Mexicans who will be on the receiving end of these tax hikes are looking to move to states that treat them and their tax dollars with more respect. Many families in the tax base income brackets have already left New Mexico to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Worse still, the spending and tax increases enacted by the Legislature set up our state for future failure. The oil and gas industry is one of boom and bust cycles. Revenues are high now, but they will inevitably fall, just like they did a few years back.
What happens then? Who will pay for legislators’ largess once that funding stream dries up?
You will. If legislators show little restraint in passing new taxes in times of surplus, can you imagine the tax hikes that are coming once times get tough? So enjoy this 4th of July. As you celebrate this holiday commemorating our freedom from government overbearance, try to remember that the new taxes tacked onto your next car purchase or Amazon order are going to a good cause—ensuring that feckless politicians don’t have to limit their pursuit of happiness when spending your money.