The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce recently issued its annual legislative agenda for the 2017 New Mexico legislative session. (See January 24, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, “Chamber Opens Door to State Tax Increases” at https://www.abqjournal.com/934246/chamber-opens-door-to-state-tax-increases.html)
The Chamber in a five page document outlines measures it supports that it claims promotes economic development, education and public safety.
In a highlighted notation, the Chamber boldly states “The Chamber will entertain a discussion regarding tax increases after all other options have been exhausted, including identifying greater efficiency in government, right-sizing government and closing tax loopholes”.
It is very difficult to take the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce seriously when it says it will “entertain a discussion regarding a tax increase” when it admits the state is in dire shape facing a $69 deficit and then adds the snarky caveats like identifying greater efficiency in government and uses language like “right-sizing government”.
The Chamber says for good measure it supports closing tax loopholes, but does not identify any loopholes that should be closed.
The words “right sizing government” is nothing more than “double speak” for “make as many more possible cuts in government services and state personnel as you possibly can before you raise taxes” and only then is the Chamber willing to entertain a “discussion” of increase in taxes, which is a far cry from saying they will support a tax increase.
The Chamber also goes out of its way to say it opposes “targeted or across-the-board” compensation for state employees, meaning it opposes any and all pay raises for teachers, any government agency workers, court workers, criminal justice and law enforcement personnel, who have had to endure little next to nothing in pay increases over the last seven years with agency budgets being slashed to dangerous levels.
Not surprising, the Chamber ignores discussion of repealing the corporate tax rate deductions enacted years ago ostensibly for economic development that never materialized.
The corporate tax cuts enacted years ago have contributed substantially to our current state fiscal crisis.
Surprise, surprise, the Chamber supports maintaining the $50 million fund for local economic development to lure companies to New Mexico and $2 million for a job training program but does not say if these programs should also be on the chopping block table for reduction like all other programs or elimination if the deficit cannot be overcome without a tax increase.
When you read the Chamber of Commerce’s legislative agenda, it’s as if it was written by Governor Suzanna Martinez.
Measures the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce supports and oppose include:
1. Legislative intervention “to address the Albuquerque Public Schools low graduation rates
2. Suspending driver’s licenses for habitually truant high school students
3. Eliminating the lodgers’ tax exemption for those who rent through the likes of Airhbnb
4. Allowing juries to impose the death penalty in some cases, such as for people convicted of murdering children.
5. Opposing the minimum wage via constitutional amendment. (This means no public vote)
6. Opposing marijuana legalization
Given its present legislative session priorities, it is appropriate to remind the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce of its own Mission Statement:
“The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce works every day to make our community a place where businesses can grow and prosper where people want to raise their families and where tourists want to visit. As the voice of business since 1917, we envision New Mexicans living in safe neighborhoods, working in rewarding careers at thriving businesses, while their children attend great schools and enjoy their leisure time in one of the most beautiful regions on Earth.”
The Chamber’s Mission Statement also states its approach includes fixing the problems that hinder economic development for our city, state and region in the three big areas of education, public safety and downtown development.
During the last seven years, I cannot recall a single new major business, organization or corporation that the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in bringing to Albuquerque.
What I can recall is that the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce has been the leading cheerleader organization for the Mayor of Albuquerque and Governor of New Mexico never demanding that they do more to turn things around.
There is little next to nothing in the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 legislative agenda that actually accomplishes much of the mission statement of the Chamber of Commerce and fixing the big problems of education and public safety.
I suspect the only discussion the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce will be “entertaining” when it comes to any tax increase will be with its own members and “just say no” is not much of a discussion.
To quote Mike Myers character Linda Richman in the Saturday Night Live Skit Coffee Talk: “Talks amongst yourselves!”