As the 2010 New Mexico Legislative Session convenes Jan. 19th, AARP New Mexico has three primary priorities it hopes to achieve during the 30-day session.
Lawmakers are expected to spend most of the session working on the state’s budget shortfall of at least $500 million, studying proposals to cut costs and increase revenues. Among the proposals are tax increases and program cuts including services that assist some of the most disadvantaged people in the state.
“There’s no doubt that difficult choices are going to have to be made,” said Michael Donnelly, AARP NM State Associate Director of Advocacy. “AARP wants to ensure that budget or program cuts don’t come strictly at the expense of those that can least afford it.”
“AARP understands that there won’t be much room to expand services but hopes that services for the disabled and elderly won’t regress to lower levels. These are areas that in actuality need to be expanded as hundreds of people -- and in some cases thousands -- are waiting for services. The least the state can do in this environment is not to backslide on the progress we’ve gained,” Donnelly said.
In the area of Medicaid, AARP volunteers will be advocating to ensure that sufficient funding remains to provide current service levels and to prevent the erosion of eligibility levels as well as maintain current community long-term care services.
AARP will also be urging lawmakers to maintain current service levels provided by the Aging Network, which provides senior services in local communities around the state.
Another area that has already generated a lot of controversy is possible tax increases. Lawmakers are expected to review proposals such as increasing the gross receipts tax, personal income tax for those making over a certain income, re-implementing the gross receipts tax on food and so called “sin taxes” on items such as alcohol and tobacco and potato chips and soda.
AARP will be reviewing individual tax proposals as they are being considered paying special attention on any plan’s impact to vulnerable populations for necessity items, the regressivity of the proposed tax and the impact on the state’s revenues.
Among some of the proposals already discussed, AARP will oppose re-implementing the gross receipts tax on food as it unfairly targets low-income populations.
AARP New Mexico also supports more equitable taxation on entities doing business in the New Mexico. Currently big box or chain stores, called multi-state businesses don’t have to pay taxes on the profits that are made here. Combined reporting would mean that corporations would have to pay income taxes to the state of New Mexico on the profits it makes in the state.
While the progress on these measures will not be available by press time, members can go to www.aarp.org/states/nm for updates on the 2010 state Legislative Session.