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Convention of States New Mexico brought forward two pieces of legislation in the 2023 session

During the 2023 New Mexico Legislature, Convention of States New Mexico (COSNM) brought forward two pieces of legislation. Senate Joint Resolution #5 and House Joint Resolution #13 contained identical language calling for a convention of the states as provided for in Article V of the Constitution of the United States. SJR5 was referred to the Senate Rules Committee, where the committee's chairwoman, Katy Duhigg, openly declared her refusal to schedule the resolution for hearing. HJR13 was heard in the House Government, Elections, & Indian Affairs Committee, Chaired by Representative Wonda Johnson, where the resolution was tabled.

We will continue to bring this legislation forward until it is ultimately passed. Our determination is driven by the unsustainable level of federal spending & debt, the relentless growth of an over-reaching federal bureaucracy, and the professionalized "dug-in" character of all branches of federal government. This is corrosive to the well-being of all Americans, yet our self-dealing Congress offers no solutions. The remedial task falls to the states, hence the language written into Article V by the framers specific to the power of the states.

Attached, please find the text of HJR13, along with my February 18th testimony before the House Government, Elections, & Indian Affairs Committee. 

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Legislature's 529 Expansion a positive step for New Mexico

By Paul J. Gessing

The 2023 New Mexico legislative session was generally disappointing for New Mexicans who wish to see much-needed K-12 education reform. However, it was not a total loss. In fact, one bill did pass that could help thousands of New Mexico families pay for educational options that work best for them. Without a single "no" vote during the 2023 session, HB 342 will soon be the "law of the land."

The bipartisan bill was sponsored in the House by Republican Minority Leader Ryan Lane and by Democrat Majority Leader Peter Wirth in the Senate. It was signed into law by Gov. Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat. HB 342 aligns New Mexico law with federal law as updated during the Trump Administration and recent legislation under the Secure 2.0 Act.

Over the years Congress has expanded the use of 529 plans to pay for kindergarten through 12th grade tuition and included student loan repayment and apprenticeship program expenses. And in 2023, Congress added a provision to allow rollovers of unused 529 plan funds into a Roth IRA for the beneficiary.

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Editorial Response: Universal School Meals: Reflecting on Our Society

The Grant County Beat published the article, Heinrich, Sanders, Omar, and Gillibrand Seek to Expand and Make Permanent Universal School Meals (https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/non-local-news-releases/78237-heinrich-sanders-omar-and-gillibrand-seek-to-expand-and-make-permanent-universal-school-meals) on Sunday, May 14, 2023. It was subtitled, "Legislation would save New Mexico nearly $40 million annually." Despite not having much time or energy, I felt compelled to respond.

Who would argue with the statement, "Every child deserves to eat?" That statement closes the first paragraph of the "Bill Summary" of the "Universal School Meals Program Act" (https://www.sanders.senate.gov/wp-content/uploads/school-meals-summary-pdf.pdf). If you haven't heard of this legislation sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ilhan Omar, the legislation proposes to provide "free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack to all school children."

According to a March 28, 2023 press release from the governor's office, New Mexico is one of five states that offers a form of universal school meals. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 4- Healthy Universal School Meals, which states, among other things, that "Public school districts and charter schools operating the national school lunch program and the school breakfast program shall establish a program to offer high-quality meals at no charge to all students" (https://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/23%20Regular/final/SB0004.pdf).

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New Mexico Will See Big Progress for Afterschool and Summer Learning

By Lt. Governor Howie Morales and May Sagbakken, executive director of New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network
April 28, 2023

The New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered major victories for children and families during its 2023 meeting. We are reversing trends that pushed New Mexico towards the bottom of key national rankings for decades, and we have more work to do.

New tax measures add more than 200,000 modest- and low-income families who now will be able to claim a larger credit of up to $600 per child, benefiting 350,000 children. The Governor’s priority of ensuring all students in our public schools be offered a healthy breakfast and lunch free of charge will lessen child food insecurity. Rebates to taxpayers of $500 for single and $1,000 for married individuals will be a boost for children in the lowest earning families. Substantial funding increases for childcare assistance, free pre-K education for 3- and 4-year-olds, and home visiting for families who are pregnant or have kids under age five all will improve overall child well-being across our state.

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New Mexico’s misguided approach to economic development

By Paul J. Gessing

In her message in which she explained her veto of large portions of the Legislature-passed tax bill, Gov. Lujan Grisham wrote, “Although HB 547 has many laudable tax reform measures, I have grave concerns about the sustainability of this tax package as a whole.”

She wrote this while the State of New Mexico sits on a $3.6 billion budget surplus thanks to oil and gas revenues (a boom that shows no signs of slowing down). She also signed a 14 percent budget increase which grew the size of government by $1.2 billion and included everything from increased film subsidies to $10 million for an abortion clinic primarily to serve Texans. Last year’s budget increase was over 13 percent as well.  

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Ag Census response needed from New Mexico ag industry

Every five years, members of the agriculture community are called upon to document their operation as part of the nation's agriculture census. The information provided by each of us is used to tell an accurate story about the impacts of agriculture in our local communities, state and nation. Without accurate data, we simply cannot tell our story, and policymakers will make decisions with only partial information.

As of April 21, the New Mexico response rate to the 2022 Census of Agriculture was just 38.6%. We encourage each producer, large and small, to complete this critical survey as part of the agriculture census. All individual information is protected from disclosure. If you have received your census questionnaire, please complete and return it as directed by the USDA. If you received a postcard with a control number, use that to submit the information online at the website on the card. If you did not receive either, or are new to agriculture, please call the USDA Customer Service Center at 1-888-424-7878 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. MDT. New agriculture operations also have the option of signing up at https://www.agcounts.usda.gov/static/get-counted.html.

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Bringing the Land of Enchantment Online, Affordably

By Paul J. Gessing

The state of New Mexico is unique in both its demographics and geographical features.  Our vast land area, diverse topography, and sparse population have proven to be a significant barrier when it comes to broadband deployment and internet connectivity. This affects New Mexicans from the eastern prairie to the Rio Grande Valley. This challenge is particularly evident across low-income communities and on tribal lands.

Billions of federal and state tax dollars have been spent on broadband in recent years, but the problems persist because too often these funds were wasted or spent in duplicative ways. For example, according to recent media reports New Mexico just received a $40 million grant to connect only 800 or so homes. 

As proponents of limited government and the power of free market economics, the Rio Grande Foundation is concerned about efficient use of our tax dollars. Too often, progressive policies that fail to account for market forces exhibit the “high cost of good intentions” – programs designed to help the poorest residents of our state end up hurting low-income and minority Americans.

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Social Security Tax Exemption Will Now Keep Up with Inflation

By Fred Nathan, Executive Director, Think New Mexico

As New Mexico seniors file their annual income tax returns, many may be pleasantly surprised to discover that they are no longer paying state taxes on their Social Security income.

The 2022 tax year marks the first time Social Security income is exempt from New Mexico income tax since 1990, when the legislature first began taxing it. That tax was enacted as a single line on the second to last page of a long and complex piece of legislation. It received no public scrutiny until seniors began filing their taxes the following year.

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