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Gov. Can Still Sign Tax Expenditure Bill For Maximum Transparency and Taxpayer Accountability

By Tracy Dingmann

There’s still time for Gov. Susana Martinez to sign SB47, a transparency bill that ensures taxpayer dollars are working for New Mexicans.

Under SB47, which passed both houses of the New Mexico Legislature unanimously, New Mexico would enact a tax expenditure budget to track and evaluate the merits of all revenue losses from tax deductions, exemptions and credits.

The tax expenditure budget would allow legislators and other policy makers to make informed decisions about which tax breaks are truly benefitting the state through jobs created and other returns, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque. Currently, the state hands out about $1 billion in tax incentives and there is confusion about which ones are really providing economic return to the state, he said.

“Legislators from both sides of the aisle agree that transparency and accountability are essential elements of good public administration,” Keller said Thursday. “This is the reason SB 47 – a bill that would create a tool to track and evaluate the merits of all revenue losses from tax deductions, exemptions and credits – passed unanimously by the House and the Senate.”

The fate of this necessary fiscal tool (the tax expenditure budget) is in the hands of Governor Martinez who must sign SB 47 today if it is to become law.

“I’m surprised this hasn’t been signed yet,” Keller said Thursday. “It was part of her campaign, and her staff indicated they would sign it during the session. This should be one to celebrate for the 4th floor.”

As a candidate for Governor, Martinez did indeed express support for a tax expenditure budget. In a New Mexico Independent article from July 2008, she said this:

‘Absolutely, transparency is very important to the citizens of New Mexico,’ Martinez said in response to a question about supporting a tax expenditure budget. ‘They want to know where their tax dollars are or aren’t going. And they want to make sure they understand where the tax incentives are going. Transparency is important. We have not had that in seven and a half years.’

Earlier this week, Gov. Martinez vetoed SB 44, a bill sponsored by Sen. Keller that would provide the same accountability, but specifically for the state’s film industry.

The vetoed SB 44, which had received wide bipartisan support, would have given state officials the tools to determine whether the state’s film incentives are a net gain or a net loss for New Mexico.

The bill would have tightened requirements allowing movie producers to earn what is currently a 25 percent rebate on expenses for films made in New Mexico and would have finally given lawmakers precise financial figures on the state’s film program.

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