How tax cuts for the powerful are behind the backlogs

by James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for ChildrenAugust 30, 2016

To be safe, healthy, and financially secure is something we all want for ourselves, our children and our families. New Mexico can be a place where communities are safe, people are healthy and thriving, and everyone has the opportunity to build a secure future.

We know what it takes to create strong communities―good schools, roads, libraries, and so forth. Unfortunately, New Mexico has not been making the public investments necessary for this to happen. Instead, we’ve been following the long-discredited trickle-down policy of cutting taxes for the powerful few at the expense of the common good. Worse yet, even as these tax cuts drain the pool of money needed for public investments, some lawmakers are insisting that we need to continue down this counterproductive path.

It seems that every week there is a new story in the newspaper showing the consequences of choosing tax cuts for the powerful over public investment. One of the most egregious, which has a huge impact on public safety, is the backlog of thousands of rape kits with DNA evidence that have not been processed. Each of these kits represents a violent crime, a victim, and a perpetrator. Until we process the DNA evidence the police and district attorneys cannot find, arrest, prosecute, and convict sex offenders. This backlog undoubtedly represents hundreds—if not thousands—of sexual predators who have not only escaped justice, but who have been free to roam our neighborhoods and communities. The Legislature recently set aside some money to address part of this backlog, but lawmakers said there wasn’t enough revenue to do them all.

Another example has serious financial consequences for families trying to make ends meet. The state’s tax department has a backlog of tax refund checks that have not been sent out because the returns have been flagged for more scrutiny. But that scrutiny is slow in coming because, apparently, the department doesn’t have the staff it needs to move these rebates along.

Then there’s the backlog of applications and renewals for the ID cards that patients need in order to purchase medical marijuana. Most patients needing medical marijuana have chronic health problems such as cancer, debilitating pain, or epilepsy. Some are veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. These patients are willing to spend their own money for a medicinal product that offers them relief, but they can only do so if they have an up-to-date ID. Department of Health officials say they have doubled the number of staff who process these cards—from four workers to eight—and even brought on three temporary workers, but this is clearly not enough. They recently extended expired ID cards, but this is just a temporary fix.

The state’s Income Support Division also suffers from a staff shortage, which had made it impossible for the department to process applications for food and health care assistance in a timely manner. We’ve even recently learned that managers have been falsifying applications for emergency food assistance so the department looks like its meeting its deadline. This has delayed food assistance to some of the hungriest and neediest kids and families in New Mexico.

New Mexico communities cannot thrive if our state lacks the revenue it takes to make these investments―and others―in our well-being. The way forward is for lawmakers to repeal the tax cuts and end the practice of letting the most powerful manipulate the tax code to their benefit. It’s time to focus on what helps all New Mexicans.

James Jimenez, MPA, is executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children and has worked with state and city budgets for many years.

Originally published at NM Voices for Children

Hard Times: Colbert to Pick Up Hoe; plus The Great Recession’s Impact on NM

Recently, the United Farm Workers (UFW) launched the “Take Our Jobs” campaign, an effort to highlight the importance of immigrant workers to our food supply — and the difficulties agricultural employers have in maintaining a stable, legal workforce.

Last night, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez was a guest on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Responding to the oft-repeated charge that undocumented immigrants who work in the fields are taking jobs away from American citizens, Rodriquez pointed out that few Americans are willing to take these jobs and their difficult working conditions.  That’s part of the inspiration behind the “Take Our Jobs” challenge.

Unfazed, Steven Colbert accepted the challenge. Sometime soon then, we can expect to see Stephen hoeing and weeding in some field in California or Arizona, camera team in tow.  He asked Rodriguez if there would be air conditioning.  You can watch it here:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Arturo Rodriguez
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

The Great Recession in NM

In other news, a recent report from NM Voices for Children is worth the read.  Entitled “The Great Recession: How New Mexico Workers Are Faring,” it looks at wages and unemployment rates by job sector, compares the impact of the last four recessions on workers, the effect of the Unemployment Compensation program, and the longer-lasting personal consequences of a recession.

Here are some of the key findings of the report:

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Labor Day Logic: “Morally and Economically Indefensible”

Will rising yacht sales will lead to economic recovery.

Will rising yacht sales lead to economic recovery? Reich thinks not.

Democracy for New Mexico has a great post today (as usual) detailing the heavy toll the Great Recession is taking on working families.

NM Voices for Children issued a press release today urging the state’s congressional delegation to act quickly to extend unemployment insurance. An estimated 1,500 New Mexicans are expected to collect their last check by the end of the year.

According to Gerry Bradley of NM Voices for Children:

New Mexico’s working families are counting on Congress to make this cause their top priority so they are not left out in the cold without a paycheck or unemployment check to pay their mortgages and other bills. Without action to expand benefits, New Mexico will hit a severe setback on the road to recovery. These extensions not only help struggling families stay afloat – they are a direct stimulus to the local economy, which will help with job creation.”

For more facts, check out this report from the National Employment Law Project.

And former Labor Secretary Robert Reich minced few words on his blog today:

I keep hearing that the economic meltdown has taken a huge toll on the stock portfolios of the rich. That’s true. But the rich haven’t lost nearly as much of their assets, proportionately, as everyone else. According to a report from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch (“The Myth of the Overleveraged Consumer”), analyzing data from the Federal Reserve, the bottom 90 percent of Americans hold 50 percent of more of their assets in residential real estate, which has taken a far bigger beating than stocks and bonds…

Reich asks, where will the demand come from to revive the economy? He’s appalled by the answer given by Bank of America Merrill Lynch:

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Instead of cutting education, consider these revenues raisers

no school budget cutsYesterday, as I was at the coffee shop waiting for my cup of joe, I noticed a headline on the front page of the ABQ Journal that brought out some frustration.  The headline read, “Schools Told to Brace for Cuts.”

The article started off by talking about how the Governor “was already warning education leaders statewide to prepare for another round of belt tightening.”

This statement immediately brought up a thought in my mind, and I appreciate the article expressing similar thoughts:

“However, with the recent announcement of a 54 percent graduation rate among New Mexico students, the leader of a statewide teachers union said it would be unwise to consider cutting education funding.”

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