The Senate Taxation, Business and Transportation Committee on Saturday endorsed a bill that would create new funding for New Mexico’s damaged highways and roads.

Senate Bill 168 would increase the gasoline excise tax from 17 cents to 22 cents per gallon, and the extra contributions would raise over $63 million annually once fully phased in by 2025, mostly for the state road fund, according to a legislative analysis.

The bill passed on a 7-4 vote with support from the committee’s Democrats and objection from four Republicans.

“We don’t have a single legislator that doesn’t say there are needs in their area. We even go to the extreme of school buses that can’t cross bridges because of delays in maintenance,” state Sen. Bobby J. Gonzales, a Ranchos de Taos Democrat who is co-sponsoring the legislation, said during the committee meeting. “Everyone will spend much more on coffee from Starbucks than their contribution here.”

The bill would also increase the special fuel excise tax from 21 cents to 26 cents per gallon.

At 22 cents per gallon, the standard gas tax would still be more than 14 cents below the national average. New Mexico lawmakers have decreased the tax twice since last raising it in 1993.

Only Mississippi, Missouri and Alaska have lower gas taxes. The proposed increase would put New Mexico’s rate above seven states and would match Colorado’s.

“This is really necessary,” said Sen. Bill Tallman, an Albuquerque Democrat who is the bill’s other co-sponsor. “People say low taxes attract business. That’s not true. Businesses look for quality of life. That doesn’t come cheap. Good roads and good schools cost money.”

Before going to the Senate floor for a vote, the legislation must pass through the Finance Committee, although a hearing has not been scheduled.

(33) comments

Patricio R. Downs

I'm one of these that prefers to drive his paid-off old clunkers rather than to spend on a mid-sized vehicle what some people spent on housing 20 years ago. My thought is, you could make it truly egalitarian by taxing the things that all of these vehicles have in common. Why not tax lubricants, such as grease and gear oil? Tax tires? For the EV and hybrid crowd, there could be a duty on automotive-specific parts. I'm no fan of taxes, but the whole reason we have them is because the government provides services, and these have to be paid for somehow. I'd really rather not see something like I saw when driving through Utah once where the state highway department simply put up a permanent sign that read "Road Damage" and called it good.

Peter Wyman

Sen. Bill Tallman, an Albuquerque Democrat who is the bill’s other co-sponsor: “People say low taxes attract business. That’s not true. Businesses look for quality of life."

Ummm....NO! By far, the most important factor in any business seeking to expand, relocate, or open up another location is the existence of a well-educated, capable work force. Tallman attempting to link a rise in the gas tax to attracting new businesses is laughable.

Richard Irell

Decent infrastructure is a big part of the decision making process for anyone thinking about relocating.

Khal Spencer

Gas taxes will become obsolete as more and more EVs and hybrids take to the roads. Sooner or later we need to tax EVs. Meanwhile, the increased fuel economy of private vehicles means fewer gallons sold and taxes collected, but just as much wear and tear on the roads from them. Everyone has to pay their share of the freight.

If we want to get rid of a gas tax, then a transportation tax based on mileage driven and a progressive vehicle weight tax (since the deterioration of roads is a function of weights and axles) could be substituted. I'm waiting for the screams on that to start.

No one likes taxes. No one likes dilapidated roads. You get to choose A or B.

Khal Spencer

Of course there is an elephant in the room, too. How much of our discretionary transportation spending is going to pay for Richardson's Folly, the nearly half a billion dollars in debt on the RailRunner? I think there are good reasons to question how we spend our tax dollars, but that seems to have been left off the discussion.

Compare the sixty million raised to the thirty million in annual debt service to the choo-choo.

Harvey Morgan II

Well said.

Jerry Appel

Amen, brother!

Lee DiFiore

Democrats, they never met a tax or government program they didn't like. Elections have consequences.

Richard Irell

Typical of today’s conservative. Always looking for a free lunch.

If we want decent roads, we have to pay for them.

Jerry Appel

Please, Lee DiFiore, explain your program to privately fund New Mexico's thousands and thousands of miles of roads groaning under the weight of your unnecessarily large pick-up truck or SUV? Please explain your program to increase revenue or a privately funded program that will not only pay for road maintenance, but also road expansions and improvements as New Mexico grows?

Chris Mechels

And, of course the tax increase is regressive, as older vehicles get worse mileage. But, we LOVE regressive taxes, with a favorite being the lottery. Those who play the lottery are less affluent. And the lottery scholarships are NOT needs based, so the middle and upper class benefit. Most states with lottery scholarships ARE needs based. Why not New Mexico??? Because NM IS regressive, across the board, and that explains why the attempts to address our lower end social and school problems flounder. They turn into programs run by well paid bureaucrats. Surprised???

Our current Legislature is dominated by the Democrats, with the leaders being Brian Egolf, an affluent attorney born into Oklahoma Oil Money, and Peter Wirth, a Probate Attorney, from a very affluent family. They take care of themselves, and their cronies, no surprise there.

With our Part Time and Self Serving legislature we should consider banning attorneys from service, as they are predators by history and design. This would eliminate Egolf, Wirth and the Governor. Obviously a great improvement.

Richard Irell

Old vehicles damage the road as newer ones so they need to pay as well. An income tax break for low income New Mexicans could offset the higher gas tax.

One thing though about older vehicles, they are dirty. Some of them pour lots of unburned hydrocarbons into the air. Tune ups are easy and pretty inexpensive if you do them yourself.

Khal Spencer

Gas taxes are basically a user fee. If everyone drove infernal combustion engines, it would be fair. But why should a person driving a Tesla not be taxed while a person driving a Subaru is taxed, or do we see gas taxes as a sin tax? If we really are to go to electric cars, the gas tax is on borrowed time but roads will need to be built and maintained.

As far as the gas tax costs? A farmer who needs a Super Duty could presumably write it off as a business expense while an All Hat No Cattle urban cowboy who drives a Super Duty to look impressive can eat the gas tax. Its a voluntary commitment, not a requirement to buy an F350 or a Yukon XL (like the person in front of me who could barely get his Yukon XL out of the parking lot at Whole Amazon yesterday).

I've never been comfortable with funding higher ed with sin taxes such as the lottery, which is truly regressive, preying on the poor or gullible. To me, it suggests a lack of commitment to higher ed on the part of the state. I earned a Regent's Scholarship back in my misspent youth: the state considered it an investment, not a cost.

As far as today's Democrats I tend to worry as well. The left wing of the D party is increasingly owned by cultural elites, etc. The day when the D party was firmly centered on working class people is seeing the sunset. That is one reason Trump's populism was as successful as it was.

Richard Reinders

Khal the poor gullible don't realize they are being taken advantage of that why the politicians design these tax's to go after them they are easy prey and don't fight back, The rest of us fight like heck to keep tax's fair and equitable. Everyone eventually will pay for the farmers vehicle fuel tax through their food because it will be added to a bale of hay then to the cattleman then the grocery store then the Tesla owner will pay some of those cost. I won't see electric tractor or F350 in the near future.

Khal Spencer

That's right, Richard. The big pickup or tractor down on the farm is part of the business/cost of farming. Of course we should pay for its acquisition and upkeep; those costs rolled into that pound of beef or bag of pinto beans. My first wife's uncle was a dairy farmer in Upstate NY and her brother a rural large-animal DVM, so I am familiar firsthand with farms. Hard working, practical, grounded, salt of the earth people.

But the individual choosing to drive a 12 mpg behemoth around Fanta Se because its cool and he can "roll coal" can go ahead and pick his own pocket. I think that is how capitalism works. I do miss my old 20 mpg turbocharged Porsche, but got sick of feeding it premium at the pump and writing a check every time it broke, which was often. Friend of mine up in LA bought it and every time I leave the house I check to make sure he is not waiting for me with a tire iron...

cheers!

Richard Reinders

[thumbup][thumbup]

Mike Johnson

This is fine, but going forward these legislators need to develop a tax on EVs and hybrids that use the roads as much as any gasoline cars, but get a free ride, and even tax subsidies form us tax payers. These rich, elite people need to be charged and share the burden fairly, not continue getting a free ride on our roads.

Pam Walker

Just the start of many new taxes we will see.

Richard Irell

TANSTAAFL

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Republicans used to believe that. Now they want things like good roads without wanting to pay for them.

Joe Brownrigg

"free ride"? Have you ever priced a hybrid or electric vehicle? (of the same size as yours)

Hybrid and electric owners pay more for their cars than you do! Maybe a tax should be levied on you for the clean air the hybrid/electric owners pay for you? and what about the "free ride" your grandchildren will get from the purchase of non-polluters for your grandchildren's benefit?

Mike Johnson

Just because a Tesla cost 4X what my car does, does NOT help the NM taxpayers pay for roads. That money goes to a greedy EV builder like Musk. Now if you are suggesting that an extra excise tax be put on that purchase, or the taxpayers not have to pay incentives for people to waste money on such extravagant luxury items, then that would be OK. I would prefer an extra amount added to annual registration fees to pay for the roads that would equal what we gasoline buyers spend in taxes every year. That would be fair. BTW, MLG has issued an edict that all new 2022+ model cars sold in NM get 52 MPG on average, so this is not an esoteric issue....."....require new cars beginning in model year 2022 sold in New Mexico to emit fewer greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The clean car standards will increase the average fuel economy to 52 miles per gallon."

https://www.governor.state.nm.us/2019/09/24/gov-lujan-grisham-commits-new-mexico-to-bold-clean-car-standards-at-climate-week-event/

Joe Brownrigg

I doubt that you or anyone else here is talking about a Tesla. This is a miscalculated comparison!

If you want to make some reasonable comparisons, we could have an argument. An argument at this point would be a waste of your time and mine.

Mike Johnson

True, it would be a waste of time since I am a Democratic Capitalist and you are likely a Democratic Socialist. We could never agree on any political issue no matter how long we argue.

Joe Brownrigg

The true value of a good argument is not to win. It is to learn something.

Mike Johnson

I would agree with that, but since neither of us would be listening to the other, learning is also impossible, just like agreement.

Joe Brownrigg

Speak for yourself, Mike. I always listen to actual arguments, but not disjointed claims.

Richard Irell

I have an EV, and yes, we are getting a free ride by driving on the roads and not paying for them via the gas tax.

Mike Johnson

Thank you![thumbup]

Richard Reinders

You deflect from the issue and that is wear and tear on the road, you have free will and if you want to by a very expensive EV that is your choice that shouldn't be visited on everyone else.

Richard Irell

The gas tax has been pretty fair. The more you drive the more you pay. Heavier vehicles use more gas and cause more wear of the roads and pay more tax than lighter vehicles.

The EV problem is that there is no simple way to charge their owners in the same manner. An EV would pay the same whether driven 5,000 or 50,000 miles per year. I guess that they could charge a fee based on GVW.

I bought a Tesla Model Y late last year and have no problem with paying my fair share.

Of course, as NM protects auto dealers from competition and does not allow manufacturers to sell directly to consumers, I had to buy my car in Colorado so NM did not collect GRT on the sale.

Mike Johnson

I wish I could afford a Tesla, but just too expensive. Good you got a break on paying GRT, and the excise tax to register and title it is pretty low. Maybe they could increase that excise tax to cover the lost GRT, and add more every year to registration fees for EVs and hybrids to make them pay the same as gasoline vehicles. Doesn't NM give a tax rebate or subsidy for purchase of the EVs?

Richard Irell

The federal government offer a several thousand dollar rebate on the first few hundred thousand EVs sold, but Tesla has far surpassed that, so no rebate for me. I would think that purchasers of the new e-Mustang would get the rebate.

No NM incentive that I am aware of.

The tax issue is really difficult. EVs should pay their fair share but I sure can't figure out how it could work without a really intrusive program like having your odometer checked every year.

I want good roads and roads need to be paid for.

Russell Scanlon

Wow—“rich and elites” getting a “free ride”. Indoctrinated much?

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