Economic relief is on the way for New Mexicans who have been feeling the pinch of higher gas prices and inflation.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a nearly $700 million economic relief measure into law Friday that will provide $500 rebates to single tax filers and $1,000 to joint filers.
“Today I am glad to enact legislation easing the burden of high national prices, putting money in New Mexicans’ pockets and protecting their paychecks,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “I thank the Legislature for acting quickly and answering my call to deliver economic relief to New Mexicans, building on the half a billion dollars in tax relief that we enacted earlier this year to deliver up to $1,500 in household relief to over a million New Mexicans.”
Under House Bill 2, which the Legislature passed during a one-day special session Tuesday, the funds will be distributed in two equal parts in June and August.
Coupled with rebate checks New Mexicans will receive in July as a result of legislation the governor signed into law after the 30-day session that ended in February, more than 1.1 million New Mexicans will receive up to $1,500 in economic relief this year.
“When you look at the accomplishments that have been achieved when it comes to tax relief for New Mexicans, this is the icing on top of the cake,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat.
“It’s nice to be done with the session,” Wirth added. “We’ve been in session, it feels like, for a long time with redistricting and then the 30-day and then working through this, but I think we’ve delivered for New Mexicans.”
The governor on Friday also signed Senate Bill 1, a $50 million supplemental appropriations bill that will fund hundreds of initiatives statewide that lawmakers had a hand in picking. Lujan Grisham had vetoed the so-called junior bill after the 30-day session over fiscal and transparency concerns with the legislation, triggering a feud with lawmakers who threatened to call an extraordinary session to override her veto.
But Democratic leaders, who control both chambers of the Legislature, struck a deal with the governor, who called a special session instead.
Wirth said the bill signed by the governor “is a much better” piece of legislation than what lawmakers passed during the regular 30-day session.
“We tightened things up. We got them targeted to the correct agencies. We added transparency,” he said.
Lujan Grisham proposed a $1 million addition to the junior bill to reduce fares on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter train amid high gas prices. But lawmakers rejected her proposal.
The governor said the state will cut fares nonetheless.
“We are going to reduce the cost of the Rail Runner by 75 percent to riders so that we make it as affordable as possible,” Lujan Grisham said during a virtual news conference to announce the bill signings.
The initiative, which will run from April 18 until at least July 31, comes through a partnership between the Mid-Region Council of Governments, the state Department of Transportation and the Rio Metro Regional Transit District, which operates the train. Under the reduced fares, a one-way ticket from the Santa Fe Depot to downtown Albuquerque would cost $2.50 instead of $10.
“My hope is that we’ll be able to identify additional resources to carry that through the fall,” the governor said.
It wasn’t her intention to hold a virtual news conference to announce the bill signings, she added.
“My mother’s health has taken a turn, unfortunately, for the worse, and she is now in hospice care” at the governor’s residence, said Lujan Grisham, who has been the primary caretaker for her mother, Sonja Lujan, who is in her 80s.
“My brother and I are doing everything to keep my mother comfortable and assure that her final days are among everyone that she loves,” the governor said, fighting back tears.