Think New Mexico’s Retirement Security Reforms Introduced!

The 2020 legislative session begins on January 21, and bills have already been introduced on all three of Think New Mexico’s recommendations to improve retirement security for New Mexicans!

Repealing or reducing the state’s income tax on Social Security benefits. New Mexico is one of only 13 states that tax Social Security income, and it is a form of double taxation since New Mexicans pay income taxes on the money they put into Social Security and then they are taxed again on the benefits they receive. No other government benefits (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, food stamps) are taxed.

House Bill 29 (Rep. Cathrynn Brown) and Senate Bill 81 (Sen. Jim White) would repeal the state’s tax on Social Security entirely, while House Bill 77 (Rep. Daymon Ely, Rep. Gail Armstrong, & Sen. Bill Tallman) would exempt the first $24,000 in Social Security income from tax, and Senate Bill 68 (Sen. Michael Padilla) would exempt the first $25,000.

Email your legislators and Governor Lujan Grisham and ask them to repeal or reduce the double tax on Social Security benefits!

The New Mexico Work and Save Act (House Bill 44, Rep. Tomas Salazar, Rep. Gail Armstrong, Rep. Christine Chandler, Sen. Bill Tallman) would create a system of Individual Retirement Accounts, similar to the state’s 529 college savings accounts, that would be available to workers who do not have access to retirement savings plans through their jobs. The research shows that people are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they can do so using automatic deductions from their paychecks. Unfortunately, New Mexico currently leads the nation in the percentage of workers who lack access to work-based retirement savings plans that they can contribute to using automatic payroll deductions.

Email your legislators and Governor Lujan Grisham and ask them to expand access to retirement savings for New Mexico’s private sector workers by passing the New Mexico Work & Save Act!

Increasing qualifications to for PERA pension board members (Senate Bill 60, Sen. George Munoz). Currently, no member of the PERA board, which oversees $15.8 billion for 90,000 public workers and retirees, is required to have any background in finance or investment management. The PERA board is completely dysfunctional, as was recently reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican, and research shows that poor governance can cost pensions 1-2% annually. Just a 1% reduction means the dysfunction on the current PERA board could cost the fund nearly $160 million dollars a year. SB 60 would restructure the PERA board in several ways, including adding qualifications for board members.

Email your legislators and Governor Lujan Grisham and ask them to upgrade the qualifications for those who serve on the PERA pension oversight board!

Think New Mexico Field Director Othiamba Umi appointed to New Mexico Lottery Board!

Exciting news: Think New Mexico’s Field Director Othiamba Umi has been appointed to the board that oversees the New Mexico Lottery!

Think New Mexico has spent the past five years fighting to get the Lottery to focus on its mission of maximizing dollars for scholarships. Our biggest obstacle has been the Lottery’s leadership, which has repeatedly attempted to decrease the percentage of lottery revenues going to scholarships and has failed to put the interests of students first.

We saw yet another example of this behavior this past summer, when the Lottery board voted to raise the Lottery CEO’s salary by 26%, from $174,142 to $220,000, along with a car allowance and a golden parachute. (Othiamba learned of this development because for the past five years he has attended nearly all of the lottery’s public meetings to act as a watchdog for the public interest.) Every dollar spent on excessive administrative costs – like this extremely high salary – is a dollar less for student scholarships, as we explained to KRQE News.

Fortunately, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham shared our frustration with the Lottery board, and she just made a major upgrade, appointing five new members, including Othiamba!

Other new members include two Think New Mexico supporters: Leo Romero, former Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law, and Nina Thayer, who retired from the Biosciences Division of Los Alamos National Lab and is active with the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

Think New Mexico applauds the governor for taking this essential step to improve the accountability of the lottery. The governor’s new appointees form a majority of the seven-member oversight board, and we are excited about the difference they can make in re-focusing the lottery on its mission of serving New Mexico’s college students.

Think New Mexico Launches New Initiative to Achieve Retirement Security for All New Mexicans!

Think New Mexico has launched a new initiative to achieve retirement security for all New Mexicans by repealing the state’s income tax on Social Security benefits; ensuring that every private sector worker in the state has access to a retirement savings account that they can contribute to through automatic payroll deductions; and stabilizing New Mexico’s public pensions by consolidating their investment management, increasing the qualifications of pension board members, and using some of the current budget surplus to make a one-time, $700 million cash infusion or loan to the Public Employees Retirement Association pension fund. Learn more about our recommended reforms and contact your legislators and the governor!

Think New Mexico Welcomes Our 2019 Leadership Interns!

We are delighted to be joined this summer by Josue Gandarilla, a first-generation
college student from Sunland Park who just graduated from New Mexico State University; Rouzi Guo, who grew up in Albuquerque and is now a junior at Georgetown majoring in Political Economy; Natalie Longmire-Kulis, grew up in Santa Fe and is a sophomore at Stanford University; and Connor Schultz, who was raised in Los Alamos and just graduated from New Mexico State University! Rouzi and Connor are working with us June-July, and Josue and Natalie will be here July-August. Read more about this year’s Leadership Interns.

Josue Gandarilla Rouzi Guo Natalie Longmire-Kulis Connor Schultz

Check Out Think New Mexico’s 2019 Legislative Agenda!

This year, Think New Mexico has an even more ambitious legislative agenda than usual. Here are brief summaries of the bills we are working on, with links to our Action Center so you can contact your legislators and the governor about any of these issues:

  • Maximizing dollars to the classroom: we drafted and are advocating for House Bill 77. This bill would limit the growth of school district central administrative spending to no faster than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the overall growth in the state education budget, whichever is lower, allowing more money to reach the classroom. Read more about it , and contact the governor!
  • Making the infrastructure funding process transparent: we are supporting House Bill 262 and Senate Bill 144, both of which would require disclosure of the sponsors of appropriations for public works projects. This is one of the last pieces of the legislative process that is still conducted behind closed doors. Learn more about this issue.
  • Restoring funding to the Strategic Water Reserve: House Bill 281 and Senate Bill 277 would restore $5 million in funding to the Strategic Water Reserve, an innovative water management tool that Think New Mexico led the effort to create in 2005. Read more about it and contact your the governor!
  • Funding the creation of an All-Payer Claims Database: five years ago, we led a successful effort to create a health care transparency website. The website launched last year, but in order for it to include information about the average prices paid by people who are covered by individual or employer-based insurance policies, New Mexico needs to create an All-Payer Claims Database (APCD), similar to those in place in fifteen other states. Learn more and email the governor to sign the funding that was included in the budget!
  • Maximizing dollars for lottery scholarships: we are supporting Senate Bill 80, and House Bill 441, both of which would transfer unclaimed prize money ($2-3 million a year) to the scholarship fund. We initially opposed Senate Bill 283, which would repeal the law guaranteeing 30% of lottery revenues to students, but we have worked with the sponsor to add amendments that protect the interests of students. We are opposing Senate Bill 598, which would repeal the 30% guarantee without including any protections for students. Learn more about these bills.
  • Fighting the food tax: finally, we are opposing any legislation that reimposes the food tax, including Senate Bills 421, 584, and 585. Learn more about this issue here.

Momentum Gathering to Make Infrastructure Funding Transparent!

KRQE News 13 investigative reporter Larry Barker has released a riveting new report on the secret process by which legislators appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars to infrastructure projects every year.

As the report highlights, this is one of the last pieces of the legislative process that is conducted behind closed doors.

We are supporting Senate Bill 144 and House Bill 262 to bring transparency to New Mexico’s process for funding public works projects. Learn more about these bills and ask your legislators and the governor to support them!

Administrative Spending Grew Faster Than Classroom Spending in Most of NM’s School Districts

A new analysis by Think New Mexico found that in 61 of New Mexico’s 89 school districts, administrative spending grew faster than classroom spending over the past decade. Similarly, administrative spending grew faster than classroom spending in 50 out of 89 charter schools for which data was available.

Statewide, New Mexico’s classroom spending grew by an average of 1.5% a year between 2006 and 2017. By contrast, administrative spending grew by an average of 2.1% a year over the same time period.

During the 2019 legislative session, Think New Mexico is advocating for House Bill 77, which would limit the annual growth of school district central administrative spending to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the overall growth in the state education budget, whichever is lower. Classroom spending would not be limited. So, for example, if the governor and legislature were to pass a budget that increased overall education spending by 12%, and the CPI were 2%, school district and charter school administrative spending would be capped at 2% and all the rest of the new money would go to the classroom.

Read Think New Mexico’s full news release, and download the explanatory memo, classroom and administrative spending growth rates for school districts, for charter schools, and statewide (please email us if you would like the full Excel sheet of all data). You can also contact your legislators and the governor and encourage them to support House Bill 77.

Check out our NEW online store for your holiday shopping!

Looking for the perfect holiday gift? Check out Think New Mexico’s new online store at Threadless, where you can find shirts, mugs, cell phone cases, water bottles, stickers, bags and more! Wear your support for nonpartisan public policy reform on your sleeve, and share it with your friends.

You can also make a donation to Think New Mexico in honor of a loved one. We will send them an acknowledgement letter and list them in our annual report, and we have a gift card you can print out for them as well.

Reduce Health Care Costs with an All-Payer Claims Database

In 2018, New Mexico took a first step toward making health care prices more transparent with the launch of a website, nmhealthcarecompare.com, where anyone can find the average prices paid by Medicaid for nine common, non-emergency procedures at each of the state’s 44 hospitals. The website, which was created as a result of legislation that Think New Mexico drafted and advocated for, also includes quality metrics for the hospitals, such as 30-day readmission rates and patient ratings.

Now it is time to take the next step: adding the average prices paid by New Mexicans who are covered by individual or employer-provided insurance policies. A growing number of other states, including our neighbors in Colorado and Utah, are pulling back the veil on health care prices by creating All-Payer Claims Databases (APCDs), which collect information on the prices paid for health care by all payers and allow those states to provide information about the average costs of care for people with different types of insurance.

During the 2019 legislative session, Think New Mexico will be advocating for New Mexico to create an APCD to make health care prices more transparent and empower New Mexicans to find the most affordable, highest quality health care. Read our guest editorial and learn more about this initiative!

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