By RICHARD NEBEL
Apparently the governor has decided to shut down “non-essential” businesses again. As I explained in an earlier letter, it is highly unlikely that shutting down “non-essential” businesses prevented a single case of coronavirus in Los Alamos the last time the governor shut us down.
At least this time the governor claims that she will look at reopening on a county-by-county basis. I hope that her policies show some success.
The thing that is irritating about this is that it is so unfair to small businesses. Big box stores get to remain open, but small retail stores have to close. The pain is not shared, and a large number of small businesses have and will be destroyed.
The Federal government understands this and they responded with the CARES act which was very helpful. Similarly, the Los Alamos County has done what they can do. The major disappointment has been the State of New Mexico.
At the last special session of the legislature, everything that was done about the pandemic was revenue neutral. There were loans, but no grants. Tax payments were delayed, but not forgiven. There weren’t any spending cuts, even with drastic reductions in revenue. The excuse that is always given is the anti-donation clause in the New Mexico constitution prohibits the state from doing anything.
However, there are things that the legislature could do but they have chosen not to.
If the State of New Mexico desires to divide businesses into “essential” and “non-essential” categories, then fairness dictates that those “non-essential” businesses be given some sort of compensation. Let me suggest that the legislature needs to give “non-essential” businesses a GRT tax exemption. This approach has been done many times before. That won’t violate the anti-donation clause, and it will make small businesses more competitive with big box stores and internet sales.
Another thing that the state could do is to pump some money into the unemployment compensation fund. Right now, small businesses that have had to lay off people as a result of the Governor’s actions are going to have large increases in their unemployment insurance. Just when these businesses are trying to recover, they are going to be hit with these increased costs.
I fully realize the seriousness of the present situation with the pandemic. However, I don’t think that placing the burden exclusively on the backs of small businesses is fair. We can do better than that.