Rep. Christine Chandler presents an update to Kiwanis on the 2022 legislative session. Courtesy/Kiwanis
By BROOKE DAVIS
During a March 15 lunch meeting at Trinity on the Hill, Dist. 43 Rep. Christine Chandler briefed the Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos on the recent 30-day session of the Legislature. This session was limited (per New Mexico Constitution) to budget and tax bills and bills that receive a Governor’s message.
The final budget totaled $8.4 billion, a 14 percent increase. It provides a 7 percent average increase for all state employees, a $15/hour minimum wage for state employees, an increase in higher education spending by 4.7 percent, provision for holding approximately 30 percent of recurring appropriations as reserves, and a 12.3 percent increase in public education spending (over 2 years).
Chandler is in her first year serving as the chairman of the Tax Committee and was the lead sponsor of the tax package bill (HB163). The bill includes child income tax credit, tax rebates ($250/individual, $500/married), .25 percent GRT decrease over 2 years, a means based social security income tax exemption, military pension tax exemption, solar market tax credit expansion and extension, professional services to manufacturers (anti-pyramiding exemption), one-time $1,000 tax credit for nurses working in hospitals, and feminine hygiene products exemption from GRT.
This tax package amounts to more than $500 million in tax relief for FY23 largely to individual taxpayers.
In education, there was a $10,000 increase at each salary level (in addition to the 7 percent), creation of an opportunity-based scholarship available to all degree-seeking undergraduates who take at least 6 credit hours (bachelors, associates, and certificates), and 5 years of full funding for the lottery scholarship.
Chandler said the legislature also passed crime bills that eliminate the statute of limitations on second degree murder, enhance penalties for felons in possession of a firearm, address the proliferation of chop shops, provide funding for 16 percent raises for state police and a retention bonus, increase investment in behavioral health and substance abuse programs, increase the number of judges, and budget funding for violence intervention, pretrial services monitoring, recidivism reduction programming, and transitional housing.
On another subject, she noted that the Economic Development Department received a 19 percent increase and the Tourism Department received an increase of 16 percent.
“I had expected a calm session,” Chandler commented with a grin. “I was totally wrong. The legislature worked hard, and even held two all-night sessions.”