Cigarette Tax Prevents Looming Cuts of 5-7 Percent to Public Schools
SANTA FE – The New Mexico Senate today passed legislation by a vote of 24 to 16 to provide public schools a needed funding increase of $89 million per year by increasing the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50.
SB 231, sponsored by Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City, would direct the new revenues to strengthen New Mexico’s K-12 classrooms, which have been hit with cuts worth tens of millions of dollars. The new revenues are needed to prevent looming cuts of 5 percent to 7 percent across the board to K-12 classrooms and higher education institutions without any new revenues.
“Our classrooms urgently need the money now that a cigarette tax boost would bring. Public schools will be facing another dire funding crisis later this year, if Gov. Susana Martinez sticks to her campaign promise to veto any new revenue bills. More deep cuts will seriously undermine our classrooms. If we care about children as much as we all say we do, we must take action to help schools’ bottom line now. SB 231 will do that,” Sen. Morales said.
SB 231 would increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack, with an equivalent increase in other tobacco products including e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The tax on a pack of cigarettes would increase from $1.66 to $3.16, generating $89 million annually. The bill’s proceeds will be shared equally with the state’s Kindergarten -12 public schools.
Supporters said the funds are necessary to backfill deep funding cuts to New Mexico’s public schools during recent years, to strengthen classroom’s budgets and improve outcomes for students. Without an infusion of new revenues, schools may see cuts of 5 percent to 7 percent across the board. The result would be larger class sizes; fewer teachers; fewer counselors; reduced classes in physical education, music, dance and art; cuts to all-day kindergarten and summer classes, and even school weeks being reduced to four days.
“This legislation would result in a quadruple win for our state by raising millions more in needed revenue for our public schools, saving the state millions spent on health care, keeping thousands of New Mexico kids from smoking, and helping thousands of adults quit,” Sen. Morales said.
SB 231 is endorsed by the state’s education advocates, and all the leading health organizations, including the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the American Cancer Society Action Network.