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New Mexico proposes more tax rebates to offset gas prices

Democratic state House Majority Speaker Brian Golf speaks ahead of a special legislative session aimed at providing financial relief from rising inflation on Monday, April 4, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M. State representatives said they’ll pass legislation to mitigate the increasing costs of fuel, food and housing. (Cedar Attanasio/Associated Press)

SANTA FE – Democratic state legislators announced Monday they will seek two new rounds of rebates totaling $500 per individual or $1,000 per household to offset steep gasoline prices, with no restrictions on how residents spend the money.

Lawmakers in the Democratic House majority announced the proposal on the eve of a special legislative session called by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to address concerns about inflation that is straining household finances. The governor supports the plan as currently outlined.

The proposed individual payments to adults would go out in two installment of $250, one in the spring and another in the fall, legislators said. Couples filing jointly would receive two payments of $500 each.

New Mexico joins more than a dozen states where lawmakers have proposed payouts to the public in response to raging inflation and budget surpluses.

“Our state is in a good position financially, and we should do all we can to ensure that New Mexicans are feeling that success too,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

Eligibility for the payments will extend to some people who don’t file taxes in order to support elderly residents with little or no income, said Democratic state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos.

She said rebate payments would be spread out to minimize the possibility of additional inflation.

Most taxpayers already are due to receive a separate $250 rebate from the state in July, with the exclusion of upper-income individuals who earn $75,000 annually, or households earning $150,000 and up.

That financial relief was approved by legislators in February within a $530 million tax relief package, before the outbreak of war in the Ukraine and the U.S. embargo on Russian oil imports that has spurred higher retail prices for gasoline, diesel and home heating fuels.

New Mexico also is preparing to pay out approved per-child tax refunds or credits of between $25 and $175 based on household income.

The newly proposed rebates would cost the state treasury nearly $700 million.

State Rep. Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup, chairwoman of the lead House budget writing committee, said that New Mexico residents badly need the financial boost and that the state would still be left with more than $2 billion general fund financial reserves.

“I think this is a good idea and feel like we can afford this because we have the money available,” Lundstrom said. “It is much better if it’s out working for folks as opposed to being in a savings account, because then it helps stimulate the rest of the economy.”

Though tough on motorists, surging world oil prices are providing New Mexico's state government with a financial windfall in severance taxes, royalties, fees and lease sales.