Posts Tagged ‘Taxes’

What’s That You Feel in Your Pocket

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Near as I can tell that hand you feel in your back pocket belongs to the NM Senate:

The Senate-passed tax increase package would raise the statewide gross receipts tax rate — now 5 percent — by one-eighth percentage point, yielding almost $60 million a year.
        

The bill also would reimpose part of the gross receipts tax, or sales tax, on food. The rate would vary, depending on the local gross receipts tax rate of the city or county in which the food was bought, but average about 2 percent. The change would bring in an estimated $68 million.
        

Another $66 million would be gained from eliminating the deductions that some New Mexicans can now take on their state tax returns for the state and local taxes they’ve paid. That would increase their taxable income.
        

And the state would get $11.6 million from a newly imposed compensating tax on out-of-state companies that sell products to New Mexico businesses but have no physical presence in the state.

Oh, I know that some you will say that the legislature has no choice.  They have to raise taxes to get us out of this pickle. But, that’s not true.  There are other options:

The numbers are big and the money bigger, but the bottom line is New Mexico could find $280 million to help fix its budget.  Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Tucumcari will try to bring an amendment to the state budget bill that will simply cut those state positions which are currently vacant.

Roch points to a report he requested from the Legislative Council Service (LCS) outlining the job vacancies in state government. The report says as of January 4th, there were 4369 vacancies in state government. The problem according to Roch is that the proposed budget lawmakers are trying to tackle would fund 3396 of those positions. Roch argues if the state can function now without those positions filled, then it can function by eliminating them altogether.

But hey, that makes too much sense, right? Cut non-existent jobs over increasing taxes on struggling families.

I’ve got to run, but you can catch me today at 3:00 pm on Jim Villannucci’s show on 700 KKOB discussing this and other issues with Carter Bundy.

New Mexico Democrats Have a Problem

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Last week, I attended an event that had, among others, Lt. Governor Diane Denish as a speaker. To the delight of myself and the small business audience in attendance, the Lt Governor said, and I paraphrase, “Now is not the time to raise taxes. It is time for the government to do what the private sector has been forced to do and control spending.”

Now considering that Lt. Governor Denish is usually considerably to the left of me, and that her campaign for Governor is well-funded, it can only be concluded that her internal polling is telling her that supporting tax increase, any tax increases, right now would be the equivalent to political suicide.

And, herein lies the problem

More details on tax hikes and spending cuts in a new state budget plan emerged Sunday as New Mexico lawmakers prepared to return to the Capitol today for a special session on the budget.
        

The plan, hammered out behind closed doors by top-ranking House and Senate Democrats, would increase the state’s gross receipts tax, raise the tax on cigarettes and have New Mexico cities reinstate a portion of the gross receipts tax on food items that was repealed six years ago. 

Yup, leave it to the Democrats to propose a slew of new taxes as families are struggling to survive. If these tax increases are passed, they are going to hurt campaign efforts of every Democrat running for office during this election cycle. Mind you, that’s not something that’s particularly upsetting to me, but for a strategic standpoint its interesting to watch how this is playing out. 

As a limited government guy, I wouldn’t mind seeing some taxes cut for a variety of reasons I’ve outlined over the years.  But, in the current economy, I would be willing to settle for no new taxes. The Democrats seem to be operating as though it is business as usual (i.e. let’s find another incremental tax to pass).  But, there is nothing usual about the situation in which we all find ourselves.


Right now, Lt. Governor Denish is trying to emerge from Governor Richardson’s shadow and define herself as a leader in her own right. Of course, taking a stand against new taxes when her Democratic colleagues are pushing for them is setting her up to appear either:


a) Lacking in leadership and the ability to influence policy.


OR


b) Saying what the people want to hear in public and privately supporting the taxation of the masses.

Either way, New Mexico Democrats, from the Lt. Governor on down, have a big problem.

Explaining it Another Way

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Some of you, actually just one person, likes to take me to task time and time again for standing up for small business and insisting that the proposed gross receipts tax and income tax increase negatively impact those most likely to actually help the economy rebound by creating new jobs. This individual argues that a couple of hundred dollars more in taxes really shouldn’t be a big deal to a business making $200,000 in profit. But, nothing could be further from the truth.

First, let’s consider the environment in which these tax increases are being pushed:

Please note that no efficiencies to government bills have been adopted and no true cuts to the budget have yet to be made, however tax increases on the private sector are being considered.  Unemployment in our state is at a 22 year high, and our focus must be on job retention and creation. 

That’s the current reality spelled out in a recent communication from the Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI).  Mind you, no efficiencies or true cuts are being made even though we know at a bare minimum there are $129 million in cuts that could be easily made. We also know that the despite all of the hype, government stimulus money did not create new jobs.  At best, it may have saved some public sector jobs.

We also know that big business isn’t adding to their employee roles. So, that leaves small business to come to the rescue. Only someone who has never run a business could argue, “What’s $500 in additional taxes?” They’ll smugly try to make the case that $500 is not enough to put someone on the payroll. But, that’s because they think jobs are added in the private sector in the same manner as they are in the public sector.  They are not.

In the government arena, if you want to add a $40K a year employee, you have to raise $40,000 a year in addition taxes. In the small business sector, a $500 investment could very easily result in a $120,000 to $240,000 in new salaries.

Let’s explore this a little further with a real life example.  Last week, I spent $500 in travel expenses to meet potential customers for a new and innovative technology.  The meeting went very well. If the deal is closed it will result in a contract that could easily be worth $1M or more.

New people will be added to the payroll to fulfill the contract. They will have paid benefits and won’t need to be supported by the state. The $500 that was not collected in taxes will likely save the state (i.e. taxpayers), tens of thousands of dollars in the form of unemployment benefits that will not have to be paid.  In fact, these wage earners will pay state income and gross receipts tax far in excess of the $500 in additional taxes on my business. If they get to keep their house because they are once again gainfully employed, they will also pay property taxes.

Now, let’s go back to the scenario being pushed in the legislature. They want to take another $500 (or more) away from small businesses. This is a zero sum game. My business has a budget. If you pull $500 from it in the form of additional taxes that money has to come from somewhere. Due to the tight credit market, it can’t come from my retained earnings.  Nor, can it come from any line item that will keep me from fulfilling my current obligations.

So, that means it will come from marketing dollars. It might be one less trip I can take to market my business. Or, maybe ten or more marketing lunches that can never be scheduled. Or, a critical conference that has to be passed up.

Those are all possibilities. The one undeniable fact is that it it will be four, five or a dozen jobs that will never happen because elected officials refused to do the right thing and cut unnecessary spending.

Complement Higher Taxes with Increased Energy Costs

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Are you feeling the economic pinch? Well, when the dust settles from the current legislative session, that pinch is likely to feel more like a bone-shattering squeeze. We’ve got tax after tax after tax being proposed and pushed through, and that’s only the beginning. 

There are other initiatives out there which will be equally successful at separating you from your hard earned dollars:

The greenhouse gas reduction sought by the advocacy group New Energy Economy would apply to oil and gas producers, refineries, manufacturers, coal-fired power plants and others in New Mexico that emit 10,000 tons or more a year of carbon dioxide.

Public Service Company of New Mexico estimates it would have to reduce current carbon emissions from its fleet of power plants by 36 percent to meet the proposed cap.

And the company says that would mean a big jump in electric bills.

In fact, if you follow the money trail, you’ll see that big government lobbyists are behind all of the major wine and dining going on right now in Santa Fe:

However, the latest batch of lobbyist reports that trickled into the Secretary of State’s Office last week showed that the lobbyists who were throwing the biggest parties for the senators and representatives were not from commercial interests. Instead, they represented state employees, community colleges and an environmentalist group. 

As legislators continue to take on the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham, they would be wise to take note of recent elections around the country. Continuously trying to take more from those making less inevitably has consequences.

Wall Street Versus Main Street Continues

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I’ve wondered aloud on more than one occasion why the vast majority of stimulus efforts on the federal level were given to Wall Street versus Main Street. Of course, we all know the reason.  Democrats are providing special favors to their favorite campaign donors and making sure that big inefficient businesses with powerful unions can keep their doors open regardless of the lack of demand for their product.

Well, as near as I can tell, the same thing is happening in the New Mexico legislature – the interests of large business at the expense of small business. Only instead of giveaways of taxpayer money, we’re talking about who the Democrats in the legislature are opting to tax.  Mind you, I say Democrats because the Republicans have made it clear that reining in the size of government should happen before increasing taxes:

Republicans in both the House and Senate are expected to take a hard-line approach against tax hikes, although they bristle at suggestions they’re merely trying to block the Democratic agenda.
    

“They’ve never asked us to be part of the solution,” said Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque.
    

Hall said he thinks there are still ways to trim the budget — by targeting administrative and vacant positions — without hurting core services.
    

“I can’t support any tax increases until we shrink state government down to a level that a populist can support,” he said. 

So, back to the tax, tax, tax enamored House Democrats. Let’s take a look at their proposed solution:

Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday he supports the House’s budget approach, which includes temporarily raising the gross receipts tax rate and imposing a personal income surtax on high-earning New Mexicans. 

I’ve explained in a previous post that what is really being proposed is a tax increase on the profitable retained earnings of remaining small businesses.  In other words, the money they need to weather the storm and keep key employees at work is the target of the tax increase. Now, yes, I’m of the mind that significant spending cuts should be made before even considering any tax increase, but I can’t help but wonder if the Democrats are so bent on raising taxes, why they are targeting small New Mexico businesses instead of large Wall Street firms.


Think about it.  The general consensus is that small, not large businesses are the key to a true economic recovery. The irresponsible stimulus spending may have helped keep the doors open of those who are “too big to fail,” but it did nothing to keep your neighbors, family and friends employed:

Unemployment rates were higher in December than a year earlier in 371 of the 372 metropolitan areas and lower in 1 area, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. 

President Obama is finally awakening to the fact that America (and his popularity) is hurting because he has put the interests of Wall Street and unions before that of Main Street families:

Faced with a national 10 percent unemployment rate and a corresponding erosion in his popularity, President Obama delivered his first State of the Union address tonight and offered up a laundry list of proposals aimed directly at the small businesses who do 60 percent of the hiring in America.

So, you’ve got to wonder why House Democrats in the legislature have targeted small businesses and left big businesses alone. Sure some big business tax bills were introduced, but bills like HB 62, which would could raise taxes on large out of state corporations, got a pass in favor of taking more money away from job creating small New Mexico businesses.

Come Election Day 2010 the House Democrats, all of whom are up for re-election, are going to find that it is the Main Street business owners, employees and their families that are going to vote.  You know, the ones that actually live in the state.

Before You Raise Our Taxes

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Legislators who are interested in continuing to serve past November 2010 would be wise to consider cleaning up the mess that is state government before further increasing our taxes. A good place to start might be with the people put on the government payroll that do little more than collect a check:

One of them is Charles Lipski Sr., who was hired at the Department of Transportation two months before the freeze, at $65K a year, with a resume that had his last job ending in 1994. He was given a state job that had no title and no description. Lucky for Lipski and others like him that these temp jobs don’t have to be advertised to the public.
        

Getting that information wasn’t easy — NMDOT tried to make a reporter go to Santa Fe to “sign in” to see Lipski in Bernalillo. Asked about what he did, Lipski would only say he was very “excited” about doing a job on the public payroll that he couldn’t talk about publicly. 

You see, when the House Revenue and Taxation Committee votes today on passing a 1% tax increase on Main Street small business owners throughout the state (see this post), they will be removing $44 million from the economy that could be used to save or create real jobs in order to continue do nothing patronage jobs as noted above:

Consideration of a bill that would impose a 1 percent surtax on the taxable income of high-earning New Mexicans was delayed Friday by a House committee.
        

However, Rep. Edward Sandoval, D-Albuquerque, the chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, said House Bill 9 will be debated by the committee on Monday.
        

If enacted, the measure would generate an estimated $44 million in the coming year.  

When you consider that we’re still losing jobs, now is not the time to force higher taxes on small businesses throughout the state that are trying their hardest to help rebuild the economy:


New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in December 2009, a sharp increase from 7.8 percent in November and 4.7 percent a year ago. The national unemployment rate stayed at 10.0 percent.

The rate of over-the-year job growth, comparing December 2009 with December 2008, was negative 3.1 percent, representing a loss of 25,900 jobs. New Mexico’s ranking among the states was twenty-eighth highest at a time when all 50 states reported declining year-over-year employment.

December was not a good month for employment in New Mexico, with the seasonally adjusted series showing a decline of 4,800 jobs. This may be an indication of reduced seasonal hiring, compared to what is normal. However, we still believe that we are several months into a slow recovery. There are typically a number of setbacks in any recovery, as we take two steps forward and one step back. December appears to one of those steps back.

A tax increase on top of all of the other economic pressures would be yet another step back. There are an awful lot of qualified New Mexicans who are out of work because of the downturn in the economy, and they’re not going to take kindly to being kept out of work because our elected officials refuse to supress job creation so that they can keep dole out political favors at taxpayer expense.

Only One Committee Referral

Monday, January 25th, 2010

You can tell a lot about the future of a bill introduced in a legislative session by the number of committees it is referred to before it sees the light of day on the floor for a vote. If a bill has three committee referrals, you can expect it’s got a long uphill battle that will see the session end before the bill makes it to the the floor. When it comes to tax raising legislation, that is what those of us prefer to spend our own money want to see.

On the other hand, if a bill has only one committee referral, then it’s pretty clear that someone with power wants to see it passed.  Last week, we noted that HB 9 INCOME TAX SURTAX bill, had quickly collected a lot of signatures by those who believe in taxing more before spending less. Now, we observe that it has only one committee referral.  If you find yourself in the group that currently pays 59% of the state’s income tax revenue, and you don’t want to pay even more, you better start lighting up those phone lines and filling those inboxes.

 

It Only Took Three Days

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

So, who wants to raise our taxes? If you’re a legislator in Santa Fe eager to raise taxes on small businesses in New Mexico, raise your hand.  No, better yet, just scribble your name on top of the proposed new tax bill.

Oh, sure I understand how some readers might think that this is a tax on the rich, but that’s because they don’t understand how most small businesses are set up.  They are usually limited liability companies or sub chapter S corporations.  That means that the profit from their company ends up on their personal income tax filings.

Now with banks being tight on lending (despite bailouts from taxpayers), most profitable small businesses are keeping those retained earnings in their company to keep their doors open and hold onto their key employees. But, that last lifeline is about to be raided by legislators and the administration in Santa Fe because it’s easier to force more layoffs in the private sector than to cut unnecessary spending in public sector.

After all, who is going to notice if one more small business is forced to close their doors? Well, the answer is I will, and I sure hope you feel the same.  If you find your legislator’s signature on this additional tax on small business, I hope you’ll give them a call and ask them to get their priorities straight. If you don’t know what your legislator’s signature looks like, no problem, you can download this PDF of the entire bill along with the document they signed to kick off the session.

What’s Important to Voters

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

On the national level, elected Democrats just received a wake-up call that their agenda is not our agenda. And, by our, I mean the majority of voting Americans whose number one concern is housing and feeding their families:

Shorn by Massachusetts voters of their pivotal 60th Senate vote and much of their political momentum, the White House and congressional leaders are considering a more modest version of Obama’s top legislative priority. It could focus on curbing insurance company practices like denying coverage to sick people and on helping low-earning people and small businesses afford coverage, officials said.
Also fueling the Democratic search for a fresh health care strategy is a conviction by many in the party that it’s time for an election-year focus on jobs and the economy, which polls show are easily the public’s top concerns.
Of course, they’re kind of missing the mark. Jobs and the economy are NOT an election-year focus.  They are an EVERY year focus.  Think about it. If we have a strong economy and jobs, the vast majority of Americans can take care of meeting their own healthcare needs.  I know.  What a concept!
I’ll also let you in on a little secret. The more government taxes and regulates, the less likely we’re going to see jobs and a strong economy. The bigger government gets, the smaller the private sector gets. 
Don’t believe me? Well, look for a state with a really big government footprint. A state like, hmm, well, a state like New Mexico. We’ve got lots of big government and very little industry.  The result? We’ve got a very poor populations per capita.  Are we seeing how this works?
Our state legislators would be wise to consider this as they wrangle with how to save all of those “very important” government programs. If we want to see jobs and growth, we need to shrink the size of government.  Of course, the easiest way to do that is stop feeding the beast.  In other words, make do with the revenue we have as opposed to taking away more jobs by increasing taxes even more.

2010 The Year of the Tax Increase

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Every year Governor Richardson gives a name to the upcoming legislative session. Well, if even a small part of the proposals made by Governor Richardson’s Budget Balancing Task Force come to pass, the 2010 legislative session will be known as The Year of the Tax Increase. Actually, we should probably make that plural. This 400+ page document has tax upon tax upon tax proposed as the solution to our supposed budget woes.

Some of these tax increases, if passed, would take effect TOMORROW. I kid you not. Proposed income tax increases would begin tomorrow and are designed to take $327,971,000 out of our pockets over the next five years and give it to elected officials to make up for their spending spree over the last seven years. Now, while the economy, at least temporarily, does not seem to be getting worse, it also doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  Unemployment numbers are holding steady at levels not seen since the 1940’s:

New Mexico’s jobless rate remained steady at 7.8 percent in November, the same as the previous month but much higher than the 4.6 percent rate in November 2008.
    

The national unemployment rate in November decreased to 10 percent.
    

The state’s labor department, the Department of Workforce Solutions, says the state lost 25,400 jobs over the past year.
    

The department says the decline in the number of jobs is the worst New Mexico has seen in modern times and it will be a number of years until employment reaches pre-recession levels. 

That’s right, it will be many more years until we get back to healthy rates of employment and a growing economy.  Yet, for those of you lucky enough to be holding a job, you’re going to find yourself, not only working harder because you’re doing the work that used to be done by two or more people, but also working for less, because state government is going to be taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of your pocket.


Remember all tax increases are permanent. It’s just the nature of the beast. Consider this from the report:


The gross receipts tax was first levied in 1934 (as the emergency school tax) as a temporary measure to keep the schools open; it was made permanent in 1935. The tax applied to almost all business sectors, including services. This contrasted markedly with other early-adopter states, like Mississippi, which taxed only sales of tangible goods. In 1966, the tax was reorganized and renamed as the gross receipts tax.

Government  always uses some sort of “emergency” to rationalize its takings, be they individual freedoms or financial. However, long after the “emergency” has subsided, what was supposed to be a temporary measure becomes permanent.  There are those who think it is time to raise these GRT taxes even higher. Yet, consider that:

The table following the map shows that New Mexico’s average tax rate is the 28th highest out of the 46 states with a sales tax. However, New Mexico ranks fifth highest in terms of sales tax revenue as a percent of personal income, a result of both the relatively low level of personal income in New Mexico and the broad base of New Mexico’s gross receipts tax.

What, fifth highest in terms of sales tax revenue is not high enough? We want to be number one? I really don’t see how being at the top of this list would be a good thing. Let me put this in another perspective, total GRT collected from us, the taxpaying public, in 2004 was $2.3 BILLION.  Five years later, the economic crisis has resulted in only $3.2 BILLION taken from our bank accounts.

Wait a second! That’s not a decline in GRT.  That’s an increase in GRT revenue ! In fact, that’s a 38% increase in taxes in collected.  Now, ask yourself, am I making 38% more today than I was five years ago?  If the answer is yes, well, you’re lucky. But, the truth is that as a whole we’re only making about 22% more today than we were in 2004.  If the government thinks they are in a crisis, then the taxpaying public must be beyond crisis. Yet, they want to raise our taxes even more.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  State government IS NOT in a revenue crisis situation.  The problem is that spending has been out of step with reality for many years now.  At the very least, we should be cutting expenses back to 2004 levels. If you doubt me, then ask yourself, are my neighbors, family and friends better off today that they were in 2004? I’d be very surprised if you could answer that with a “yes”.

If you’re the type to make New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve got easy one for you to make.  Resolve to call your legislators and the Governor, assuming you can locate him, and let them know if they like elected office, they will cut spending to bring it in line with our income growth before considering a single additional tax.