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New Mexico lawmakers won’t raise alcohol taxes this year either

A sign at Ski-Hi Liquors on Central Avenue in Albuquerque, N.M.
Thomas Hawk via Flickr
A sign at Ski-Hi Liquors on Central Avenue in Albuquerque, N.M.

New Mexico lawmakers will once again not raise taxes on alcohol this year, nor redistribute more of the revenue to treatment and prevention. Neither of two competing bills amending the liquor excise tax made it out of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee Friday.

The committee discussed the bills for a second day after lawmakers still had questions at the end of Wednesday’s 3-hour hearing. But, after another hour of debate, Democratic Rep. Cynthia Borrego said she still had too many unanswered questions.

“Probably more questions in my mind than answers,” she said. “And I would like to see hopefully that there’s more work done on these bills.”

Borrego and nine other committee members voted down House Bill 179, which would have raised the alcohol excise tax. Sponsors had already proposed decreasing the potential tax hike from 25 cents per serving to 12 cents.

The committee simply did not take a vote on the other bill, House Bill 213. That appeared to be the plan of sponsor Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena (D-Las Cruces), who told the committee after answering their questions, “We are not asking for any action to take place on our bill today.”

That bill would have shifted the tax from being applied at the wholesale level to the retail level, resulting in a higher tax on more expensive alcoholic beverages and a lower one on the cheaper stuff.

Both bills would have put more revenue toward alcohol use disorder treatment and prevention in the state with the highest alcohol-related death rate.

Committee chair Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo) said more work needs to be done outside of the session itself on how the state should proceed in its effort to change its alcohol tax.

“We know that there’s a problem,” he said. “But at the same time, we recognize that there has to be a process to which we bring all stakeholders together to make sure we get it right the first time.”

After Lente announced her bill had failed, HB 179 sponsor Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces) spoke out, defending the effort that went into crafting her bill long before it was introduced.

“I would just like to remind that we have been working on this in interim already for two years,” she said as Lente interrupted.

Despite repeated attempts, New Mexico hasn’t raised its alcohol excise tax in over 30 years.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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