This story appears in both The Paper and the Santa Fe New Mexican through a partnership to bring our readers the best in reporting from the legislature.
The Senate Taxation, Business and Transportation Committee on Saturday endorsed a bill that would create new funding for New Mexico’s damaged highways and roads.
Senate Bill 168 would increase the gasoline excise tax from 17 cents to 22 cents per gallon, and the extra contributions would raise over $63 million annually once fully phased in by 2025, mostly for the state road fund, according to a legislative analysis.
The bill passed on a 7-4 vote with support from the committee’s Democrats and objection from four Republicans.
“We don’t have a single legislator that doesn’t say there are needs in their area. We even go to the extreme of school buses that can’t cross bridges because of delays in maintenance,” state Sen. Bobby J. Gonzales, a Ranchos de Taos Democrat who is co-sponsoring the legislation, said during the committee meeting. “Everyone will spend much more on coffee from Starbucks than their contribution here.”
The bill would also increase the special fuel excise tax from 21 cents to 26 cents per gallon.
At 22 cents per gallon, the standard gas tax would still be more than 14 cents below the national average. New Mexico lawmakers have decreased the tax twice since last raising it in 1993.
Only Mississippi, Missouri and Alaska have lower gas taxes. The proposed increase would put New Mexico’s rate above seven states and would match Colorado’s.
“This is really necessary,” said Sen. Bill Tallman, an Albuquerque Democrat who is the bill’s other co-sponsor. “People say low taxes attract business. That’s not true. Businesses look for quality of life. That doesn’t come cheap. Good roads and good schools cost money.”
Before going to the Senate floor for a vote, the legislation must pass through the Finance Committee, although a hearing has not been scheduled.