New Mexico lawmakers approve crime bill, $500 million in tax refunds | National Associated Press

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers approved about $500 million in tax refunds and a wide range of crime-fighting initiatives Thursday at the end of the 30-day legislative session — as the state grapples with the economic boost of the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about surging violent crime in Albuquerque and beyond.

The final votes answered Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s calls for economic relief and an uncompromising response to crime-related frustrations as she campaigned for re-election in November. The State House worked through the night and into the day before adjourning at noon.

The New Mexico state government is awash with cash tied to increased oil production and an injection of federal pandemic funding, allowing lawmakers to give income tax rebates to individuals $250 – and more to parents. State legislators also approved unprecedented new investments in public schools, Medicaid, public safety initiatives and an array of grants, loans and tax breaks to private industry.

The Democratic-led Legislature on Wednesday approved a record $1 billion annual budget increase that provides $8.48 billion in general spending in the fiscal year beginning July 1, a 14% increase from against current year expenditure. Lujan Grisham supports key provisions and can veto any part of the spending plan.

Wage increases of at least 7% are planned for school district and state government staff statewide, with a minimum hourly wage of $15 for public employees and higher base salaries for teachers.

Annual spending on K-12 public education would increase to $3.87 billion, a 12% increase. Annual Medicaid spending would rise by about $240 million to $1.3 billion as the federal government ends pandemic-related subsidies to the program that provides free health care to the poor.

Lawmakers assembled the crime bill amid a record streak of homicides in Albuquerque.

This would expand surveillance of defendants awaiting trial with round-the-clock monitoring of ankle bracelet tracking devices. Lawmakers balked at proposals by the governor and prosecutors to bar the bail of those charged with certain violent and sexual crimes.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces said the bill should have quick and lasting effects on policing and crime rates.

“When we add 24/7 ankle bracelet monitoring across the state, it’s going to have immediate effects,” he said. “The long-term perspective is (that) the violence prevention grants, law enforcement training, law enforcement retention — that’s going to take a long time.”

The crime bill would expand the ranks of state district judges, increase pay for city police and sheriff’s deputies, and provide $1 million in death benefits to relatives of officers killed in the crime. exercise of their functions.

It sets requirements for crime reduction grants that seek alternatives to traditional prosecution and incarceration and expands intervention programs to curb gun violence.

Police would receive more training in dealing with stress, dealing with homeless people and techniques for de-escalating confrontations involving the police. And the legislation would revamp the oversight of police misconduct investigations.

Criminal penalties are increased for threatening judges, possession of firearms by serious violent criminals, brandishing a weapon while committing an illegal drug transaction and aggravated flight from law enforcement in certain circumstances.

Meanwhile, moves to expand voting access have been thwarted by Republicans in the legislative minority who have used procedural maneuvers to block crucial debate in the Senate. Republicans said many of the changes would have undermined safeguards against voter fraud and public confidence in election results.

The governor, secretary of state and key lawmakers have pushed to expand ballot access in counterpoint to new voting restrictions in Republican-led states since the 2020 election.

The failure of the legislation would have expanded access to mail-in ballots, declared Election Day a public holiday with voter registration on the day, and offered registration to convicted felons upon release from prison.

At least 19 states have passed new voting restrictions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The GOP’s nationwide campaign to tighten election laws was partly prompted by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have come together to approve tax refunds of $250 for individuals who filed taxes or $500 for joint filers and an additional credit or refund for parents of up to $175 per child.

The move would also eliminate state taxes on Social Security earnings for middle-income earners. Individuals earning more than $100,000 or joint filers earning more than $150,000 would continue to pay Social Security income taxes.

The tax relief bill would also provide $1,000 credits to full-time local hospital nurses for the 2022 tax year and slightly reduce state gross receipts tax on retail sales. and two-step business services at around 4.9%. Combined optional state and local taxes on gross receipts can reach a combined rate of almost 9%.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, a Democrat from Santa Fe, also announced at the end of the session that he would not seek re-election.

“I realize that almost everything I ever hoped to accomplish in this office has been accomplished,” Egolf said. “We have absolutely put the people of New Mexico first and made our state a better place for everyone.”

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