ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) — Local businesses take center stage in Democratic governor candidate Lujan Grisham’s latest campaign ad. In it, several business owners praise the help they say they have received from the governor’s actions. One of those owners even tells viewers not to believe the “attacks” of Republican opponent Mark Ronchetti.
So what programs are these entrepreneurs talking about? And what role did Lujan Grisham play in providing help? To give you the context you need, KRQE News 13 examines the governor candidates’ political ads in the run-up to Election Day over the coming months to help you get the full story.
Lujan Grisham’s ad begins by introducing four business owners who talk about help the governor has provided during her tenure. About five seconds after the ad, Kelly Brewer of Organic Books says: “[Governor Lujan Grisham] helped us during the pandemic.” Organic Books is an Albuquerque bookstore that opened in November 2018.
According to Delaney Corcoran, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham’s campaign, the aid Brewer refers to comes from House Bill 1, passed in 2020. The bill, among other things, earmarked $100 million for subsidies to some New Mexico companies.
The bill allowed the state financial authority to give grants of up to $50,000 to New Mexico-owned companies to help recover from the pandemic. The financial authority confirmed with KRQE News 13 that Organic Books has indeed received funding from the program. Of course, they weren’t the only company to receive money.
Many of those receiving grants were service companies. In all, nearly $26 million went to foodservice-related businesses, according to data from the Finance Authority. More than 1,000 such companies received a grant, and the average grant value was over $21,700. Most of the rest of the money went to a range of other businesses in the state.
The exact economic toll the pandemic has taken on New Mexico’s operations—particularly the restaurant industry—has been a hotly debated topic of late. Depending on whose numbers you’re looking at, the situation can vary wildly.
Just over a month ago, the New Mexico Restaurant Association said restaurant employment fell by more than 20,000 workers after the pandemic and the state has lost more than 1,000 restaurants to the pandemic. But data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that New Mexico has gained about 80 restaurants since the end of 2019.
Hardly anyone denies that the pandemic was hard on New Mexico businesses, but just how hard and whose fault that is is up for debate, depending on what stats you rely on. The facts are: Restrictions imposed during the pandemic were tough on most businesses, but at the same time, many businesses in the state received financial aid through state-sponsored and federally sponsored grant and loan programs.
As Lujan Grisham’s ad goes on, Cutbow Coffee’s Paul Gallegos mentions that the governor has issued workers’ relief checks. Gallegos is referring to the tax refund payments that the state sent out this year.
Those payments were approved by the state legislature in April this year and are using record-high profits from oil and gas exploration to put some extra cash in the hands of New Mexicans. But Lujan Grisham can’t take all the credit for the idea.
Before New Mexico lawmakers worked out the rebates, politicians across the US considered giving the public stimulus checks to help with rising prices. And of course, capable, it wasn’t just Lujan Grisham who brought the idea to fruition. The first proposal for the bill was presented by the Democratic leadership of the legislature, and Republicans such as Representative Jim Townsend (R-Chaves, Eddy and Otero) also considered giving money back to New Mexicans. “We should consider returning a significant portion of this tax money to New Mexicans, as many other energy-producing states like Alaska do,” Townsend said in April.
Gross Income Tax
New Mexico does not levy retail sales through a “sales tax” as some states do. Instead, we have a gross income tax.
So instead of taxing shoppers when they buy products, gross income tax (GRT) requires the company selling a product to pay the taxes. But those costs are usually factored into the price of goods anyway, meaning that consumers actually end up paying.
In the campaign ad, Abel Otero of Fonzy’s Barber Shop says, “The governor has cut gross income tax for the first time in 40 years.” That is a reference to recent legislation.
Ahead of the 2022 legislative session, in November 2021, Lujan Grisham announced plans to try to cut gross income taxes statewide. In a press release, she promised to cut the statewide rate by a quarter of a percent. The legislation was also mentioned in the Governor’s State Address.
Lawmakers eventually tackled a BRT cut proposal during the session. House Bill 163 outlined a reduction in the statewide GRT rate.
That bill to lower the rate has passed the legislature, but so far the statewide rate has only been cut by one-eighth of a percentage point (0.125%), according to the state’s tax and tax department. It will decline by another eighth of one percent in 2023. This was the first cut in gross revenues in 40 years, according to the state tax and tax authorities.
Health insurance premiums
Next up in the ad, Amanda Batty, the owner of the Bike Coop, says that Lujan Grisham “lowered our health insurance premiums”. And according to the campaign spokesperson, Batty is talking about the Small Business Health Insurance Premium Relief Initiative.
That’s a program set up by lawmakers in New Mexico in 2021. It aims to lower health insurance for individuals and families who do not have work-based insurance and lower health insurance for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, according to the state. Office of the Superintendent of Insurance.
KRQE News 13 contacted the state’s Office of Superintendent of Insurance (OSI) to confirm whether or not the Bike Coop was a participating company. But OSI employees say they don’t know which companies participate in the program, only participating insurance companies know.
KRQE News 13 asked Amanda Batty if the Bike Coop is enrolled in the program and how much they expect to save under the initiative. Batty declined to comment, but OSI says participating small businesses can save 10% on the premium.
Social Security Tax Cuts
Finally, the ad points to another tax cut. Bookstore owner Kelley Brewer says Lujan Grisham has “abolished Social Security taxes for most seniors”.
This is also tied to the same 2022 bill that lowered gross receipt taxes. Under House Bill 163, some people can claim a tax exemption for the full amount of their Social Security check.
As long as singles filing returns have gross adjusted income of $100,000 or less ($150,000 for heads of households filing joint returns and $75,000 for married individuals filing single returns), they can be exempt from tax year 2022. that this will total more than $84 million in tax relief in the first year of the program.
Editor’s Note: KRQE News 13 fact-checks and contextualizes television ads used in the 2022 race for the New Mexico governor’s office. The classified ads are candidates’ ads, not political action committees. The judging period consists of ads released or served between September 5, 2022 and the November elections. For more KRQE News 13 Fact Check articles, visit KRQE.com/elections