Today we begin coverage of five key State Senate races, beginning with why we endorse Neomi Martinez Parra, who challenges Sen. John Arthur Smith, AKA Dr. No. Also learn about Chaco hearings on fracking, May 15 – May 18.
See the end of this post for info on Saturday’s Retake radio show and Tuesday’s Zoominar with Common Cause, Ethics Watch, and Dede Feldman.
To Fix Our Future, First We Must Fix the NM State Senate
Retake Our Democracy has organized teams of researchers and advocates for the last four legislative sessions. We have seen many bills pass, great bills that will make a difference in the lives of New Mexicans and in our environment. But we’ve also seen many very good bills die.
We produced a 2019 NM State Legislative Report Card that outlined how and why so many good bills die….and there is a pattern. We produced a video with our pals Eric Shimamoto and Andy Fertal, Fix the New Mexico Senate, that lays out how and why these bills die and what we can do about it.
Both the Report Card and the video identify five key NM Democratic State Senators as impediments to progressive legislation. Today is the first of several updates on these five DINO (Democrats in Name Only) incumbents, beginning with the worst of the bunch, Dr. No.
Senator John Arthur Smith AKA Dr. No
No doubt right now, Dr. No is taking credit for long ago noting that gas and oil is a boom or bust revenue stream. He will claim that –if not for him– more liberal spending Democrats would have committed the state to even more spending than was passed in 2019 and 2020 and that his conservatism saved our neck. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Given that Smith was aware that a bust like this was inevitable, one would have thought that he would have worked with other Democrats and NM Voices for Children to end hundreds of millions of dollars in tax giveaways to corporations, gas and oil, and the wealthiest New Mexicans. Years ago, NM Voices identified a starting point to create more revenue for the state. (Get info on our May 26 Zoominar with NM Voices for Children at this link.) Passage of the tax fixes below would have generated hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue annually. But Sen. Smith said no to every effort to increase taxes.
That $277M to $292M was just the beginning. NM Voices also identified the following new taxes that would have generated another half billion annually while also making our tax system — currently the most regressive in the nation — more equitable.
While Dr. No didn’t like any of the above ideas, he did find time in the busy 2020 session to introduce SB 274. This bill, according to the Financial Impact Report (FIR), would have postponed by 5 years the implementation of a new, top-income tax bracket of 5.9% set by 2019’s House Bill 6. And who would benefit from delaying the creation of this new top bracket? According to the FIR, the bracket includes single filers with taxable incomes over $210,000, and married filing jointly and head-of-household filers with taxable incomes over $315,000. And how much would this giveaway have cost the state? $200 million between now and 2026. And those funds would have benefited the wealthiest 3% of New Mexicans.
As Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, any change to the NM tax code must go through Sen. Smith, and he has routinely refused to schedule any and all attempts to increase taxes on corporations, gas and oil, or wealthy individuals. The result? New Mexico has the most regressive tax policy in the nation. The chart below, also from NM Voices, shows that the our lowest income New Mexicans pay over 10% of their income in one kind of tax or another. The wealthiest New Mexicans pay just 6%. This is just fine with Dr. No.
If that were all that is wrong with Senator Smith’s stewardship of our state finances, that would be enough reason to volunteer for his challenger, Neomi Martinez Parra. But there is more, so much more. Dr. No has done so much more damage than this. Consider this, from our 2019 Report Card:
“John Arthur Smith, District 35, Chair of Sen. Finance, failed to schedule five Retake Our Democracy Priority bills and voted NO on the Senate Floor on:
- HB 51 Decriminalize Abortion
- SB 76 Prohibit Coyote Killing Contests
- HB 85 Union Security Agreements
- SB 8 Firearm Sale Background Check”
He has steadfastly opposed increasing Permanent Fund contributions to early childhood, legalization of recreational marijuana, the Health Security Act, and an endless list of other progressive initiatives. He does this without ever registering a vote. He simply conveys to whoever might be introducing a good bill that it must go through his Senate Finance Committee and so it must pass his “smell test.” Nothing good passes that test.
Also from our 2019 Report Card:
“Senator Smith received 41% of his funding from out of state in 2016, just 8.6% from individuals, and over 75% from Energy, Health, Business, and Finance industries. He also received a 100% rating from the Association of Commerce and Industry.”Retake Our Democracy Report Card on the 2019 NM Legislative Session
In the 2020 legislative session, Retake identified seven bills where Democratic solidarity was essential because there was unified opposition from the GOP. Smith voted with fellow Democrats only 57% of the time on these bills. There is a reason that Working Families Party, Planned Parenthood, Conservation Voters of New Mexico, Progress Now, Olé, Sierra Club, US Rep. Deb Haaland, the National Education Association, and Retake Our Democracy all endorse Neomi Martinez Parra — they understand what is good for New Mexico.
Click here to go to our page listing the seven key Senate races in which Retake has endorsed Democratic challengers to DINOs. You will find contact information for Martinez Parra’s campaign and find out how you can support that campaign by making calls or contributions. In this year when we are sheltered, money matters in these races, and so do calls. Canvassing and town halls offering challengers an opportunity to meet the voters simply can’t occur. Let’s send a message that New Mexicans will no longer abide corporate Dems who vote for the best interests of big business and the wealthy. The loudest, most resonant message we can send is to remove Dr. No and elect Neomi Martinez Parra.
Chaco Canyon Virtual Hearings: We Must Protect Chaco
The Greater Chaco Canyon area is under attack once again through the BLM Resource Management Plan (RMP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the area. Public comment concerning the RMP and EIS is open online until May 28, and four virtual meetings will be held today through Monday to go over the plan and take public comment. We encourage you to submit comment.
Unfortunately, the majority of Diné people who will be directly impacted by expanded drilling in the area do not have access to the internet and are quarantined due to the COVID pandemic, making it impossible for them to travel to sites where internet is available.
On the San Juan Citizens Alliance web page, you will find background info regarding the BLM Resource Management Plan (RMP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the greater Chaco Canyon area in addition to talking points that you can use to personalize your own comments for submission.
It’s best to write your personal comments in your own software (e.g., MS Word), and then Copy/Paste into the BLM comment page at this link.
- 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday, May 15
- 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, May 15
- 9 to 11 a.m., Saturday, May 16
- 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday, May 18
Zoominar with Common Cause, Ethics Watch & Dede Feldman: How Gas & Oil Control the Roundhouse
Tuesday, May 19, 6:30-8:00 pm, Conversation About Gas & Oil Influence in NM Legislature, featuring Heather Ferguson, Executive Director, Common Cause NM; Dede Feldman, former NM State Senator and author; and Kathleen Sabo, Executive Director, NM Ethics Watch. We will discuss their extensive study, “The New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry and Its Allies: Oceans of oil, oceans of influence.” We don’t get what we want and what the planet needs because the deck is stacked in the NM state legislature, stacked by the gas and oil industry who spend millions on campaign donations, lobbyists and entertaining. They control not just what can be passed in the legislature, but even if a bill will ever be heard in a legislative committee. Click here to register. You must register to ensure that you get a seat in the “Zoom room.”
Retake Radio with Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez
Saturday, May 16, 8:30 am, KSFR 101.1 FM and streaming at KSFR.org: a Conversation with Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. This is a tremendous interview — we covered Produced Water, the Fracking Moratorium, the Green Amendment, the impact of Covid-19, and what it’s been like to be a legislator who is a true voice for social, economic, and climate justice. Tune in. If you miss it, go to Retake Conversations after 9am on Saturday for a video of the full 50-minute discussion.
Paul & Roxanne