NM Revenues Surge, Budget Improves, Plus COVID Relief Package Hang Up: Providing Protection to the Worst Corporate Offenders

We examine an improved NM state budget, the opportunity this presents for legislative advocacy, the need to stay involved in the Georgia runoff, and a shameless effort by the GOP to strip workers of workplace protections.

Before we examine our two features for today, a few announcements.

The Time to Fight for Good Legislation is Now

Most importantly, we want to stress that with the significantly improved NM State budget situation, we have an even greater opportunity to advance our Transformational and Priority bills. We are asking all of you to join one of our Legislative Advocacy Teams being organized in all 27 Democratically controlled State Senate Districts. Senator Wirth indicated that this strategy was the absolute best way to effectively advocate in the Roundhouse. So we are organizing teams of constituents who can meet with their legislator via zoom in late December. The lift is so light. You write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com, tell us your State Senator and we will let you know when a one-hour conversation with your Senator will be held.

You do not need to be a policy wonk or especially confident in speaking on issues. Just being present and adding weight and credibility to our team will be enough. There is a huge difference between a zoom with six constituents and one with 60. So please write to us now. If you don’t know your Senator, click here. In 10 seconds you’ll know and then you can write us at RetakeResponse@gmail.com.

Interesting 40 minute Retake Conversation with Sen. Mimi Stewart as she outlines her legislative priorities and her approach to serving as Sen. Pro-Tem. Click here.

Missed the Retake Zoominar with Senator Wirth, Senator Stewart and Speaker Egolf. Click here to see what you missed.

2021 Retake Our Democracy Legislative Advocacy ToolKit. The ToolKit includes in one place: links to the bills we support; our legislative strategy; links to over 2 dozen media outlets and sample letters to the editor; contact info for legislators; descriptions of the roles of Senate District Team Members and Coordinators…and more. Retake makes it so easy for you to raise your voice with your legislator. Check it out and if you are interested in doing more than wring your hands over what gets done in 2021, write to RetakeResponse@gmail.com and let us know who your Senator is and whether you want to help coordinate or just be a member of an advocacy team in your district. The ToolKit includes a link so you can find out who your Senator is. Click here.

Want to find out more about our 2021 Legislative Strategy? Join our weekly Zoom Friday’s from 3:30-4:30. You’ll meet some tremendous folks and find out where you may be able to help. Click here to register.

Finance Department Projects Rosier NM Revenue Outlook

Yesterday Debbie Romero, acting secretary of the state Department of Finance and Administration, offered new estimates on the state of the NM budget. Revenue projections in June pointed to just $6.2B in revenues, causing the Governor to ask agencies to prepare budgets with 5% cuts across the board. However, the new projection adds $1.2B to the state coffers. While this represents a 10.9% redction in revenue from the prior year, it is a much improved situation that will raise total revenue projections to $7.4B, allowing for level funding for state agencies with some $150+M in added revenue.

This should allow for needed investment in rural infrastructure and other critical needs, especially if the Governor and Democratic Party leadership sign off on much needed legislation to add progressivity to our income tax structure by adding tax brackets with higher tax levels for higher income tax payers and by eliminating corporate giveaways that should never have been passed. If the legislature also passes a bill to legalize marijuana, that would also add substantial ongoing revenues to the state budget, as well as jobs. And with that added revenue, opportunity to seek progressive legislation that comes with some costs.

The news even had fiscally conservative Rep. Patty Lundstrom talking about $250 million for rural road infrastructure and an economic development initiative targeting small communities, two desperately needed investments.

One would expect that one of the first actions the new Biden Administration would advance is a more substantive Covid-relief act that would send relief to cities, counties, tribes and states, thus further improving the state fiscal picture. But the scope and scale of that relief will depend heavily upon the results of the two runoff races in Georgia. No new polls there, but it will almost certainly be a race decided by turnout. And there there are ways you can help with that turnout. Click here to read about options for making donations and for writing letters through Working America.

The piece below makes it clear how important it is to free Biden’s hand of the tyranny of needing McConnell approval of any and all legislation passing through the Senate.

McConnell’s Price Tag for Meager Covid Relief Bill: Shamelessly Exonerating Corporate Failure to Protect Workers

If you needed any more evidence of the importance of winning both Georgia Senate runoffs, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is offering it now. He is holding the current meager Covid relief bill hostage unless it includes measures to shield corporations from liability for ignoring employee safety and health protections throughout the pandemic.

 The legislation [protecting corporations from legal liability], which is being tucked into a larger Covid relief package, is a holiday-season gift for corporate donors: it would strip frontline workers of their last remaining legal tool to protect themselves in the workplace – at the same time the unemployment system is designed to financially punish those workers if they refuse to return to unsafe workplaces during the pandemic..”

From The Guardian: “Tucked into the Covid-19 stimulus package? Protection for:corporations: The proposed legislation would shield corporations from liability if their workers die from Covid-19 in unsafe workplaces”

In the event that the GOP win at least one of the runoffs and retains control of the Senate, this is the kind of “negotiations” that Biden will face whenever he seeks to improve the ACA, provide meaningful tax relief for low-moderate income Americans, fix the immigration system, provide loan relief to college students, pass any kind of climate catastrophe legislation or to address institutional racism in America. Every single one of these initiatives will need to receiving McConnell’s blessing and as the current Covid relief bill illustrates, that blessing comes at a steep cost.

Ironically, we have Governor Andrew Cuomo to thank for the language in this corporate protection, as during the height of the pandemic in NY, he pushed through legislation to protect corporate executives at nursing homes. Funny how politics works; just follow the money. From the Guardian:

“At the behest of corporate lobbyists, the liability shield initiative has spread like a virus in America’s political system: as the Daily Posterfirst reported, it coursed through state legislatures across the country after the New York Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, responded to a Covid-19 mass death in nursing homes by shielding nursing home executives from lawsuits – after a healthcare lobby group funneled $1m into his political machine.”

From The Guardian: “Tucked into the Covid-19 stimulus package? Protection for:corporations: The proposed legislation would shield corporations from liability if their workers die from Covid-19 in unsafe workplaces”

That $1 M investment was money well-spent, as the exact language from the NY bill was included in the July relief bill, shielding nursing home execs nationwide from any liability for preventable deaths in their facilities. And now, a far broader liability waiver is included in the McConnell’s version of the Covid relief bill now being negotiated in Congress, a clause that would shield big business from any and all egregious violations of Covid protection for their employees. So, if your uncle worked in a meat-packing plant that packed workers together without protection and if your uncle was forced to continue to work, as to fail to do so would make him ineligible for unemployment or other Covid relief, and if your uncle subsequently died from Covid, his family would have no legal redress to seek compensation for the meat packing plant’s culpability. Shameless.

Interestingly, Democratic leadership is crowing about the relief in this Covid bill while turning a blind eye to the protections provided to corporate America, something that has not escaped the purview of AOC and Senator Bernie Sanders.

“US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the few Democratic lawmakers to spotlight what’s really going on. Last week, she tweeted: “If you want to know why Covid-19 relief is tied up in Congress, one key reason is that Republicans are demanding legal immunity for corporations so they can expose their workers to Covid without repercussions.”

From The Guardian: “Tucked into the Covid-19 stimulus package? Protection for:corporations: The proposed legislation would shield corporations from liability if their workers die from Covid-19 in unsafe workplaces”

The Guardian piece goes on to articulate how this Covid-focused effort to strip workers of their legal rights to seek compensation from employers is all part of a larger effort to strip workers of those rights in all contexts. To better understand the dynamic in play here, I recommend turning to Naomi Klein and her book Shock Doctrine where she outlined scores of examples of mega corporations and governments using crisis moments to slip in “reforms” that benefit those corporations at the expense of workers and the planet. And these kinds of poisonous legislative initiatives will be part and parcel of “negotiating” with Sen. McConnell if the GOP remains in control of the Senate.

But even if the Dems do win both runoff races, this most immediate piece of corporate protection came from NY Governor Cuomo. And in looking back over the past 40 or 50 years, we can see clearly a bi-partisan effort to serve the bidding of corporate America, at the expense of all of us. Much to do, so little time.

I highly recommend the full Guardian piece.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: COVID

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  1. NM State Legislators: This Is NOT a Time to Be Timid Plus a Link to our 2021 Legislative Survey, & Obelisk Santa Fe City Council Hearing. RAISE YOUR VOICE! – Retake Our Democracy

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