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. In the majority of instances, the death of these bills can be attributed to Democrats in Name Only in the NM State. Perhaps the worst of the bunch is Senator John Arthur Smith (AKA Dr. No).
The good news: he is being challenged by Neomi Martinez-Parra who if elected, will not only put a “D” after her name, she will subscribe to Democratic values and vote for Democratic legislation. She will protect a woman’s right to choose and she will support increased funding for early childhood. For these reasons, we endorse Neomi Martinez-Parra in Senate District in Senate District 35. It is time to say “NO” to the Senate’s Dr. No.
Retake Our Democracy 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. The worst and most powerful of the bunch is Sen. John Arthur Smith, aka Dr. No. Fortunately, we finally have an excellent candidate running against him: Neomi Martinez-Parra, who is former Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and several decades younger than Dr. No.
Retake Our Democracy is proud to be supporting Neomi Martinez-Parra. At the end of this race analysis you will find contact information for her campaign and a link to her positions on the issues.
Due to Covid-19, challengers can not canvass; they can’t hold town halls; and challengers’ budgets can’t compare with the budgets of incumbent DINOs whose coffers are flooded with money from out of start corporations.
But before we look at her candidacy, let’s take a look at Dr. No.
Sen. 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. To review Neomi Martinez-Parra’s positions on the issues, click here. At this page, you will also find information on how you can support Martinez Parra’s campaign.
Click here to go to our page listing the seven key Senate races in which Retake has endorsed Democratic challengers to DINOs. 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.