Inside the Capitol

Thursday, January 19, 2012

1-23 Gov. aims to improve economy and education


SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez wants to exempt small businesses paying less than $200 a month in gross receipts tax from having to pay the tax. She says it will affect over 40,000 small businesses in the state, most of which are one-person businesses.
I am one of those businesses and the chances are fairly good that you may be one too. And for the life of me, I can't figure out how it is going to help anyone. Supposedly it will help me hire an employee.
This column appears in many newspapers around the state but even if it appeared in all of them, it isn't enough to share with anyone but my wife, who does the bookkeeping for free.
We're not going to benefit from the exemption because we pass the tax on to newspapers, which will be the beneficiaries. But not to the extent any of them can hire another employee.
It also doesn't make work any easier for us because as I understand the bill, which hasn't yet been introduced as of this writing, applies only to the state's share of gross receipts. Several local governmental bodies also levy a gross receipts tax.
The Taxation and Revenue Department of state government collects all of the tax and distributes the local shares to the other recipients. The only change in my work would be to multiply by a lower number. Under the governor's proposal, the state will continue to do just as much work but without collecting any of the tax for itself.
As a small business owner, I can't find much to be grateful to the governor about for having this legislation introduced. The purpose is to improve our state's economy by aiding small businesses but I don't see how this is going to mean jobs for more New Mexicans.
Here's another gubernatorial proposal that Martinez may not have quite right yet. But she's getting there.
We know New Mexico students lag far behind national testing norms. Former Gov. Bill Richardson tried hard to close that gap, mainly by getting significant new revenue into the system. His administration also tried many new programs to improve teacher pay and quality and to get parents involved. But it didn't do much for student performance.
Gov. Susana Martinez also is willing to put more money into public schools but she wants it targeted in different ways. She wants to be sure students develop adequate reading skills in the first three grades.
Last year, she proposed legislation to hold students at the third grade level until they developed the reading skills to move on. Lawmakers learned it is necessary to obtain parental consent before holding a student back.
If school districts hold students an extra year, they get more money from the state – which the state can ill-afford. It also costs the district more because it has to find extra space to educate students for an extra year or two. And class sizes go up or more teachers have to be hired.
Problems also are created by having students who are one and two years older in a class with third graders. They tend to become the bullies.
The solution is to begin providing extra help to poor readers as soon as they are identified in kindergarten so they are less likely to have to be held back at the third grade level. That has been the direction of Gov. Martinez's efforts for the past several months.
Parents are the key factor in school success for a child. If they are unable or unwilling to help their children achieve success in school, it means the schools have to provide that extra help and encouragement.
That means more money for special reading teachers. Gov. Martinez is willing to make that a top priority for our strained state budget. With those students for which it doesn't work, she is willing to hold them in third grade against parental wishes.
She'll get static on that but she's willing to take the hit.


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