By MORGAN LEE Associated Press
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Friday to provide payments of $500 to individual adults or $1,000 to households to offset increased prices for fuel and other consumer goods.
Payments of $250 per individual are scheduled for June and August under a Democratic-sponsored bill approved Tuesday during a one-day special legislative session.
The payments will arrive on top of separate tax rebates in July that exclude upper-income residents. Income limits don’t apply to the newly approved payments, which will cost the state about $700 million.
Most payments will go out automatically as tax rebates to people who file tax returns in New Mexico, while $20 million also was set aside largely for elderly people with little or no income who don’t ordinarily file taxes. Undocumented immigrants are eligible whether they file tax returns or not.
The U.S. inflation rate for the 12 months ending in February was nearly 8% — and that was before the Russian invasion of Ukraine set off a worldwide surge in fuel prices.
Democratic Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos, chairwoman of the lead House committee on taxation, highlighted the cascading effect of higher fuel prices as businesses pass on energy costs by raising prices on a variety of goods and services.
“The rising fuel costs are hitting families, especially in our rural communities,” Chandler said at an online news conference. “We are giving families relief now and also in the summer when they are preparing to send their kids back to school.”
The New Mexico state government is experiencing a financial windfall linked to record-setting oil production in the Permian Basin. Lujan Grisham said the rebates are meaningful to families but won’t necessarily be repeated in future years.
“While giving rebates directly into the hands of New Mexicans, particularly in the context of inflation, are both meaningful, valuable and necessary …. we also want to make sure that we’re hitting the mark on continuing our investments in education” and housing, said Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection in November.
Republicans in the legislative minority were divided on the initiative, with one GOP senator and 13 allied House representatives voting against it amid concerns about making local inflation worse without cutting taxes.