By MORGAN LEE – Associated Press
SANTA FE, NM (AP) – New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law Friday to provide payments of $500 to single adults or $1,000 to households to offset increased prices for fuel and other consumer goods .
Payments of $250 per person are planned for June and August under a Democrat-sponsored bill approved Tuesday during a one-day special legislative session.
The payments will come in addition to separate tax refunds in July that exclude higher-income residents. Income limits will not apply to the newly approved payments, which will cost the state about $700 million.
Most of the payments are automatically paid out as tax refunds to people who file tax returns in New Mexico, while $20 million has also been largely set aside for low- or no-income elderly people who don’t normally file taxes. Undocumented immigrants are eligible regardless of whether they file tax returns or not.
The US inflation rate for the 12 months to February was almost 8% – and that was before the Russian invasion of Ukraine triggered a global spike in fuel prices.
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Democratic Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos, chair of the House Tax Committee’s lead committee, emphasized the cascading effect of higher fuel prices as businesses pass on energy costs by raising the prices of a variety of goods and services.
“Rising fuel costs are hitting families, particularly in our rural communities,” Chandler said at an online news conference. “We’re taking the pressure off families now and into the summer as they prepare to send their children back to school.”
The New Mexico state government is experiencing a financial windfall in connection with record-breaking oil production in the Permian Basin. Lujan Grisham said the discounts are meaningful to families but won’t necessarily be repeated in years to come.
“While putting rebates directly into the hands of New Mexico residents is meaningful, valuable, and necessary, especially in the context of inflation, … we also want to make sure we hit the mark as we continue to invest in education.” .” and housing, said Lujan Grisham, who is running for re-election in November.
Republicans in the legislative minority were divided over the initiative, with a GOP senator and 13 members of the Confederate House of Representatives voting against amid fears of worsening local inflation without cutting taxes.
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