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Manny on the 2016 Session

Manny on the 2016 Session

'The inability of this community, the State of New Mexico, to come together for the benefit of children is a big problem' -- former Sen. Manny Aragon

BY DAN VUKELICH

We last talked to former Sen. Manny Aragon early last year a few months after he got out of prison after serving time on a corruption charge.

We figured that at this point in the Legislature’s 30-day session, with the state short on cash and the clock winding down, we’d check in on the off chance he might have something to say.

We weren’t disappointed.

For what it’s worth, in his customary rapid-fire delivery, Aragon covered a myriad of topics.

On how the House and Senate might come together to solve the budget crunch caused by declining oil and gas prices:

“Usually it’s a battle between the House and the Senate, but they’re spinning their wheels this year. This lady doesn’t know what she’s doing. She says she won’t do this and she won’t do that but she doesn’t speak for herself. She takes marching orders from whoever is controlling her agenda. They’re going to follow through on their anti-tax pledge come hell or high water.”

On Sen. John Arthur Smith’s proposal to repeal the gross receipts tax exemption on food, which is sitting in the first of the three committees it was assigned to at the start of the session:

“Recovering a tax break is not an increase, but that might be a little too deep for her to understand. When that tax was taken off the books, the Legislature protected the cities for their share of the lost revenue, making them whole for the money they would have received. For the state, it was a double whammy. But you can’t take care of the state and hold the hands of the cities at the same time. It’s not viable.”

“Eliminating that exemption would raise a significant amount of money for the state. Don’t forget that poor people get food stamps. They don’t pay taxes on food. They never did. You can’t tax the federal government. And that people who would pay it don’t need it.”

On the governor’s record on business recruitment:

“We’re waiting for all these companies to come into the state because the governor’s business incentives. They may be backed up all the way to Oklahoma, for all I know.… And what’s the secret on Tesla. A study should be conducted to find out how she handled that. Where is her mouthpiece [Jon] Barela?”

“The percentage of children who go hungry every night and unemployment is going up, and we’re still giving tax breaks to attract business, but they’re all leaving. They’re attracted to good schools. That’s where the money should be going.

On the likelihood that a special session will be needed later in the year:

“Don’t forget that she’s always prided herself for having a reserve of 7 to 8 percent. That’s very high. For years it was 5 percent. That’s a lot of money.”

On the proposed constitutional amendment to tap some of the interest earned annually on the Land Grant Permanent Fund specifically to fund early childhood education:

“I would dedicate it specifically to early education and not to the General Fund to pay for salaries in specific areas.”

“Anyone with any common sense can see we need more money for education. The inability of this community, the State of New Mexico, to come together for the benefit of children is a big problem. If you can’t solve the REAL ID thing, you can’t deal with more serious problems.”

“She projects herself for being caring but it doesn’t meet the clean air test. It stinks.”

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Dan Vukelich is a writer and former editor of ABQ Free Press.

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Lex Voytek is a nervous wreck and reading quiets the noise. Reach her at books@freeabq.com.