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3/16¢ Gross Receipts Tax Hike Proposed

3/16¢ Gross Receipts Tax Hike Proposed

BernCo Tax Increase Would Add 18.75 cents to a $100 Purchase

At least one business group is opposed to Bernalillo County’s proposed $30 million tax increase that county commissioners will take up Tuesday night.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, which has 2,100 members, has come out in opposition to the proposed three-sixteenths-of-a cent gross receipts tax increase, saying the county hasn’t said why it needs the increase and that it would hurt families struggling with a stagnant economy.

“County taxpayers are already dealing with economic issues of their own as a result of the economic downturn and certainly they do not need the additional burden of yet another tax,” the chamber said in a statement opposing the tax.

“We urge the Bernalillo County Commission to address ways to ‘right size’ county government and reconsider the need for an additional tax and the imposition of such a tax on its citizens.

“Bernalillo County increased taxes by $30 million in 2015. If passed, this current tax increase would result in County taxpayers being asked to bear the burden in two years of a $60 million tax increase.”

Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a free market think tank, will also speak in opposition to the proposed tax hike.

“In a state that has a 6.8 percent unemployment rate, the last thing we need is higher taxes,” Gessing said.

“There has been no justification for the tax and the county has made no educational effort to explain why we need higher taxes. We just don’t need it.”

If approved, the measure would raise the GRT in the city of Albuquerque to 7.5 percent.

Two county commissioners, Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert, both Republicans, oppose the increase. It’s not clear how the commission’s three Democrats – Maggie Hart Stebbins, Debbie O’Malley and Steven Michael Quezada – feel about the proposal. Freeabq.com called all three on Monday but did not hear back from them.

The County raised the GRT by three-sixteenths-of-a-cent, or $30 million, in 2015. And also in 2015, city voters approved a 15-year, one-eight-cent GRT increase to build new exhibits at the Bio Park.

Industrial revenue bonds

Also up on Tuesday’s commission agenda is a rewrite of the county’s economic development and industrial revenue bond policy. IRBs give companies property tax breaks, and critics have said the county has been handing out them out too freely. Since 2012, for example, the county has approved 41 IRB deals. By contrast, during that time the city of Albuquerque has done just one IRB, and Sandoval County, known for its multi-billion-dollar IRBs for Intel Corp., hasn’t done any.

Those 41 IRBs have led to $636.5 million in private investment, the creation of 3,041 jobs, and the annual abatement of $876,000 in property taxes for the firms that got the deals, according to county officials.

While IRBs were originally meant for economic base companies, the county has used them for retail and hotel developments.

The new policy tightens up the IRB process and says preference will be given to economic base firms. Retail projects will still be eligible for the tax breaks, but only if they are in underserved areas of the county.

The new policy also calls for clawbacks of tax abatements if projects don’t meet their hiring goals or if facilities close before their IRBs are paid off.

In addition, the new policy would require the county to create an annual report detailing all of the tax breaks given to companies.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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