Lessons from the Rio Rancho tax referendum

In case you missed the news, voters turned down a tax cut referendum in Rio Rancho last night. The measure would have reduced the GRT by 1/8th of a cent to pay for higher education, but Councilors had pledged to increase the tax by 1/8th of a cent to pay for additional public safety personnel. The vote was nearly 60/40 in favor of keeping the higher ed tax. Here are some lessons we’ve taken from the effort:

1) (KISS) Keep it Simple Stupid: Cutting a tax for one purpose only to have another tax raised, “hold-harmless money,” temporary v. permanent taxation, and the difficulty of earmarking funds for a specific purpose, all muddied the issues of whether to support or oppose the ballot measure.

2) Have an end-game: In the wake of this failed ballot measure, we now have a situation where conservatives have made the case for increasing taxes for more police and fire. Liberals will be happy to make the case for higher taxes and the police and fire unions have been led to expect more money with that expectation now denied. Does anyone think there won’t be a great deal of pressure to increase spending or taxes for public safety?

3) Never underestimate UNM: They have lots of money, media sympathy, graduates, and a whole host of businesses and contractors that directly benefit from their activities. Taking them on, even with the support of the fire and police unions is an uphill battle.