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.

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3 Replies to “Lessons from the Rio Rancho tax referendum”

  1. The comments I heard from voters had to do with a lack of trust for the councilors who make promises, but then change their minds and go on to another issue.Rio Rancho councilors play too many games.
    But others felt we had made a commitment to UNM and we needed to honor that commitment.

  2. Mario, I would challenge you to name a promise that the current new councilors have made and not kept. That’s why we are taking so much criticizism from those who do not like the conservative and open approch we have taken.

    Paul, I appreciate the Monday morning quarterbacking. I wish you would have been their to help during the game. We tried to keep it simple, but unforntunately there are DFA requirements on how the ballot read. The fact is, if we would have put “reduce the tax” on the signs, then we would have been accused of misrepresenting the facts. The new tax would have been dedicated to public safety so I am not sure your point there is valid. It really came down to the fact UNM is the elephant in the room and most did not want to stand up to them, including you. We continue to do what is right for the right reason, and try to keep the status quo political games out of it. The fact remains that the gold old boy network of tax and spend buddies is still alive and well in the form of the Goliath we took on, although missing an arm in regard to our city council. No doubt they will use this special election to manipulate voters. We have to rise above using the same tactics or we are no better than they are.

    1. Look, Chuck. I understand what you guys were trying to do. UNM is a VERY powerful entity in New Mexico. It is not your fault that the voters went along with the higher ed tax when it was originally proposed. I appreciate the fact that you needed some kind of interest groups to come on to your side (the police and fire unions), but if the goal is to lower taxes, just focus on that. When it comes to a trade-off between more spending on higher ed and more spending on cops and fire (absent clear and compelling data that they are needed and that they’ll be effective and there is no other source for the money), it is hard to get too excited one way or the other.

      So, we move on. Work to reunite conservatives in Rio Rancho and hopefully get some good folks elected in the next election. There are plenty of ways to reduce spending and improve government in the City.

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