If by paying a tax I save more money than the tax costs me, I don’t mind paying it. In fact, I’m happy to, not just because I support the purpose of the tax but because it’s economically prudent.
That was how I felt about the pet food tax. Then the governor vetoed it.
House Bill 64 (sponsored by Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola, and Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces) would have levied a small tax on the manufacturers of pet food and earmarked the money for spay and neuter programs to reduce cat and dog overpopulation in New Mexico.
It should have been signed purely as a cost-saving measure.
The Legislative Finance Committee report said the cost to local governments for public animal shelter services and euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats is $27 million annually. With private nonprofit animal shelters added, the total cost is $38 million, according to cosponsor Trujillo.
If we could reduce that cost, by preventing the birth of unwanted animals, that’s a saving to you and me that could be put to use for other purposes.
I am sad for dogs and cats who are abandoned or in shelters, and I regret that some of them have to be killed by their municipal caregivers because nobody wants them – 70,000 a year in New Mexico, according to Trujillo. But let’s focusing on the money.
Governor Martinez’ veto message says, “Local governments are better suited to promote spay and neuter programs, and many already do, through licensing programs and fines for those who do not spay and neuter their pets.”
Local government is indeed the right place for such services; however, state government is much better equipped to administer a tax program. It is not uncommon for the state to impose and collect a tax and pass the money to local governments.
The tax on alcoholic beverages is one such example.
This excise tax is imposed by the state and paid by the vendors who sell the products. Some of that money is distributed to local governments through a program called the DWI Grant Fund. Grants are awarded to programs that reduce the incidence of DWI, alcohol and drug abuse and related problem behaviors.
Local governments also have the authority to impose a tax on alcoholic beverages. The only such local tax is in McKinley County.
As a responsible occasional drinker I don’t mind paying a little extra for both law enforcement and social programs to reduce the chance that drunk drivers might kill me.
Surely in New Mexico no one can doubt the need for alcohol and drug abuse intervention. Whatever is done to reduce the damage caused by alcohol and drug abuse benefits not only the abusers but all the rest of us as well by making our communities safer. Having the state collect the tax reduces the administrative cost and leaves more money for services.
By similar logic, no one can doubt the worthiness of spay and neuter programs for dogs and cats. As a society we have decided to pay attention to dogs and cats on both the practical and humane levels. We want to prevent unneeded suffering of our favorite kinds of animals and we don’t want to be endangered by wild dogs or cats running loose in our streets. This program would have helped.
House Bill 64 passed the House by 48 to 19 and the Senate by 30 to 4. That’s a pretty strong mandate for a governor to ignore.
But we also know how Governor Susana Martinez feels about taxes. No new taxes, period, no matter what the purpose, no matter that the tax would have saved more money than it cost. She has apparently succeeded in keeping her record pure and her resume uncluttered with such complicating information.
There will be a new governor next year. Sponsors, please try this one again.
Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2018