Past Years’ Small-Business Victories from the New Mexico Legislature

Date: February 23, 2020

Stopping tax increases and minimum-wage hikes highlight accomplishments for Main Street

From the 2019-2020 session

Defeated a Bill to Double the State’s Fuel Tax

NFIB helped lobby for the defeat of House Bill 173, which would have more than doubled the state’s fuel tax. Issuing an Action Alert to its members to call their state lawmakers and ask them to vote no on the proposal, the plan to raise the fuel tax from 17 cents per gallon to 47 cents per gallon over time was defeated. The proposal would have fallen hardest on small businesses transporting goods, services, and people. New Mexico currently has one of the lowest fuel taxes in the region and with the oil boom in the southeastern part of the state, many opponents questioned the need to raise new taxes.

Stopped Attempt to Wipe Out Health Insurance Premium Reductions

Last year, in a bipartisan effort, Congress suspended the Health Insurance Tax, which provided a reduction in premiums for all small-business owners and their employees, seniors, and other consumers. NFIB was part of a coalition of business groups supporting the effort to repeal the health insurance tax.

But the New Mexico House of Representatives wanted to deny that relief with House Bill 278, which would have raised the state’s surtax on premiums from 1% to 3.25%. HB 278 passed 41-25, forcing NFIB to redouble its efforts in stopping it in the State Senate by issuing an Action Alert to its members. NFIB and its members were ultimately successful in ensuring the demise of the measure in the State Senate.

Legislation to Increase Minimum Wage and Mandate Paid Sick Leave Never Got Off the Ground

Two separate pieces of legislation seeking to increase the minimum wage to $15 and mandate 12-weeks of paid sick leave never got off the ground during the 30-day legislative session. The bills as introduced were sent to the House Rules and Order of Business Committee and never received a message from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to be put on the call for the budget-focused short legislative session. During the first week of the session, NFIB members were encouraged to write their legislators and urge them to protect small businesses from employer mandates and minimum wage increases.

From the 2017-2018 session

Secured Workers’ Compensation Clarification

Workers’ compensation legislation often is difficult to craft, understand, and pass. With NFIB’s help in educating lawmakers on this issue, a third try finally proved a charm for a bill that addressed past upper-court rulings adversely impacting return-to-work provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Sen. Jacob Candelaria, an Albuquerque Democrat with strong small-business-family ties, led the campaign on Senate Bill 122. With votes of 32 to 8 in the Senate and 65 to 0 in the House, then signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, a truly bipartisan effort was realized.

Won Greater Regulatory Uniformity and Transparency

Regulatory reform also found bipartisan commitment for agency rulemaking requirements in NFIB-backed House Bill 58, sponsored by Republican Rep. Nate Gentry with Democrats Reps. Linda Trujillo, Tomas Salazar, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto. HB 58 provides a detailed, uniform process for state agencies to adopt rules that increase transparency, uniformity, and public input. This new law productively reworks the rules of engagement between small business and their regulators.

Obtained More Health Insurance Options

Small businesses often find themselves with few options, so with NFIB’s support, House Bill 336, sponsored by Republican Zachary Cook, makes stop-loss more accessible and better facilitates small businesses looking at the option to self-fund health plans like bigger businesses do.

Helped Defeat Minimum-Wage Bills

Five bills were introduced to raise the state’s minimum wage, ranging from $15 an hour down to $8.45 an hour with several including annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases to reflect inflation. One of two bills that made it to Governor Martinez’s desk offered a wage rate of $9.25 an hour with no CPI but would have prohibited local governments from enacting laws regulating private sector scheduling of employees. The other bill called for $9 an hour with no CPI and a 60-day, $8 training wage. It gained momentum when several chambers of commerce endorsed it. Governor Martinez held the NFIB line by vetoing both.

Defeated Personal Income Tax Increases

Seven bills asked for an increase in personal income taxes and three cut the current capital gains deduction. NFIB repeatedly testified against such proposals explaining to legislators that small businesses are different from high-wage individuals. Under such proposals, both would be hit with higher taxes. Small business relies on the money left on the table after paying bills, payroll, and taxes, to grow, be competitive, and create jobs.

Stopped Two Bad Employment Law Proposals

Bill titles can make it tough for legislators to oppose, especially ones dealing with employment law. However, it is the content of legislation that can put business owners in legal harm’s way. One bill restricted the ability of employers to ask job applicants to provide credit histories, including for jobs that can entail fiduciary responsibilities. The Senate Judiciary Committee noted its unworkability and tabled it.  The same was not true with the Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act. While bill advocates did listen to small businesses’ concerns and made some changes, NFIB’s Legal Center found that it contained a high level of litigation risk for small business. It took the governor’s veto pen to stop it from becoming law.

From the 2015-2016 session

Won Passage of Workers’ Compensation Change Curbing Premium Increases

NFIB successfully helped push for passage of a bill by Sen. Pat Woods that fixed ambiguous language in state law which was fostering lawsuits. This correction in “permanent” total disability indemnity benefits (wage replacement) for injured workers returns predictability to business owners and prevents the potential for increased workers’ compensation insurance costs.

Obtained Greater Objectivity in Tax Disputes

NFIB lobbied extensively for a new tax administrative hearing officer. When you have a dispute with the state’s tax department, your appeal now goes to an independent hearing officer who will provide greater objectivity.

Improved Condition for Working with the State

Legislation making more information available on New Mexico’s Sunshine Portal for those who do business with the state was passed with support from NFIB and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Defeated Minimum-Wage Increases

Nine bills were introduced to raise the state’s minimum-wage rate, and all were defeated in part to NFIB’s reminding lawmakers that minimum wage is earned almost exclusively by teens and young adults starting out on their work lives. Raising rates does next to nothing for middle-class wage earners or those mired in poverty. Instead, they reduce opportunities for the young and low-skilled to find a job.

Stopped Income Tax Increases

NFIB succeeded in stopping numerous attempts to raise income taxes by reminding legislators that 80 percent of small-business owners file their taxes as individuals.

From the 2013-2014 session

Won More Time for Carryover Losses

With NFIB’s backing, legislation was passed allowing small businesses to exclude net-operating-loss carryover on personal or corporate income taxes. Small businesses now have 20 years, instead of five, to carry over losses on their personal income tax. This puts small business on an equal footing with big business.

Obtained Tougher Unemployment Insurance Fraud Prevention

NFIB stepped in to bridge a rift between legislators and the Department of Workforce Solutions to guarantee successful bi-partisan support for a new law allowing the state to aggressively prevent fraudulent unemployment-insurance claims and to seek financial restitution from offenders. Fraud has taken a significant bite out of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. This new law stops the bleeding and prevents future problems.

Secured Needed Changes in Workers’ Compensation Law

NFIB worked for the passage of a new law strengthening provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act, providing relief and clarity to employers. Some major provisions include raising the minimum threshold for mandatory safety visits, clarifying compensation benefits to beneficiaries, and replacing the Safety and Fraud Division in the Worker’s Compensation Administration with an enforcement bureau.

Killed Minimum Wage Increases

NFIB reminded legislators that the only effect raising minimum-wage rates has is to eliminate teenage employment opportunities. Because of NFIB’s educational campaign, all minimum-wage proposals were defeated, including one to link all future increases to annual changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Stopped Alleged Wage Fraud Fines

NFIB succeeded in helping defeat a wage fraud proposal requiring a $100-a-day, per-employee fine for alleged non-response or lack of cooperation in an investigation by the state Department of Workforce Solutions. The bill also lacked due process safeguards for employers.

Earned a Seat on Small Business Task Force

NFIB’s seat on the governor’s small business taskforce allows us to present our members’ perspective on proposed legislation and advise the administration on state initiatives and state regulatory policy.

 

 

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