In New Mexico, attempts to massively increase alcohol taxation have stalled once more, with legislators deciding against increasing the alcohol excise tax or altering the distribution of the revenue toward treatment and prevention programs. The House Taxation and Revenue Committee was the battleground for two key pieces of legislation, but neither managed to progress beyond this point.
Following extensive discussions spanning two sessions, the first extending over three hours on Wednesday and a subsequent hour-long debate, Democratic Representative Cynthia Borrego expressed her reservations. “Probably more questions in my mind than answers,” Borrego remarked, highlighting the need for further refinement of the proposed bills.
One of the bills in question, House Bill 179, which proposed an extreme increase in the alcohol excise tax, was ultimately rejected by Borrego along with nine other committee members. The initial suggestion to elevate the tax by 25 cents per serving had already been scaled back to 12 cents in an effort to gain support.
The fate of the other proposed legislation, House Bill 213, was left undecided as the committee abstained from voting. The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Representative Micaela Lara Cadena from Las Cruces, indicated a deliberate choice to forego immediate action on the bill after fielding questions from her colleagues. This particular bill aimed to adjust the tax application from the wholesale to the retail level, thereby affecting the tax rate based on the price of the alcoholic beverages.
Both legislative proposals shared a common goal: to increase funding for the treatment and prevention of alcohol use disorders in New Mexico, a state grappling with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths. Committee chair, Representative Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo, acknowledged the urgency of addressing the state’s alcohol-related issues but emphasized the necessity of a more thorough preparatory process involving all relevant stakeholders.
In the wake of the committee’s decision, Representative Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces, the proponent of HB 179, stood up to affirm the extensive preparatory work behind her bill, which had been in the pipeline for two years. Her interjection was met with an interruption from Lente.
This latest development continues New Mexico’s long-standing hesitancy on alcohol excise tax reform, with no adjustments made in over three decades despite persistent efforts.