On Tuesday, the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee convened to discuss S.B. 11, the de-facto gas tax on the poor by over 20 cents per gallon. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Bernalillo).
When asked simple questions about her bill and the math not adding up in the cost of gasoline pushed on consumers, she erroneously claimed, “Gas is cheaper now than when they started.” However, according to raw gas prices from California and Oregon, the states she championed as models for New Mexico, the prices in 2014 and 2015 for California and Oregon respectively were cheaper then than when they implemented the clean fuel standards.
Rep. James Strickler (R-San Juan) brought up the fact that the California equivalent of New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee urged the state to shut down the clean fuel standards program due to cost concerns with transportation that ultimately went on to the consumer.
He noted how in Farmington, where he is located, “We pay probably 25 to 30 cents higher in gasoline costs up here.”
Stewart clapped back, “I don’t” have concerns. “I’m certainly proud that you all are concerned about low income. I don’t think it’s going to impact us,” she said, adding, “We’ve got two years to phase this in. We’re going to do it right.”
Rep. Rod Montoya (R-San Juan) echoed Rep. Strickler’s concerns, saying, “The poor are going to be the ones who are going to be the ones most affected by this.”
At this point, Stewart got frustrated, as she did in multiple other committee hearings when faced with the truth about her unaffordable gas tax on the poor. She said, “When everybody talks about, ‘Oh the poor are gonna be hurt,’ I do believe the poor care about the climate,” she said.
“This is bigger than just the cost of gasoline…. This program does not really affect the cost of gasoline, like so many other factors that go into it.”
“Two cents a year — That is nothing,” she said, claiming, “I am not concerned about that because I do believe this is kind of fear mongering…. I want to answer honestly because that’s how I feel about it.”
“The cost is in the transportation — that’s where the poor people in rural New Mexico get hit,” Montoya clapped back.
He added that the example of supposed “new investment” in New Mexico used by Stewart, a company in Clovis, had their production in Texas which was across the border.
“The problem was the delivery cost,” said Montoya. He noted that transportation costs would be “astronomical” if someone lived in a more rural area, such as Deming. “The cost was going to be outrageous,” said Montoya.
“That’s where the poor people in rural New Mexico get hit,” he said, “The cost to transport is where the cost comes from.”
“If you live in California and you have a lot more outlets like that, the cost goes down…. that’s a real number that’s a real factor.”
When Stewart was pressed on the lack of legislative oversight that the commission responsible for implementing the clean fuel standard would have, she replied, “No. I have seen us year after year after year come back and make changes” She added, “I have no fears about that.”
After dismissing the very real concerns of the rural representatives, Democrats made a motion to pass the bill, with all Democrats voting for it while all Republicans stood up for the poor and voted against it, with the S.B. 11 passing on a vote of 7-4. The gas tax on the poor bill now heads to the House floor for final approval.
Find and contact your legislator to oppose the bill by clicking here.