Many NMPolitics.net readers are upset about Gov. Susana Martinez’s proposal to balance the budget in part by cutting state contributions to employee pensions — which would effectively reduce take-home pay for tens of thousands of state workers and teachers.
Martinez continues to oppose tax increases to help balance the budget. Her proposal would increase employee contributions to their retirement plans — and reduce the state’s contributions — by 3.5 percent.
Martinez asserted that the cuts are necessary now because the Legislature “avoided making tough choices” during a special session last fall — and to avoid furloughs.
But if discussions NMPolitics.net facilitated on Facebook are any indication, people are up in arms about her proposal. Retired state employee William Henry Mee of Santa Fe, for example, wrote about the sinking financial value of state jobs in New Mexico.
“You cannot run an organization any more into the ground than our governor has,” he wrote. “But then maybe that is the motive.”
Ona Porter, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Prosperity Works, asked whether people are tired of “this ‘cut-our-way-to-health’ nonsense.”
“Close the tax loopholes and get those who are profiting off of our hard work and resources to pay their fair share so we can appropriately invest in our families, kids and our future,” Porter wrote.
Shannon Marrs of Albuquerque wrote that she is a “hardworking teacher and mother that is already living paycheck to paycheck.”
“A decrease in take-home pay would be harmful to my family,” she wrote.
Rachel Minnaar, a teaching assistant (TA) in Albuquerque, shared similar sentiments.
“TAs get next to nothing and most have second or even third jobs,” she wrote. “We can’t afford to lower wages unless we want to put people out on the streets or make them completely reliant on social programs and welfare.”
Not all disagreed with Martinez. Stephen Barr of Monument wrote, “Hate to defend her, but it is about time a politician found a way to produce a budget that covered costs without increasing taxes.”
“Like most other businesses in the state, when times are tough, reductions have to be made,” he said.
Edwina Hewett of Mountainair questioned why government employees are a protected class.
“Everyone else lives in the real world, and if you have money shortfalls you drop things to keep your lights on and bills paid,” she wrote. “Our state government should be no different.”
And Greg Graves of Dexter pointed out, “If taxes are raised I have less take home pay. Where is the outrage?”
But the vast majority of commenters slammed the governor. Among them was David Barr of Truth or Consequences.
“I am a Republican and I have no respect for her,” Barr wrote. “We should start cuts with her paycheck.”
Carter Bundy, the political and legislative director for the employee union AFSCME in New Mexico, called the governor’s proposal “a tax increase for 50,000 or more N.M. families.”
“And only aimed primarily at those making $50,000/year or less,” he wrote. “And the money? It goes to protect tax loopholes for Wall Street players and out-of-state corporations. Really a pretty clear choice she’s presenting to legislators and the public.”
Hortencia Benavidez of Pojoaque is among those who is upset.
“I work for the schools. I already make nothing,” Benavidez wrote. “The retirement is the only reason I stay.”
Democratic lawmakers appear likely to fight against Martinez’s proposal.