(The Center Square) – New Mexico’s Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee heard a presentation on guaranteed income for New Mexicans and some lawmakers expect to see a proposal in the new year’s legislative session.
A pilot program already exists in Santa Fe, which legislators are taking into consideration. Santa Fe’s program directs guaranteed income to a specific demographic: those who are attending Santa Fe Community College and have children, KOB-4 reported.
Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a free-market research institute, said his group isn’t automatically opposed to the idea, but he says the devil is in the details.
“We’re not going to dismiss it out of hand, but we definitely want to see a lot of details fleshed out before we say whether we would support or not support something along these lines,” he told The Center Square.
Gessing has two main concerns when it comes to a guaranteed income.
“One – what are we looking at in terms of existing welfare programs?” he said.
If lawmakers merely layered a guaranteed income program over existing welfare programs, Gessing said that would not have his support. But if it replaced the current system, he thinks that could have merit.
“If we’re talking about a replacement system that somehow empowers recipients to actually make decisions for themselves instead of relying on these and other existing government programs, there’s at least some consideration there,” he said.
The other concern Gessing noted is funding.
He points to Alaska’s Permanent Fund, which uses oil and gas industry revenues to pay dividends to residents, as a potential template.
“New Mexico needs to support the oil and gas industry politically and you know, I hate to say it but, having that Permanent Fund Distribution like Alaska does – that dividend gives Alaskans a stake in the success of the oil and gas industry, and I think that has some interesting implications for New Mexico,” he said.
While there are ways a guaranteed income program could be developed into a useful program, Gessing said his suspicion is that it will be one more welfare program that will make things worse. It could disincentivize people from joining the workforce, creating a worker shortage similar to what New Mexico is currently facing.
If the program is funded through the general fund, Gessing points out that will simply grow government.
"It’s not a very effective use of government money or taxpayer dollars to just take it and start distributing checks to people,” he said.
He adds the current administration in Washington is leading the way toward engendering dependency in the American people as a whole.
“We need to get back to the ethos of work and individual achievement in our society,” Gessing said.