By Etta Pettijohn
Sierra County has a high number of retirees living on social security income, and can act now to ensure they keep more of that money.
Legislation to exempt social security income from state taxation passed the House Labor, Veteran and Military Affairs Committee on Feb. 2, with bipartisan support, before being tabled in another committee.
Currently sitting in the Tax and Revenue Committee, Rep. Rebecca Dow (R-38) said it’s not too late to see passage, if constituents call the committee Chair Javier Martinez, at (505) 986-4420 to request action. He can also be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. At press time the bill had not been scheduled for a hearing.
“It’s not dead yet, but needs lots of calls to the committee chair to come back to life,” said Dow.
According to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data, 37.4 percent of the population of Sierra County is 65 and older.
"Retirees that come here with strong retirement packages don't have to have government assistance for their medical needs. They buy RVS, boats, etc., and are the type of retirees that we should intentionally attract," Dow said.
"We tax their social security income and therefore people leave our state to go to our neighboring states where that tax has been eliminated," said Dow.
During the 2020 session, when the state enjoyed a revenue boom from oil and gas development, legislators blocked two proposals to repeal or reduce the tax on retirees, saying they needed further study before passage, and a plan to offset any revenue lost from the cuts.
The tax was attached as a single line on the last page of a bill in the final hours of the 1990 legislative session, with no public comment, which amounts to double taxation, since recipients pay state and federal taxes on the money when they earned it.
New Mexico is one of only 13 states that tax Social Security benefits.
According to Santa Fe-based think tank Think New Mexico, eliminating the state’s income tax on Social Security would save the average senior citizen nearly $700 a year.