New Mexico Senate considers $200 million in business relief

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – A bill is headed toward a state Senate vote that would provide $200 million from the state general fund to thousands of businesses that experienced income declines in 2020.

Scheduled for a crucial vote Thursday, the bill would provide individual grants of up to $100,000 without repayment to businesses for the reimbursement of rent, lease or mortgage obligations. The arrangement tests the boundaries of the state Constitution’s “anti-donation clause” that prohibits government donations as a precaution against corruption.

The proposal from Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf and allied state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos stands among a long list of bills aimed at reviving the local economy as New Mexico emerges from the pandemic and aggressive emergency health orders from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

A Senate committee this week rejected provisions of the bill that would have permanently boosted payouts from the state’s closing fund for business expansions and relocations. Senate approval would return the bill to the House for consideration of the amended initiative.

“When you’re closed, and you have no other source of income, and you just need to survive, we need to make those opportunities for New Mexicans in any way, shape or form,” Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup said Wednesday as the lead Senate budget committee endorsed the grant program.

Republican Sen. Pat Woods of Grady bristled at the prospect of continued business restrictions as relief initiatives are drafted.

¨There still aren’t any assurances that we’ll have those businesses open,” Woods said.

News Reporter