Montoya to propose tax hike

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Move would generate $340K

By Martin Salazar

San Miguel County commissioners grudgingly adopted an ordinance last week that requires the transfer of one-twelfth percent of gross receipts taxes collected in the county to the state for a new safety net care pool fund.

And county officials are contemplating raising taxes by the same amount to recoup the revenues that the county will be losing.

The county had previously used much of that money, which has typically amounted to about $340,000 a year, to reimburse Alta Vista Regional Hospital and Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center for healthcare services they provide to indigent San Miguel County residents.

But state lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation creating a central safety net care pool fund and requiring counties throughout the state to turn over a portion of their gross receipts tax revenues to fund the program.

Although county officials and commissioners aren’t happy about the move, the new state law required them to adopt the Safety Net ordinance that commissioners approved last Tuesday.

County Manager Les Montoya said one of the concerns county officials throughout the state have is that there is no guarantee that the their residents will continue to get the same indigent services they had been receiving when each county was in charge of its own program. Montoya said some southern counties are planning to file a lawsuit over the new legislation because they feel it is unconstitutional.

Montoya said the legislation that was approved also gives county commissions the authority to impose an additional gross receipts tax on its residents in the amount of one-twelfth percent, the same amount the county is losing.

“We’ll come back to you to ask to impose that additional GRT to make up for that,” the county manager added. He said the law allows counties to use the money for general fund purposes, such as roads and other public works projects.

Commissioner Ron Ortega raised concerns about that proposal, given that the initial purpose of the money was for healthcare costs.

Montoya countered that San Miguel County needs money for public works projects.

The Commission adopted the Safety Net ordinance unanimously. The tax proposal will be brought before the Commission at a later date.