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New Mexico legislature convenes to consider relief for gas, food prices

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Roz Brown

(New Mexico News Connection) With the goal of providing financial relief for New Mexicans struggling with higher prices for gas and food, legislators convene today for a special session in Santa Fe.

The governor has said she'd like changes made to a spending bill to protect New Mexicans' paychecks and deliver additional relief and financial security.

James Peach, professor emeritus of economics at New Mexico State University, said despite the Federal Reserve raising interest rates last month to ward off a recession, he does not expect a quick turnaround.

"There's not a lot of reason to be optimistic right now," Peach asserted. "And given the supply chain stuff and the war in Ukraine, there's probably not going to be any relief from this for several months."

New Mexico has a $1 billion budget surplus right now from oil-and-gas industry receipts, and the legislative session is likely to result in rebate checks. The advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children would like to see people at the lower end of the income scale get a little more money to help them pay rent and buy groceries.

According to a recent CBS News report, repercussions from COVID-19 and rising gas prices due to Russia's war against Ukraine could cost Americans up to $3,000 this year.

Peach believes the sacrifice Americans are making right now is fairly minimal. 

"Paying $5 a gallon for gasoline, while you're waiting in Starbucks for a $6 latte, just doesn't strike me as a sacrifice," Peach contended.

In New Mexico, a gallon of gas is more than $4, but Peach argued only those who make the least amount of money are truly feeling the pinch.

"Gasoline is a very small portion of the average consumer's budget," Peach explained. "That's not true if you're at the really low end of the income scale and have to drive to work some distance. But cars these days get much better gas mileage than they used to."

As of late March, New Mexico's unemployment rate was improving, but still the highest of any state in the country at 5.9 percent, according to the state's Department of Workforce Solutions.