A legislative push to send more money from Los Alamos National Laboratory to its Española Valley neighbors notched a victory last week, spurring revenue negotiations with Los Alamos County, officials said.
According to state Rep. Joseph Sanchez (D-Alcalde), Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo) has agreed to a potential committee study that would examine more equitable regional tax distributions from LANL or other federal research facilities in New Mexico.
The study would happen only if negotiations with Los Alamos County fail to resolve the issue, Sanchez said.
Sanchez last month filed a memorial in the statehouse asking that the study be conducted by either a state taxation task force, or the statehouse Legislative Finance Committee and Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committees.
Sanchez said the memorial garnered 15 co-sponsors, including members of the tax committee itself, but Lente never scheduled the memorial for a hearing.
In a Facebook note to his supporters Wednesday, Sanchez said Lente “has agreed to study this issue in the Revenue Stabilization & Tax Policy Committee during the interim without having to pass our memorial, but asked we give Los Alamos County a chance to resolve this issue as a local government first.”
“We have achieved what we were trying to do with our memorial without having to pass it!” the representative wrote.
Reached by the SUN, Lente declined to discuss the developments.
“At this point I don’t think its appropriate to talk about any of the discussions they’re having,” Lente said of the talks involving Los Alamos County. “I want to let them work through that process with all those stakeholders behind closed doors.”
“It sounds like they’re going into this with good faith, and at this point to write anything to garner a story is really not appropriate,” Lente said.
A spokesperson for Los Alamos County did not respond to questions about the negotiations.
With Rio Arriba County and Española struggling to pay for basic services and essential infrastructure, Sanchez and his allies have been pushing for a percentage of annual LANL tax revenue or other funds.
Sanchez thanked a number of people and governing bodies he said supported his memorial including the Santa Fe County Commission, the Española City Council, former Española Mayor Javier Sanchez, Rio Arriba County Commissioner Chair Alex Naranjo, former Rio Arriba County Manager Lucia Sanchez and the Ohkay Owingeh and Santa Clara Pueblos.
LANL has relied on essential labor from the Española Valley for more than 70 years to support its nuclear research and weapons work. Yet the massive economic benefits from the lab have flowed almost exclusively to Los Alamos County, critics say.
Data provided by Sanchez shows the Gross Receipts Tax rate in Los Alamos County, the wealthiest county in New Mexico, is 7.18 percent. The state’s share of those taxes is five percent, with the rest of the money, 2.18 percent, incrementally flowing to Los Alamos County, the data shows.
Rio Arriba County’s official share of that money is zero, authorities said.
More than a decade ago, a coalition of northern communities signed memorandums of understanding with Los Alamos County that ensured small but reoccurring payments, authorities said. Those agreements lapsed.
In November, Los Alamos County Council members voted to funnel $2.3 million toward two Rio Arriba County infrastructure projects. Other expenditures have been made by the council in recent years with an eye toward more economic equity for its neighbors.
Critics say those monies are hardly enough, and insist the lab and Los Alamos County do more to support communities where most of LANL’s work force resides.
Editor’s Note: Rep. Joseph Sanchez is an investor in El Rito Media, which owns the Rio Grande SUN.
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