The Bernalillo County Commission voted last night to postpone a tax hike for a special session that will likely happen next week. The one-quarter of 1 percent tax increase on goods and services would be divided up as follows: Half of it would go to mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and half of it would go to the county’s operational budget.
It’s the second half that commissioners are having doubts about. The mental health portion of the tax seems to have support of at least three of five commissioners. But South Valley Commissioner Art De La Cruz is calling for additional conditions for spending, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The tax hike also received a thumb’s up from 69 percent of voters in the 2014 election, who approved a one-eighth of 1 percent tax increase for mental health—though that ballot measure was only an advisory one. The commission still has to approve such a tax hike.
A crisis center where people could go to get stabilized and plugged into services would be top priority for that funding, according to Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins. She says this would also alleviate pressure on hospital emergency rooms and the county jail, where people in crisis are often routed now. In the long run, she estimates, this will save money.
Commissioner Wayne Johnson has said that Bernalillo County should seek collaboration from the city of Albuquerque, UNMH and others instead of raising taxes for behavioral health care. Defining objectives, coming up with a budget, and seeking help from other entities would be a more sustainable approach, he argued in an op-ed.