Why It’s Time for States to Raise Their Tobacco Taxes

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/Why-Its-Time-for-States-to-Raise-Their-Tobacco-Taxes.html


In the face of the pandemic, states across the geographic and political spectrum — including Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico and New York — are actively considering tobacco tax increases during their legislative sessions. Last month, a bipartisan supermajority in the Maryland Legislature moved to increase the state’s cigarette tax by $1.75 per pack, the first increase in nearly a decade, and to establish a tax on e-cigarettes to fund tobacco cessation and health programs.

The growing legislative momentum comes after voters in Colorado and Oregon approved tobacco tax increases in ballot measures last November. Colorado, which had not raised tobacco taxes in 16 years, will collect an estimated $175 million in revenue during the 2021-22 budget year for tobacco cessation and health programs. In Oregon, higher tobacco taxes will generate an estimated $160 million per year and help to fund the care of people with mental illnesses and other conditions.


Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: Governing

The Lost Year: What the Pandemic Cost Teenagers

Link: https://www.propublica.org/article/the-lost-year-what-the-pandemic-cost-teenagers


As many of these experts have noted, the cost of restrictions on youth has gone beyond academics. The CDC found that the proportion of visits to the emergency room by adolescents between ages 12 and 17 that were mental-health-related increased 31% during the span of March to October 2020, compared with the same months in 2019.A study in the March 2021 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, of people aged 11 to 21 visiting emergency rooms found “significantly higher” rates of “suicidal ideation” during the first half of 2020 (compared to 2019), as well as higher rates of suicide attempts, though the actual number of suicides remained flat.


Even with fall sports canceled, the Hobbs school district, with almost 10,000 students, was still hoping to open the new school year for as much in-person instruction as possible. More than just scholastic considerations were driving this. In late April, six weeks into the spring’s pandemic lockdowns, the community had been stunned by the suicide of an 11-year-old boy, Landon Fuller, an outgoing kid who loved going to school and had, his mother said, struggled with the initial lockdowns.

New Mexico has consistently had one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country — it’s roughly twice the national average — and preliminary state statistics would later show the 2020 rate as unchanged. Nationwide, deaths by suicide in the 10-to-24 age group increased by half between 2007 and 2018, a trend that has been linked to multiple factors, from the growing availability of guns to the spread of smartphones and social media. In New Mexico, mental health experts say, the factors also include high rates of depression on Native American reservations, and rural isolation in general.

Author(s): Alec MacGillis

Publication Date: 8 March 2021

Publication Site: ProPublica

Senate passes bill boosting ERB pension fund

Link: https://www.abqjournal.com/2363378/senate-passes-bill-boosting-pension-fund-contributions.html


New Mexico’s teacher pension fund would benefit from stepped-up taxpayer-funded contributions under a bill that won Senate approval Thursday.

Senators voted 36-6 to pass the measure, Senate Bill 42, which would also extend for two more years a program for retired educators who return to the classroom.


Specifically, the bill would increase the taxpayer-funded employer contribution rate paid into the pension fund by 1 percentage point over each of the next four years – taking the rate from 14.15% to 18.15% by the 2025 budget year. Employee contribution rates into the fund would not change.


Publication Date: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico PERA executive director taking new position

Link: https://www.pionline.com/pension-funds/new-mexico-pera-executive-director-taking-new-position


Wayne Propst, executive director of the $16.5 billion New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association, Santa Fe, will be leaving on Feb. 12 to join the staff of New Mexico state Sen. George K. Munoz, Mr. Propst said in an email.

Author: Arleen Jacobius

Publication Date: 22 January 2021

Publication Site: Pensions & Investment