New Mexico has just provided the latest example of how economic development subsidies can get voters’ attention. Democratic presidential politics aside, in New Mexico people are remarking on their own primary, which was apparently bad news for mega-developer SunCal, as it seeks massive Tax Increment Development District (TIDD) subsidies there (NM’s term for TIF).
As we detailed in an article last winter (and as attendees to our May conference heard from two speakers), New Mexico’s TIF program is now the most controversial in the nation. It radically deregulated TIDDs in 2006, and mega-developer Forest City Enterprises quickly landed $500 million in TIDD bonds for its Mesa del Sol project in Albuquerque.
Next came SunCal, seeking $690 million in TIDD bonds for the first phase of its huge 55,000-acre Westland/Atrisco parcel (dating back to a Spanish land grant) on Albuquerque’s western edge. Despite a massive lobbying effort in Santa Fe, however, SunCal’s TIDD, which required a state legislature vote, was filibustered at the end of the state legislative session this spring.
Now come Tuesday’s Democratic primary results. According to a local land-use activist: Representative Dan Silva, the sponsor of 2008’s SunCal TIDD enabling legislation (and who stated publicly that he intended to sponsor its re-introduction) was defeated by union organizer Eleanor Chavez.
State Senator James Taylor, who led the attempt to push SunCal’s deal through the Senate Floor in the final minutes of the 2008 session was defeated by Eric Griego (a pro-accountability former Albuquerque city councilor and currently executive director of budget watchdog New Mexico Voices for Children).
Senator Shannon Robinson, chair of a Senate committee who allowed SunCal’s bill through without a vote, was defeated by smart growth-oriented Tim Keller.
Two of the races were very lopsided; only one was within 8 points.