BY LISA SHIN
Republican Candidate for House District 43
Councilor Morrie Pongratz recently stated that “Under current state law TRIAD may qualify for a 501 (c) (3) GRT exemption. He went so far to say that Triad has a “moral obligation” to pay GRTs.
For the record, I am strongly opposed to legislation such as SB 17 that our Governor rightly vetoed. It would have cost our District jobs, put NM at a competitive disadvantage, and further complicated our tax code. It was not fair and equitable, as I wrote in an editorial, “Thanks to our Governor for SB17 Veto.”
TRIAD has agreed to voluntarily pay GRTs this year. That, of course, would be their prerogative to do so. The GRT situation remains uncertain, however, and we must elect new leadership that will exercise fiscal responsibility and good stewardship with American tax dollars, both local and federal.
Consider the following:
- TRIAD has no moral obligation to pay GRTs. Congress has no moral obligation to keep its operations in Los Alamos. Our Federal Government can decide to move its operations to a state that has better tax legislation and is more supportive of their scientific and national security missions.
- TRIAD does have a moral obligation to the American taxpayers, who deserve the best and highest use of their tax dollars. As I have said repeatedly, our National Laboratory serves the national interest, not our island of privilege. Khalil Spencer’s article: “Is Bombs for Profit a good model for a nuclear weapons lab?” suggests that our lavish amenities should be funded by Los Alamos residents, not the American taxpayers. This could mean increased user fees for public services or a privately funded $7M kiddie pool.
- While we have benefited immensely from LANL GRT revenues, we should have anticipated a change in contract and lived within our means. If our County Councilors had been more prudent with our tax dollars, they would be less dependent, not more dependent on LANL GRT revenues. I explained this in my editorial: “Save for the Lean Years.”
- Our National Laboratory has always supported Los Alamos with an excellent quality of life, safe community, and world class education. TRIAD is 100% committed to education and economic development for our region and our state.
- Despite LANL GRT revenues over the past decade, surrounding communities and our state’s problems with poverty, drug abuse, and poor education have only worsened. With the Regional Partnership School (RPS), Pojoaque Valley Schools, our National Laboratory, and Highlands University will combine its “expertise and resources to support improved teaching and learning (particularly in the crucial grades fourth through eighth), leading to better outcomes for teachers and students. It is also intended to be a model of innovation for New Mexico educators and policy makers.” RPS is a targeted approach that addresses specific programs in the most effective way possible. We should support and expand on such models of innovation.
- Prior to LANL GRT’s, Los Alamos County received “direct assistance” payments to support our community. I support such a model where payments are negotiated and mutually beneficial. Our local government would have to adopt a reasonable budget that best serves its citizens.
- One good example: Brookhaven National Laboratory is exempt from New York state and local Taxes, as well as property taxes, but provides annual PILOT payments. These funds are distributed to local school, fire, and library districts. Senator Charles Schumer (D) praised a recent increase in PILOT payments. “This steady stream of PILOT payments helps keep essential services going and taxes in check. Town taxpayers deserve this win…”
Councilor Chandler said that TRIAD is “more than happy” to pay GRTs. But since this issue does not directly impact LANL managers or their salaries, TRIAD is likely to be indifferent to the situation. But Congress would be right to question any change to their tax-exempt status and demand accountability. Our County Council’s $7155.99 taxpayer funded trip to the White House would have been far better spent discussing Los Alamos’ support for DOE’s proposed $4.2 B expansion of its programs.
If elected, my job as state legislator would be to support legislation that protect the American taxpayer and that are most beneficial to our National Laboratory’s long-term success. That means keeping our National Laboratory’s overhead costs as low as possible, so that its workforce, infrastructure, and its scientific base can be expanded.