Public funds require utmost accountability

Some local governments are just learning the fiscally troubling news that they will not be getting back as much in gross receipts tax revenue from the state as they thought they would.

Businesses collect the gross-receipts tax from consumers and turn it over to the state, which distributes the tax revenue to cities, counties and other agencies.

Last month, Bernalillo County received $1 million less than it had anticipated and has been told to expect to be short another $1 million in revenue this month.

The county had expected about $94 million in gross receipts tax revenue this fiscal year, but the total is likely to be about 3 percent less. While such adjustments are required fairly often, the suddenness and short notice can be challenging to local government budgets.

What's troubling is the state isn't giving out much information, except to say some companies are claiming they overpaid their gross receipts taxes.

Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla says state and federal rules governing taxpayers' rights prevent her from providing more details. While businesses can expect some degree of confidentiality, this is public money we're talking about. There should be more accountability than just "trust us."

Padilla says the department is checking with its attorneys to see whether more information can be released. It should, because there ought to be a way for local governments and the public to know that the amounts of money distributed are legitimate.

Accountability of public money is still job No. 1 for state government.

— Albuquerque Journal

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