New Mexico gubernatorial candidates spar over tax returns

June 1, 2018
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FILE - In this April 6, 2018 file photo, Democratic Congresswoman and gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham addresses political supporters and campaign volunteers at the opening of a campaign office in Santa Fe, N.M. Two of the four candidates for governor in New Mexico have provided their tax returns in response to a request from a newspaper. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that two Democrats, businessman Jeff Apodaca and state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, agreed to the newspaper's request to provide their tax returns. But Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce declined to provide tax returns and instead offered the documents they file as members of Congress, which don't provide as much detail. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham made public her personal tax returns dating back to 2013 that show she shared in profits from state contracts to operate a health insurance program, which — while legal — her Democratic rival condemned as morally repugnant.

Lujan Grisham posted online five years of federal and state tax returns dating back to her first year in Congress, noting that the financial disclosures go beyond those provided by rival Democratic candidates.

Lujan Grisham is competing for the Democratic nomination in a three-way race with former media executive Jeff Apodaca and state Sen. Joseph Cervantes.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for a third consecutive term. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is the sole Republican gubernatorial candidate.

New Mexico’s primary concludes Tuesday.

Apodaca, the son of a former governor, renewed criticism Thursday of Lujan Grisham for profiting from state contracts through a business partnership with a state lawmaker, asserting that the company administered an unnecessary insurance program at the expense of taxpayers.

“It’s time our politicians stop profiting off the backs of New Mexicans,” Apodaca said.

Lujan Grisham defended her role as a partner in Delta Consulting, before divesting last year, as way to ensure health care access for severely ill and vulnerable people.

Delta is the administrator of New Mexico’s high-risk insurance pool that provides health coverage to about 2,400 people with a variety of sever or complex illnesses and immigrants who are in the country illegally and cannot qualify for federally subsidized health insurance.

Democratic state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, the treasurer of Lujan Grisham’s campaign and chairwoman of a legislative committee on health policy, is now sole owner of the business.

In the newly released tax forms, Lujan Grisham reported annual income from her ownership stake in Delta that ranged from just under $50,000 to nearly $138,000.

Apodaca and some state lawmakers from both major parties have questioned the need for New Mexico’s high-risk insurance pool in light of subsidized marketplace insurance policies offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Members of an oversight board for the insurance pool say the program still provides a crucial safety net, helps stabilize insurance markets and is funded through an assessment on insurance carriers.

Delta won management contracts in a competitive bidding process that recognized the company’s “unmatched expertise in the health policy field, and their experience in management and administration,” the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool board said in a statement Thursday.

Dominic Gabello, campaign manager for Lujan Grisham, described Delta as a small business that has demonstrated Lujan Grisham’s commitment to helping the highly vulnerable patients and said that Apodaca has mischaracterized the high risk pool and how it is funded.

“Her small business did not make millions of dollars or anything close to that,” Gabello said in a news release. “She worked to help those who had been denied health care coverage and make sure they were able to access the care they need — including patients with cancer or HIV that were fighting for their lives.”

Through a campaign manager, Lujan Grisham called on Republican candidate Pearce to follow her example by providing directly to the public at least five years of tax returns. Pearce told a radio show host Wednesday that he would release his tax returns if Lujan Grisham did.

For 2017, Lujan Grisham reported total income of $195,000 including her congressional salary. She paid roughly $36,000 in federal taxes, not including Social Security and Medicare contributions, along with $7,600 in state income taxes.

Apodaca has provided details of his 2016 tax returns to media outlets. Cervantes also has provided his 2016 tax filings upon request, while redacting information about business partners including family members.

Update hourly