UNM students push to keep alcohol tax a source of scholarship funding

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ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The New Mexico Lottery Scholarship is in jeopardy of losing a big chuck of funding that comes from a state alcohol tax and students are doing everything they can to prevent it.

In 2014, state legislators voted to help brim the scholarship fund with $19 million from the alcohol excise tax. But some state lawmakers said that’s not what the excise tax is intended for.

“When the liquor excise tax was first put into place it was understood that those tax dollars would go to DWI prevention programs,” Republic State Representative, Jason Harper, said. “Well then the legislature went back on its promise and now diverts half of that money to the general fund to spend on whatever they want.”

According to Harper, only 46 percent of liquor excise tax goes to DWI treatment programs and he wants that to change.

“We know we still have a big problem here in the state with DWI,” he said. “We need to be keeping our promise and use these dollars to fund these programs.”

However, students at the University of New Mexico said if this source of revenue is taken away, future students will suffer.

“If we’re talking any less than that 70-percent or 80-percent, we’re getting to where we’re going to see enrollment drop,” ASUNM President, Jenna Hagengruber said. “If students can’t pay for school they’re not going to stay in it.”

Right now the lottery scholarship covers around 90-percent of student tuition. According to lawmakers, if the chunk of change from the excise tax goes away, the lottery scholarship would only cover around 60-percent.

Hagengruber said she understands that when legislators took part of the alcohol excise tax to subsidize the scholarship fund, that it wasn’t a permanent fix, but she said students can’t afford to lose the help.

“My argument is that I always think it’s better to put money toward education,” she said. “Because if you have an educated population you’re more likely to have a decrease in DWI.”

Hagengruber said students plan to ask legislators for an extension this legislative session.

Senate Majority Leader, Michael Sanchez, said extending the tax fund to help the lottery scholarship is something legislators will discuss this session along with other funding options.

According to Sanchez the bill that allows alcohol tax to cover part of the lottery scholarship expires next year.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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