NM governor candidates split on releasing tax returns

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Four of the seven candidates running for governor this year have voluntarily released their tax returns for the last two years, though some candidates only provided partial returns or summaries of their taxes.

The Journal asked all candidates who have qualified for the June 7 primary election ballot to release their tax returns, in order to provide information to voters about income sources.

gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is unopposed in next month’s Democratic primary, was joined in releasing her tax returns by Republicans Mark Ronchetti, Jay Block and Rebecca Dow.

The two other GOP candidates in the race – Greg Zanetti and Ethel Maharg – did not release their returns. Libertarian candidate Karen Bedonie also did not immediately comply with the Journal’s request.

New Mexico state law does not require the release of tax returns by gubernatorial candidates, unlike some states like California and Vermont that do mandate such disclosure.

But there is recent precedent for doing so, as both Lujan Grisham and Republican nominee Steve Pearce released their tax returns in the run-up to the 2018 race for governor, though Pearce only released tax return cover sheets.

For this year’s race, some candidates who did not release their tax returns indicated they might consider doing so in coming days or weeks.

“I prefer to do that after the primary,” said Maharg, the former mayor of Cuba who is one of five Republicans vying for the party’s nomination in the June 7 primary race.

Here are synopses of tax returns released by the candidates who complied with the Journal’s request:

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

The state’s Democratic incumbent governor, who is seeking reelection this year, released her entire tax returns for both 2020 and 2021.

Specifically, she reported making $79,629 in 2021 adjusted gross income after deductions, with the bulk of that figure coming from her $110,000 annual salary as governor set in state law. Lujan Grisham also made about $8,200 in investment earnings and interest.

After paying $11,151 in federal taxes and $3,036 in state taxes, the governor received a $1,134 federal tax refund and a $30 state refund.

Lujan Grisham’s income level was similar in 2020, her second full year of governor, when she made $76,144 in total income, according to her tax return provided to the Journal. She also received slightly larger tax refunds that year.

“Governor Lujan Grisham is committed to transparency and that’s why she believes it is fundamental to release her tax returns,” her campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer told the Journal.

While Lujan Grisham filed her taxes as a single individual, her filing status could be set to change. That’s because the governor is set to marry her longtime fiancé Manny Cordova later this month.

Mark Ronchetti

Mark Ronchetti

Ronchetti’s campaign released a letter from his accountant that detailed the 2020 returns Ronchetti filed jointly with his wife, Krysty O’Quinn Ronchetti, but did not release the actual tax returns.

The Ronchettis have not yet filed their 2021 tax returns, as they applied for an extension due to a delay in receiving income tax documents, a campaign spokesman said.

In 2020, the Ronchettis reported an adjusted gross income of $78,410, which includes wages from both Ronchetti’s job as a KRQE-TV meteorologist and his wife’s work with a communications firm, according to their accountant.

Ronchetti only worked for part of 2020, as he stepped down from his meteorologist job that year in order to run for an open US Senate seat. He won a three-way GOP primary, but was defeated in that year’s general election by Democrat Ben Ray Luján.

After the election, Ronchetti returned to KRQE for most of 2021. He stepped down again in October shortly before announcing his campaign for governor.

Meanwhile, the Ronchettis also reported 2020 income from pensions and annuities, investment earnings and from a pass through entity, or a business that passes its income – and losses – on to the business’ owners or investors.

That entity is SJ Communications Inc., an Albuquerque-based company that was founded and is led by Krysty Ronchetti, according to state business records.

The firm has done public relations work for the state Tourism Department’s “New Mexico True” marketing campaign, among other clients.

Rebecca Dow

Rebecca Dow

Dow, a three-term state lawmaker from Truth or Consequences, filed taxes jointly with her husband in both 2020 and 2021.

Dow’s campaign released only her state and federal tax return cover sheets – not the attached tax schedules – that showed the couple had an adjusted gross income of $178,851 for 2021 and $98,888 for 2020.

They also reported receiving, selling or exchanging virtual currency in both years, though her campaign manager Josh Siegel did not respond to a Journal question about the transactions.

Dow, who reported loaning $40,000 to her campaign in April, said on a mandatory state financial disclosure form in January that she is self-employed. She previously founded an early childhood learning center in Sierra County.

Her husband, Aaron Dow, is the president of Dow Technology, a software development company, and Rebecca Dow is listed as the company’s vice president, according to state records.

He also worked for the state Department of Health, but quit his job due to COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements, Dow’s campaign has previously said.

Meanwhile, the Dows gave $6,150 in charitable contributions in 2020, her campaign manager told the Journal.

Jay Block

Jay Block

Block, who released his entire tax returns for both years, reported making $192,330 in adjusted gross income in 2021, with most of that income voting from his work as both a defense consultant and as a Sandoval County commissioner.

He also received $43,203 from his military retirement as a US Air Force officer for more than 20 years.

Those income levels represented an increase from 2020, as Block reported making $131,580 in adjusted gross income that year, with $29,336 coming from his military pension benefits.

Block faced a 2021 federal tax bill of $36,122 and a state tax bill of $8,503, which were both higher than his tax payments from a year earlier.

Block, who filed his returns as a single taxpayer, also reported a charitable contribution of $3,715 to Gospel Light Baptist Church in Rio Rancho in 2021.

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