- Associated Press - Sunday, February 26, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A political battle is brewing between Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales and two city councilors over the mayor’s proposal to tax sugary drinks to fund early childhood education programs.

The City Council will decide next month whether to ask voters if they want a 2-cents-an-ounce tax on soda and other sweetened beverages, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/2kZONTr ).

Gonzalez wants to hold a special election to decide on the tax question in May. But councilors Joseph Maestas and Ron Trujillo introduced a resolution last week to delay a vote until the regularly scheduled March 2018 election.

The fight over the timing of the election comes as both Maestas and Trujillo are considering running for mayor next year.

Gonzales, who has yet to announce whether he will seek a second four-year term, is also considering running for governor of New Mexico. Delaying a vote on the tax proposal could deprive him of a chance to add a win for early child education to his list of accomplishments in either a mayoral or gubernatorial campaign.

At a City Council meeting, Gonzales told the pair he was “incredibly disappointed” with their proposal to resolve the tax question next year. He said the legislation “can be not only confusing (to voters) but, quite honestly, disingenuous when it comes to the issue of whether there is support or no support for early childhood.”

Gonzales also took the time to criticize Trujillo, who claimed in a Facebook post last week that an amendment to the tax proposal that would exempt beverages with less than five grams of sugar was meant to benefit a family member of Gonzalez’s who works in the sweetened-drinks business.

“Invoking and bringing in my family members who’ve had nothing to do with our dispute in this was entirely inappropriate and unfair,” Gonzales said. “I hope as we go forward in this, however we do, the two of you have my commitment through this process that I will keep it clean and keep it fair.”

Trujillo agreed to keep their relationship civil and took to Facebook on Thursday to apologize.

In a statement, Gonzalez said Maestas and other council members have had the opportunity to “help us craft the strongest possible solution” at every step in the process.

“There’s still time for (Maestas) to do that, and the invitation is always open, but we won’t keep kicking this can down the road,” Gonzalez said.

Maestas has said he is concerned about the cost of a special election, which has been estimated at $75,000. He also said there are “still a lot of missing pieces” and questions that haven’t been answered.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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