“Tax lightning” refers to a major increase in a homeowner’s assessed property value, immediately after the home is bought, to reflect the current market rate. Until a home changes hands, state law prevents the county assessor from increasing its taxable value by more than 3 percent each year.
Several district courts around New Mexico have ruled in favor of homeowners who sued the state over “tax lightning,” saying the current law is unfair because recent homebuyers pay significantly more taxes than neighbors who have owned their homes longer.
House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Nambé, sponsored the 2000 law that created the 3 percent annual cap. The law was prompted by longtime homeowners in Santa Fe County who were seeing their property taxes soar during the real-estate boom here in the 1980s and ’90s.