As lawmakers head to the roundhouse to address our state’s budget woes, the question keeps coming up: how did we get here? How did our state come to a place where we face a deficits of half a billion dollars?
Juan Sanchez III is the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico
Several issues combined to create the perfect storm. Our state suffers from a significant dip in oil prices, a shrinking workforce, and severe mismanagement in the Governor’s office. Let’s be clear—if Governor Martinez had made the economy the focus of her administration, we would not be in this mess.
New Mexico depends heavily on revenues from oil and gas. When those prices took a dive, so did our state’s income. If Governor Martinez had focused on diversifying our energy economy by investing in solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources, like many Democrats want to do, we could have reduced a heavy blow to our economy. But instead, she doubled down on oil and gas, gave those industries free reign, failed to hold them accountable, and allowed the oil and gas industry to run our economy at the risk of the health of our communities.
The administration has a clear case of misplaced priorities. Instead of focusing on jobs for nearly six years, Governor Martinez sought a contentious right wing agenda at the expense of our state’s most vulnerable. She continues to look at the budget as a problem she can solve without prioritizing education and programs that create opportunity for everyday New Mexicans.
Governor Martinez showed a dangerous lack of concern for New Mexico families when she completely turned our behavioral health system upside down. Thousands of New Mexicans lost services, and the entire ordeal cost the state $28 million dollars to recover $1.6 million in over-billing. Not to mention more than 1,600 people lost their jobs to out-of-state companies Governor Martinez brought in, who eventually dropped their patients and left our communities without substance abuse treatment or mental health services.
She took up valuable session time to wage a five-year war against our immigrant communities and risked the safety of drivers. These sessions would have been better spent creating an environment for economic growth.
Stack that on top of the administration’s chronic mismanagement that left $193 million dollars in taxes from insurance companies uncollected and a failure to utilize billions of dollars already allocated.
Our state’s workforce continues to shrink due to a the decreasing availability of good paying jobs. Young people are leaving the New Mexico after graduating from our top-notch universities, because they cannot find jobs. Governor Martinez is not focusing on creating an environment for good paying jobs of the future—instead she’s focused on helping out her corporate out-of-state donors.
The Governor dealt blow to our rural communities when she line item vetoed 25 acequia projects and numerous infrastructure projects in our tribal communities that would have created jobs and built infrastructure for economic growth.
The past two years, Governor Martinez had a Republican House push harmful tax breaks for corporations, which only worsened our state’s budget problems. The Governor and Republicans in the House think that tax breaks for corporations will save New Mexico. But the truth is, that route failed. Now, our state faces a budget shortfall of $223 million for FY2016 and an estimated shortfall of $458 million for FY2017.
Yesterday, Governor Martinez finally called a special session after months of traveling outside the state and avoiding the problem. Now,she is shifting focus away from our budget, a dangerous pattern she continues to repeat.
Let’s face it: under Governor Martinez’s leadership our state has fallen to the bottom in child well-being, education, and unemployment. The Governor’s lack of focus on the economy caused our state to miss out on important revenue streams and our economic outlook continues to worsen while she’s out of state promoting her national profile.
Before a trip to Texas in August, Governor Martinez tried to hedge her failure by directing five percent cuts across the board, showing a complete inability to prioritize education and important programs that build opportunities for everyday New Mexicans.
Many of our state’s crime problems that Governor Martinez cites as a priority can be traced back to her failed economic policies. A shortage of mental and behavioral health services and lack of opportunity coupled with diminished resources for law enforcement have only increased crime in our state.
Governor Martinez may try to distract the public from her failed economic agenda, but it doesn’t change the fact that she put New Mexico in this position and she lacks the leadership ability to bring us out of it. We need to focus on the task at hand and make New Mexico the state it has the potential to be.