February 17, 2021

New Mexico business groups take aim at legislative priorities

Matthew Reichbach

The New Mexico Chamber of Commerce and 21 other state business groups — including the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce — are asking the Legislature to refocus the 60-day session on promoting long-term economic recovery and competitiveness.

The group made the request via an advertisement that ran in nine of the state’s largest papers, including the Wednesday issue of The New Mexican, and drew the ire of House Speaker Brian Egolf, who defended the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s work on economic issues.

New Mexico Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rob Black said the Legislature should be focusing on legislation that improves New Mexico’s economic diversity and safeguard businesses as they reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which he says will help the state promote a more friendly economic climate and catch up to neighboring states like Texas, Colorado and Arizona. 

“We’re concerned that we’re heading down a path that will not make New Mexico more competitive, but less competitive,” Black said. “We certainly from the New Mexico chamber feel a sense of urgency from the state around making the investments, making the policy changes to diversify the economy, to use what we have today with oil and gas, to leverage that to build out new growth industries for the state.” 

The campaign targets 16 bills through a campaign website OpportunityNM.org — 10 in the House, five in the Senate and one in the Senate Judiciary Committee — as potentially harmful. 

“No business is going to want to invest in building a multimillion-dollar factory or billion-dollar factory in a state with a shifting regulatory regime that is so unpredictable,” Black said. “We’re just not competitive with our sister states.” 

Besides the Santa Fe chamber, other high-profile entities — the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, Economic Forum of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and a commercial real estate group best known by the acronym NAIOP — signed on to the ad. 

Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement the current session has been focused on recovery in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, contending the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce is “playing politics and taking cheap shots” at the Legislature via the advertisement. 

“It is long past time for the Chamber to work with us as we support New Mexico’s small businesses and economic growth,” Egolf said in the statement. “If the Chamber won’t get on board for our agenda to help New Mexico’s economy recover from the effects of a global pandemic, it should get out of the way and let us do what it takes to turn around New Mexico’s economy.”

Egolf said the Chamber is ignoring COVID-19 relief efforts brought forward by the Legislature. 

“Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature have led the way to help restore our economy, and other states are taking notice,” Egolf said. “It’s time for the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce to recognize and appreciate the hard work done to help New Mexico’s small businesses and the important work ahead to reimagine our economy.”

A representative for House Republicans did not respond by a request for comment. 

Senate Republicans issued a news release signed by 15 Senate Republicans, applauding the the campaign. 

“We are glad to see the business community banding together to advocate for what we have been saying since day one of the 2021 Legislative Session,” the release stated. “We recognize the mandate of the people is to take action to remedy the plight caused by COVID-19 and the ensuing shutdowns. We applaud this coalition for recognizing the need to reopen schools, businesses, and our state.”

According to Forbes, New Mexico is near the bottom of the spectrum for business attractiveness, ranking 48th in the U.S.