Democrats in the state Legislature on Thursday outlined a six-point jobs plan, including a raise in the minimum wage and spending on public works projects, that they said would be their focus for the remaining 50 days of the legislative session. But Democrats were unable to project how many jobs would be created by the plan or provide details on how some parts of the plan would work. Still, they promised to deliver for a state still trying to find its economic footing more than seven years after the end of the Great Recession. “Today, families and young people in our state are confronted with poor prospects for getting a job,” Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, said at a news conference on the Senate floor. “Far too many residents are living in real economic distress, and anxious about the future for themselves and their children.
Gov. Susana Martinez tapped the city of Rio Rancho’s former economic development and business relations manager to head the state’s Economic Development Department. Martinez announced the appointment of Matt Geisel as the secretary-designate of the Economic Development Department on Tuesday. “Matt knows firsthand what it takes to bring new jobs and investment to our state,” Martinez said in a statement. “He was with me when we first met with executives from Facebook in the Bay Area; he’s a proven leader who will continue to spread the message that New Mexico is open for business.”
Geisel said he was “humbled and honored” by the governor’s appointment. “I’m looking forward to continuing efforts to diversify New Mexico’s economy,” Geisel said.
Jon Barela is leaving his position as Economic Development Department secretary to head a non-profit aimed at promoting business at the border. Gov. Susana Martinez announced the news in a press release Monday morning. Martinez praised Barela on his way out in a statement. “Jon has been critical in helping us diversify our economy, and now, in his new position, he will be able to continue building on our record of success along the border,” Martinez said. “Because of our work, we’re less reliant on the federal government, and we’ve become a leader in international commerce and trade.
With crude prices plummeting Monday to a six-year low, state senators approved a $6.2 billion state budget with fingers crossed that the cost of oil will at least stay steady enough to preserve funding plans until the next fiscal year. Sen. John Arthur Smith, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said steep drops in oil and natural gas prices meant a $35 million reduction in total revenue available for appropriations. “We’re moving ahead precariously,” said the Democrat from Deming, adding that “we’re hoping that this next year will be a better year, but we’re very concerned.”
The Senate’s budget for the most part closely tracks the House version. The Senate version has an added $12.9 million to result in a small 1.3 percent increase across all state government programs.
That $12.9 million was divvied up for additional investments for the public schools’ K-3 Plus interventions and increases for the Developmental Disability waiver and Family, Infant and Toddler Programs. It also includes a salary boost for nurses and allied professions and a restoration of funds cut in previous years for public broadcasting and higher education athletic programs.
The Senate also added $2.5 million in non-recurring spending to the state’s fund for the Local Economic Development Act. The cabinet-level Economic Development Department had requested $50 million for the program, which allows local governments to create public-private partnerships for economic development projects.