Constitutional Amendment 1, which will allow an increase from the Permanent Land Grant Fund distribution by 1.25 percent, won by a large margin. As of 9:45 p.m., the votes in favor were 349,579 to 146,969 opposed. Those in favor carried the vote by 70 percent. Angie Poss, spokesperson for Vote Yes for Kids! Constitutional Amendment 1, a group that has been working to convince voters to vote in favor of the amendment, said by phone that the celebration at Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque, after a decade-long fight, was joyous.
If Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti wins election, he can still impact reproductive rights policy, even without being able to pass his priorities through the Legislature with Democratic majorities. Ronchetti has campaigned on an anti-abortion policy. During the Republican primary, his campaign website said he believed “life should be protected – at all stages.” In a commercial in September he said, that if elected, he would support a voter referendum on banning abortion after 15 weeks. But in July, Albuquerque megachurch pastor Steve Smothermon said Ronchetti told him privately that, if elected, Ronchetti still intended to ban abortion. Ronchetti’s campaign denied it.
Related: Pastor says Ronchetti would seek to ban abortion
Smothermon reiterated the claim to his congregation in October, saying that “he told me exactly what I said.”
Ronchetti’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
In November, voters will vote whether an additional 1.25 percent of distribution will come from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to help support early childcare education in New Mexico, as well as address some of the concerns raised in the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit. The fund, also known as the Permanent School Fund, at around $25 billion, is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. It grows annually based on a rolling five-year average, which protects the fund from stock market crashes and reductions in oil and gas revenues. The state currently distributes 5 percent of the fund, annually, to the New Mexico Public Education Department and to 20 other public institutions. For 10 years legislators and early childcare advocates worked on a joint resolution that would allow voters to decide if an additional 1.25 percent of the fund’s growth could be spent on early childcare and at-risk students.
U.S. Census data released on Tuesday indicated national improvements in income, poverty and health insurance for families across the U.S.
New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonprofit that advocates for legislative policies that benefit children, believe the new census data showing some initial improvements could positively impact New Mexico’s child well-being that were not reflected in the 2022 National KIDS COUNT Data Book. The recent 2022 Data Book, which the Annie E. Casey Foundation released in August, ranked New Mexico at 50th for child well-being. Emily Wildau, research and policy analyst for NMVC, said that the census information released on Tuesday does not drill down into state-level data but more census data at the state level will be released later this week.
But, she said, the new data includes supplemental income benefits, such as SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] and tax credits. “Adding in these income supplemental benefits gives a nuanced look,” she said. Wildau said the overall drop in poverty for children at the national level is, “truly astonishing.”
“The biggest thing we see is the overall rate of poverty for kids under 18 dropped from 9.2 percent [in 2020] to 7.8 percent [in 2021],” she said.
New Mexico ranks 50th in the nation for child well-being for 2022, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book. The KIDS COUNT Data Book of 2021 ranked New Mexico 49th in the nation for child wellbeing. But despite the drop in ranking, Amber Wallin, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, said the state’s rankings from 2021 to 2022 are “not comparable.” Some of the data for the 2022 data book is from 2019 and some of it is from 2020, the year COVID-19 pandemic began. “What this data reflects is mostly pre-pandemic conditions,” Wallin told NM Political Report. “It’s reflective of the times before all the big policy changes in New Mexico. This data doesn’t capture all the changes we’ve seen in recent years.”
Wallin cited the state’s expansion of early childcare assistance to include families who earn up to 350 percent above the federal poverty level and child tax credits passed in 2021 as two ways in which the state has implemented change that will likely be reflected back in the data when the 2023 KIDS COUNT Data book is released.
The Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that narrowly passed the U.S. Senate over the weekend, does not extend the federal Child Tax Credit. The federal Child Tax Credit, which became available to qualifying families through the American Rescue Plan Act, provided up to $3,000 per child per year for families with children under the age of 6. For families with children ages 6 to 16, the tax credit available was $3,600 per child per year. The funds could also be accessed monthly, instead of as a lump sum. Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the policy lifted over 30,000 New Mexico children over the poverty line.
With the New Mexico Supreme Court’s pandemic-era inspired moratorium on evictions about to end, the court announced it will phase-in a statewide program to help tenants access money starting in April. But family advocates have said that approximately 80,000 renter households are at risk in the state for eviction. Divya Shiv, a research and policy analyst for New Mexico Voices for Children, told NM Political Report that the 43 percent of residents in the state reporting a high likelihood of eviction or foreclosure because they are not current on their rent or mortgage is higher than the national average, which is 35 percent. With the moratorium ending on evictions for tenants with unpaid rent, this could lead to a crisis of unhoused families in New Mexico, Shiv said. “Evictions are really harmful and it’s incredibly destabilizing for families and children,” she said.
The advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2021 Kids Count Data Book on Wednesday and said that, according to the data, New Mexico saw 20,000 additional children enrolled in Medicaid in 2021. Emily Wildau, the New Mexico Kids Count Data Book coordinator, said that data was one of the biggest surprises for her to come out of the annual assessment of how New Mexico is doing in terms of how children are doing. “That was one of the biggest things that really stuck out,” Wildau said. Every year NMVC releases the Kids Count Data Book that assesses how New Mexico children are faring. Wildau said that this year, because of some data collection challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the data is based on earlier surveys and resources.
Amber Wallin has replaced James Jimenez as Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonprofit children’s advocacy and research organization. NMVC announced the change this week. Jimenez retired at the first of the year but will continue to serve as executive director for New Mexico Pediatric Society, a role he acquired when the two organizations formed an alliance in 2017. He will also direct the NMVC Action Fund. Wallin, who began working for NMVC on tax policy issues about ten years ago, said that she intends to continue the work that is the core mission of the organization – advocating for policy that creates opportunities for children and families.
New Mexico Voices for Children held its annual conference Thursday and put a special emphasis on the need to support women of color. The nonprofit, which advocates for children and family-friendly policy, provides the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids COUNT data book each year. The data book, which gives data from recent years to show things such how New Mexico ranks in child wellbeing comparative to other states, came out earlier this year. But during the conference, Amber Wallin, deputy director of NMVFC, provided some recent data on how the pandemic is affecting children in New Mexico. Wallin said that as of September of this year, 21 percent of New Mexico parents were unsure of how to pay the rent; 31 percent of New Mexico households with children are not eating enough; 38 percent of New Mexico households with children had difficulty paying for basic household expenses; and 40 percent of New Mexico parents with children under 5 faced childcare disruptions in the month of August because of the COVID-19 pandemic.