We should put our kids above political issues

by Rep. Andres Romero / Democrat, Albuquerque and Rep. Doreen Gallegos / Democrat, Las Cruces, Albuquerque Journal
September 14, 2015

Now is the time to reclaim our commitment to our children – enough is enough.

It’s time we start re-prioritizing the issues we focus on at the Legislature. Our top priority must be our children – not wedge issues used as political fodder for the next election.

For the past few years, New Mexico has steadily ranked between 49th and 50th in the country for child well-being. Unfortunately, this year is no different. According to the most recent KIDS COUNT data book, New Mexico again remained at 49th.

The time to act is now. We must show the leadership to be the change agents our kids so desperately need. While other states are taking the lead on policies that help future generations become competitive in our changing workforce, we cannot be satisfied with giving teachers a $100 gift card and proclaiming mandatory flunking across the state. That is not a way up for our children, it’s a way out.

We are ready to work across the aisle to ensure that the children of New Mexico have the best opportunity to succeed. Our kids need a pathway to high-paying jobs that increase revenue to the state.

This past legislative session, we spent most of our time arguing over Republican proposals aimed at hurting all workers and taking away deeply private decisions from families. That time should have been spent exploring solutions to help our children and creating jobs, not preparing political campaign attacks.

Every day, our children are facing problems that many adults can’t imagine how to cope with. Currently, 157,000 New Mexican children are living at or below the poverty level, with 125,000 New Mexican kids living in highest levels of poverty; 43,000 children do not have health insurance; and one in three children live in hunger.

We understand that, to properly address the issues our children face, we must get to the root of the issues that their parents face. That’s why House Democrats proposed a meaningful minimum wage increase during our last legislative session. A 2014 study by New Mexico Voices for Children showed that there were about 33,000 children in our state that have at least one parent earning the minimum wage. We have to take into account that, when working parents receive fair pay for their hard work, their children will be one step closer to a more secure future.

We also know that 35,000 children between the ages of three and four do not have access to early education in our state. That’s why we introduced substitute legislation to invest in early childhood education during this past legislative session. Our kids need every opportunity to succeed – not more barriers or corporate tax cuts.

Now is the time to stop playing politics and make a commitment to focus on our children. House Democrats are willing to work across the aisle to ensure that our children have a more secure future and an opportunity to succeed.

It’s time we give our kids a way up, not a way out.

Copyright 2015, Albuquerque Journal (http://www.abqjournal.com/643758/opinion/our-kids-above-political-issues.html)