In reaction to the revenue shortfall that was created in large part by bad tax policy decisions, some lawmakers are looking to enact more bad policy. But sweeping up money from these special funds will endanger more than just common sense.
When Facebook was considering New Mexico as a location for a new data center, the state started playing the "Let's Make a Tax Deal" game. Turns out that tax breaks are about as important to these kinds of decisions as is the risk of natural disasters. Which is to say, very low.
If you’re relocating a business that will need educated workers, would you set up shop in a state that’s made it more difficult to get a college degree? Or would you pick a state that makes educating their workforce a top priority?
While all Americans should feel welcome to enjoy our nation’s natural and cultural treasures, data show that racial and ethnic groups are less likely to view our national parks as part of their heritage and birthright as Americans. This makes them less likely to visit these places. There are many reasons for this, including a lack of racial and ethnic diversity within the NPS staff.
State government has a very important job to do. It ensures that all children receive an education that will prepare them to be productive adults. It works to keep our streets safe and our infrastructure in good repair. It must respond to public health threats and keep an eye to future needs. When state government does its job well, it enables and strengthens the state’s economic growth and helps its people thrive.
It seems that every week there is a new story in the newspaper showing the consequences of choosing tax cuts for the powerful over public investment. One of the most egregious, which has a huge impact on public safety, is the backlog of thousands of rape kits with DNA evidence that have not been processed.
With our schools, health care, courts, and infrastructure already cut down to the bone, and the state still short on money, there is no better time than now to evaluate every dollar spent on tax breaks to make sure they’re having the impact their proponents claimed. To be the New Mexico we wish to be, we simply can’t afford to do less.
If we’re going to be successful in fixing this thing before it crashes and burns, we need to look at the other failing pieces. Namely, that the state hasn’t been collecting enough money to cover all of our important expenses like education, health care, and public safety. We’ve been passing big tax cuts since 2003. Income tax cuts have been thrown at profitable corporations and the people earning the most money. These tax cuts were supposed to “create” jobs. They didn’t.
It's always gratifying when we can link a good outcome directly to a specific public policy--as we can in this case. We can also often predict a poor outcome when a bad decision is made. If we're smart, we'll use that knowledge to make better decisions. In this case, however, some lawmakers insisted on making a bad decision anyway.
At our recent Kids Count Conference, I asked the room of nearly 400 attendees to raise their hands if they had ever spent money on activities such as music lessons, team sports, preschool or a tutor for a child or grandchild. Then I asked if any of them would characterize that spending as “throwing money at the problem.”