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.”
Besides being a champion of conservation, President Obama has used the Antiquities Act to celebrate important American stories and preserve their birthplaces for future generations. By preserving the epicenters where critical turning points in our nation’s history were made—many of them driven by the need to right societal wrongs―we are commemorating the tapestry that is America and telling the story of the richness and diversity of our country.
Every child deserves access to the opportunities that will help them succeed. But in New Mexico--which ranks next-to-last in the nation for child well-being--too many families lack the resources we all depend upon to raise strong, healthy children. While our high rate of child poverty may seem like an insurmountable problem, it is one we can effectively address. It will take a coordinated effort and--yes--an investment of public resources, but the end result would benefit the state as a whole.
As the nation’s consumer habits shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online outlets, states like New Mexico will see more than job losses as those shops shutter. We’ll also lose the tax revenue generated by those sales. While the Internet is the problem, it can also be the solution—but only if policy-makers act.
Because poverty has multiple causes and tends to be generational, we must address it by meeting the needs of the family as a whole. This is called a two-generation approach, and it does more than ensure that children are fed and safe. It also gives parents the tools they need to better their own situations—whether that means access to job training and further education or health care to deal with substance abuse problems or chronic illness.