(22 for our elected leaders and 1 for all of us)
By Bill Jordan
Jan. 9, 2023
As the legislative session comes around, it’s a good time to think about the kind of New Mexico we all want – one where children and their families have the supports they need to thrive, where our economy is strong and works for everyone, and where our land, air, and water are clean. We can build that New Mexico by making the right investments in our human capital, diversifying our economy, and ensuring strong protections for our public lands – and we can do all that by enacting the right public policies. As we head into 2023, I’ve come up with 23 resolutions we can make – and ask our elected officials to enact – for the coming year.
- Let’s improve equity in our state tax system. When working families contribute a significantly larger share of their income in state and local taxes than do the rich (and they do!), then something is fundamentally wrong. We can start by repealing the tax break for capital gains, a tax break that goes mostly to rich white folks.
- New Mexico’s 2003 experiment with lowering income taxes for the rich was a stunning failure at creating jobs or boosting economic activity. Instead, those massive tax cuts caused us to starve our schools, hospitals, road and bridges to the point where both businesses and families were hurt. It also made us overly reliant on revenue from the boom-and-bust oil and gas industry. Let’s reverse that insanity and restore higher tax brackets for the rich.
- Let’s repeal wasteful and inequitable income and gross receipts tax breaks for corporations and use that money to lower the GRT rate for ALL businesses and families. That means lawmakers should NOT enact anti-pyramiding legislation that will only make it more difficult to lower the GRT.
- Let’s build on our recent work to reduce child poverty by putting a good chunk of this new revenue toward a much higher state Child Tax Credit. Let’s see who’s for kids and who’s just kidding.
- When debating tax bills, let’s not just ask what it will cost – we must also ask who it benefits and who it hurts. It’s 2023 and we should be doing a racial and gender impact analysis of every tax bill that is considered. If it’s not reversing racial bias in the tax code, it probably shouldn’t be enacted.
- Let’s boost our state minimum wage, especially our pitifully low tipped minimum wage. And let’s give state regulators the staff they need to enforce labor laws and stop wage theft.
- Let’s finally pass mandatory family medical leave policies.
- Let’s boost pay for state workers. Our high vacancy rates in child protective services, health care, environmental oversight, and technical support will harm all of us if they’re not addressed. Let’s pay our public servants a decent wage so we can hire the best.
- While we’re at it, let’s start paying state legislators and give them the staff they need to do a better job for all of us. A salaried Legislature will mean more New Mexicans from all sorts of backgrounds can afford to serve.
- Let’s follow the will of the voters who overwhelmingly passed constitutional amendment #1 and give our youngest kids a world-class head start in life. Lawmakers should use that new funding to expand and improve programs – NOT to replace or supplant existing dollars.
- The portion of that new funding that goes to K-12 needs to be targeted to the students who most need it – the kids who were at the heart of the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit. And let’s see a major expansion of school-based health centers and community schools that provide the kind of support services our students need.
- Lawmakers should keep the new Early Childhood Trust Fund intact for its intended purpose. Raiding this newly created fund for other purposes right after voters affirmed their overwhelming support for early care and education would be a great disservice to our families and a stunning betrayal of the will of the voters.
- The first year of the Opportunity Scholarship was a great success. Let’s build on that success and do all we can to keep our young people in New Mexico.
- Let’s make New Mexico a model of democracy by passing progressive voting rights legislation and strong voter protections.
- Let’s boost funding for mental health and keep rebuilding these services that were dismantled by former Governor Martinez.
- Let’s enact the proposed Medicaid Forward plan so more New Mexicans can get affordable and comprehensive health care coverage.
- COVID continues to highlight the gross inequities in our health care system. Let’s fund a renewed focus on health equity beginning with new mothers, young children, and the elderly.
- With all of New Mexico’s oil and gas resources, we have a greater responsibility to get serious about climate change and environmental health. Let’s start by enacting meaningful environmental protections and put money into enforcing them.
- Let’s pass the Public Health and Climate Resiliency Act so we’re better prepared to face climate-related disasters.
- In the last few years, we’ve taken baby steps to move from “criminalization to care” to make rehabilitation a goal of incarceration. Let’s build on that by ending the practice of life without parole for juvenile offenders and reforming our system of fines and fees for minor offenses.
- Let’s rapidly address our lack of affordable housing. We have the resources. Let’s do it NOW. And while we’re at it, let’s enact greater protections for renters.
- And finally (for lawmakers), let’s enact a bold state budget that reflects our values and meets our needs. New Mexico has a LOT of needs, and the budget should address those needs. An 8% budget increase – with inflation at 8% – will do little to uplift our families and communities. This year, let’s GO BIG! GO BOLD!
- And lastly for all of us… In order to build a stronger New Mexico, we all need to make our voices heard. My hope is that you will do just that. Reach out to your lawmakers and share your own priorities. We know that the rich and well-connected will fight to protect their privileges. The “suits” always outnumber the “people” in the Roundhouse. Let’s change that! Call or email your state representative and senator (you can find out who they are and how to contact them here). Sign up for our email action alerts by filling out the blue box on our website. Show up in person or via Zoom when an issue you care about is being debated. You elected our lawmakers, now let them know what you expect of them!
We have an opportunity this year like we’ve never had before. We finally have the money to make it happen and we have amazing, talented, caring elected officials. This is OUR year. Let’s do it!
Bill Jordan, MA, is Senior Policy Advisor and Government Relations Officer for NM Voices for Children.