There are only a couple of realistic choices when the state is short on cash: provide fewer services by cutting spending or raise more revenue by increasing taxes.
New Mexico families benefit from numerous parks around the state that boast a collection of landscapes that are as diverse as they are beautiful. Many of these parks were made possible, in full or in part, by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). That fund is in danger, however, as it is set to expire if Congress takes no action by September 30.
Given the news out of the Legislature, you’d think we’ve been rapidly expanding the early childhood services that will improve school outcomes. Actually, fewer children are receiving these services today than did five years ago.
State income tax cuts for the wealthiest—like those enacted in New Mexico more than a decade ago—do not create jobs. Still, lawmakers continue to slash taxes—along with spending for critical services like education, and public health and safety.
If a special session to pass funding for public works projects is called, lawmakers must consider the budgetary problems on the horizon. The state’s budget is facing at least a $150 million hole next year and it would be irresponsible to dig that hole even deeper by handing out more tax cuts.
Today we’re talking about the state budget, and you know, there’s been a lot of people in this Roundhouse taking credit for—quote—“balancing the state budget during the recession and fixing the worst budget deficit in our history.” And while everybody argues over who balanced the budget, they all missed the more important point about how they balanced the budget. So I’m going to tell you.
Our legislators have a lot of important decision to make, such as how to divvy up the money that pays for services like education, public health, and our court system. That is why they have expert staff members to advise them. For example, the Legislative Finance Committee, which is tasked with creating the annual budget as well as recommending changes to the tax system, has a full-time staff that works year-round. These staff members are available to do things like study emerging issues, analyze best practices, write reports, and make recommendations. Without these services the committee’s work would be much more difficult and the results would be less reliable. The Legislative Education Study Committee, which oversees our state’s educational systems from kindergarten to college, also has a full-time, year-round staff.
A recent report from the State Investment Council shows that New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) is growing at a robust pace and now exceeds $13.8 billion. It’s the second largest fund of its kind in the nation and we spend a small portion of it every year on education and other important services. Meanwhile, New Mexico remains the worst state in which to raise a child. Only a small fraction of our youngest children have access to the high-quality early childhood care and learning services that are shown to improve their outcomes all the way into adulthood.
Bloggers and politicos are trading barbs over the truthfulness of the Governor’s repeated claim that she closed the largest budget deficit in the history of the state. (Of course, by constitutional mandate the state cannot run a deficit, so there never was a deficit to close.) We can spend the summer debating the definition of a deficit or we can (and I believe we should) have the more important debate about how we want that budget to look in the future.
Since New Mexico dropped to 50th in the nation in child well-being almost a year ago, little if anything has been done to turn things around for our kids. Now comes news of yet another lost opportunity for improving outcomes for our young people. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has just released a new report on state ObamaCare enrollment through the health insurance exchanges or marketplaces. The report shows a dramatic failure on the part of New Mexico to sign up young people.