“We have the opportunity to put forward an agenda focused on more than trickle-down, which defined the last eight years for New Mexico,” Jimenez says. “Early childhood education, K-12, home visiting, progressive tax reform, these are all back on the table.” New Mexico, where 75 percent of children are of color, ranks 50th on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s child well-being index. Jimenez says deep investments could demonstrably change those rankings.
"And we know that children in New Mexico suffer from a high degree of food insecurity, which means that they don't always know where the next meal is coming from,” he said. “And making food more expensive for children and families just does not make sense to us." Nearly all U.S. states have eliminated, reduced or offset taxes as applied to food for home consumption.
However, the Albuquerque-based child advocacy organization New Mexico Voices for Children does not believe low incomes and poverty are the reason for New Mexico’s low broadband subscription rate. “That’s an excuse, not a reason,” said James Jimenez, the group’s executive director. “One thing we have seen around the state, even in low-income communities, a lot of people still have a phone (despite the cost). Companies find a way of providing service people can afford.”
And the advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children is distributing poll results that show overwhelming public opposition to reinstating a tax on groceries. “New Mexicans believe their leaders should be fighting hunger, not making it worse,” said James Jimenez, executive director of the agency.
“Some of those tax policy changes clearly did not accomplish what they were intended to accomplish,” said James Jimenez, director of the liberal advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children.
The average childcare provider in New Mexico only earns about $17,400 a year, according to a 2015 study from the Center for Education Policy and Research at the University of New Mexico. The issue pits low-income workers against low-income parents, explained Sharon Kayne of New Mexico Voices for Children. “The minimum wage is not the culprit,” she said. “The culprit is that the state does not reimburse childcare providers what it actually costs to care for children.”
One of the best things about living in New Mexico is the abundance of great natural beauty and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s the view from just about any rural highway or one of the many state and national parks and forests, New Mexico boasts some of the most beautiful land in the nation. It is a heritage that all proud New Mexicans want to protect for future generations, a pride woven into our culture. The preservation of our public lands is a sacred trust, but it’s being made more difficult by the inaction of Congress.
Evidence-based programs such as home visiting, domestic violence and teen pregnancy prevention programs, fully staffing child protective services, a higher minimum wage and paid family leave can become “generational interrupters” to end New Mexico’s cycle of poverty. “We’re at a crossroads as a state. We’ve had problems. Now is the time to rewrite that story,” Wallin said.
Many mental health experts think childhood trauma is one of the most urgent public health challenges in the country. Lori Martinez, executive director of Ngage New Mexico, said a recent lawsuit filed against the state's under-funded Children, Youth and Families Department demonstrates how dire the situation is for many children - and raising awareness is critical. "When we're talking about childhood trauma, we want to identify the ways that trauma affects us as individuals, and also as a society, on a daily basis,” Martinez said.
First, we recommend that the new governor work to make our tax system fairer and more stable. Thanks to 15 years of failed trickle-down tax cuts, New Mexico is now much too dependent on revenue from oil and natural gas extraction to fund our state services like education and public safety. But the amount of revenue we collect from oil production is based on prices that are set at the global level, so we’re stuck in a boom-or-bust cycle.