“It’s also going to take more revenue – and it needs to be a more reliable revenue stream than oil and natural gas. If we don’t stabilize our revenue situation, we’ll just have to cut some of these initiatives when oil and gas prices go down. You can’t expect real education reform on a boom-or-bust funding cycle,” he wrote in an email to the Journal.
It will take a concerted, multifaceted effort to significantly improve child well-being because it is dependent on so many factors. But one policy with a proven, positive rate of return is high-quality early childhood care and learning. The first five years of life are critical for laying the foundation for future success, so the investments that we make in those years pay off dividends for children and society for many years — and future generations — down the road.
“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.
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.
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.
James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said state policymakers could address the inequity by embracing a more progressive tax system. "It's really a much fairer way of allocating tax responsibility to support the kinds of things that we need - good, strong schools and higher education, great infrastructure," he said. "Those are really the fundamental things that we need to figure out how to pay for in a fair way."
Amber Wallin, the Deputy Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, pointed to the recent tax cut that became law as a driving force for the desire to cut federal spending from social welfare programs. “We just had a $1.4 trillion tax cut that mainly goes to wealthy individuals, the most well-connected, the biggest corporations,” she said. “But at the same time we’re cutting crucial benefits for the kids and families who need them the most. It’s just unacceptable.”
Bill Jordan, of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the additional tax would hurt those who could least afford it. “Adding a 7 or 8 percent tax is not a solution for obesity,” he said. “New Mexico also has a problem with childhood hunger. Adding a $100 million tax a year is not a solution to hunger.”