By PAUL J. GESSING
Rio Grande Foundation
There has been a lot of criticism of Gov. Martinez in the wake of her use of the veto pen in the wake of the 2017 legislative session. Tough economic times are not fun and New Mexico (unlike most other states in the union) remains in the midst of tough times.
Democrats in the Legislature recently spoke out saying “enough is enough” referring to budget cuts and there have been increasing calls for the Legislature to override certain vetoes.
On can argue the merits or demerits of many of the dozens of vetoes, but the big ones on the budget and tax hikes are rightfully getting the most attention. Those vetoes are the only thing standing between us and even worse economic conditions than we face now.
By any measure, New Mexico government spends more, often much more, than its more economically-successful neighbors. Yet, as a recent Wallethub report noted, New Mexicans get a poor return on their investment. Before raising taxes, it is time to make our government work better for its citizens and taxpayers.
But, if we want to preserve the level of government services we have, we need to grow the economy in order to pay for it. The Legislature has repeatedly refused to loosen regulations that would grow the economy.
- Right to Work is an idea that, in the world of state policy, has spread rapidly in recent years with Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri all embracing it in just the last few years;
- There is a lot of talk in Santa Fe about reforming the broken capitol outlay process, but repealing New Mexico’s “prevailing wage” law would free up about 20 percent of state public works dollars for other uses or for additional job creation (and better schools, bridges, and roads);
- School choice won’t have a large initial impact on the economy (same with the left’s pet project pre-K), but work force quality is undeniably an issue in our State. A better trained workforce produced by a choice-driven school system will do wonders for our State long-term and will give thousands of New Mexicans the tools they need to get out of poverty.
Each of these proposals were introduced in and moved through the New Mexico House when it was under Republican control. Unfortunately, each of these (and more) freedom-enhancing legislative ideas got nowhere when Democrats under Democrats.
So, New Mexico faces slow or no economic growth, high unemployment, budget deficits, and few prospects for turning this around outside of a miracle in the oil patch.
One may quibble with many of Gov. Martinez’s moves and even her lack of a clear vision for New Mexico, but big-spending Democrats want to hit the accelerator as New Mexico heads towards the economic cliff. At least Martinez is scrambling to hit the brakes.
It is laughable that Democrats blame the Governor (or even the free market ideas of the Rio Grande Foundation as Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales did recently). New Mexico is consistently ranked among the least economically free states in the Union. Our ideas have never been tried in any serious way in New Mexico.
For better or worse, New Mexico will soon realize the reality of “Stein’s Law”: If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. New Mexico cannot continue to rely so heavily on federal largesse and mineral revenue.
It must develop a strong private sector independent of government. This takes time, an educated/motivated workforce, and a favorable business climate. Governor Martinez did her best to stop dozens of policies that would have done great damage to our already poor business climate this session.
One can argue about the Gov.’s leadership style or her ability and willingness to compromise with Democrats, but without her veto pen this session, New Mexico’s already poor economic conditions would be much, much worse.
Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.