Last week New Mexico legislators gathered in special session to address our state’s budget deficit. While they reached a deal, New Mexicans want to know how we can prevent this from happening again.
New Mexico’s revenue woes weren’t created overnight. Our current predicament is a result of decades of piecemeal policymaking.
New Mexico’s economy relies on two primary income streams: federal government spending and oil & gas revenues. When federal budgets are fat and the price of gas is high, our government coffers are flush with cash. Programs are added or expanded, and lobbyists rush to the Roundhouse to beg for special interest exemptions, deductions and credits.
But when the revenue from these income streams slows to a trickle, our budget becomes overextended and New Mexicans suffer the consequences. It is time we look for ways to diversify our revenue sources and grow our economy.
So how do we position New Mexico for growth and future economic stability?
First, we must reform our tax structure. I have listened to many business owners voice their frustration with the complexity of our tax code. Our system of gross receipts taxation is complex, archaic and a disincentive to businesses looking to establish or expand their presence in our state. Over time, hundreds of exemptions and deductions have been carved out to satisfy a laundry list of special interests.
We must simplify our tax code to make it fair and competitive with other states. Let’s reduce the bureaucratic burden so owners can spend less time meeting with accountants and more time growing their businesses.
Second, we must modernize and streamline the operations of state government to better serve all New Mexicans. As a local government official, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of bureaucratic silos that exist within various state government agencies. State leaders must look at ways to increase transparency, collaboration, and efficiency across our government. Government agencies also should systematically benchmark and track the effectiveness of their programs against best practices of higher performing Western states. New Mexico’s capital outlay process must be overhauled to promote investment in strategic infrastructure projects that will provide a greater return on our tax dollars.
Third, New Mexico must improve its public education system to provide a strong foundation for economic growth and prosperity. Our state spends 44 percent of its budget – over $2.5 billion – on education, yet we remain at the bottom of most national rankings and scorecards. New Mexico spends more per pupil on administrative overhead than any other state. Some of that funding ought to be redirected to classroom instruction, professional development opportunities and competitive salaries for teachers who deserve our help.
Improving our educational system will require collaborative agreement on shared objectives. Instead of drawing non-negotiable lines between stakeholder groups, let’s identify these objectives, embrace innovative solutions, and develop constructive accountability measures for student achievement, instructional effectiveness, and teaching excellence. Most importantly, let’s stop micro-managing our educators and give them more autonomy to adapt instructional methods to the needs of their students, class-by-class, and student-by-student.
No one wants a repeat of this year’s budget crisis. However, fixing the causes will not be easy. We will need courageous and bipartisan leadership to make the hard choices that will secure New Mexico’s economic stability for the long-term. I stand ready to provide that leadership in the New Mexico House as your District 43 Representative.