New Mexicans can no longer depend on only elected officials to fix our state budget issues. We, as the people who elect them, need to make ourselves heard. The bickering which often occurs in state government inhibits results and must stop. Energies need to be focused on working on solutions without concern for who receives the credit (or blame) for decisions that must be made.
We have a lot of legislators who really do care about the state; unfortunately, some only seem to be concerned about getting elected or re-elected. We must demand a responsible and accountable government, and we also have to do our part.
I have a few ideas that I believe would help resolve some of our “budget woes.”
1. The amount of recurring revenue is now 20 percent less than the budgeted amount. We cannot support our current state programs and employment rates at this level. I suggest reducing the number of state exempt/classified employees, and state programs and services, to levels they were at when the state’s budget was 20 percent less. It is only logical that state government does this, and that it should apply to all areas, including education. While classrooms should be spared, there are other areas in education where waste is apparent: half-full buses, top-heavy administrations, duplicative services, and energy inefficient buildings, to name a few.
2. Like most New Mexicans, I do not favor tax increases; but, sometimes we have to swallow the bitter pill and do what must be done. How about a referendum that would let the voters decide how they want their taxes utilized? New Mexicans are intelligent and should be allowed to determine which services, privileges, and rights should have priority under these tough economic times. It is a fact that bond issues continue to pass because they have a dedicated purpose. I would not be an advocate of any tax increase going straight to the general fund to be spent as the legislature desired, but I would support a tax increase for dedicated purposes such as better roads, specific building programs, our seniors, classroom education, and other worthwhile needs, as determined by the citizens of New Mexico.
3. Construction projects, whether for building or maintaining our state roads, or for the construction of public or private building projects, creates jobs. For every dollar that is spent on a construction project, it is returned to its citizens seven fold. The money spent on wages and material purchases allow citizens to buy food, clothing, cars, fuel, housing, and sometimes put a little in a savings account or an investment. These savings or investments are then loaned out and help keep the economy turning. Construction projects contribute to effective economic stimulus. Cutting projects that create stimulus will not help our state’s economic woes; if anything, this will only hurt New Mexico.
4. Negotiate with our Native American citizens to allow New Mexico to collect excise taxes on the sale of tobacco and fuel that is used off the reservation. Presently, the state does not receive taxes for these items when they are sold on the reservation, even though the majority of these sales are used off the reservation. These tax revenues could be used for highways, health care, education, and public safety.
5. Encourage businesses that would benefit New Mexico and result in tax revenues. Wind farms, solar power, and carefully reducing environmental rules that inhibit drilling for oil and gas, are just a few ideas that would generate more revenue.
New Mexico’s economy will recover and revenue will be higher than the budget, but this won’t happen for a while. Right now, I am appealing to our citizens, legislators, and the executive branch, to put politics aside, work as a cooperative body, and help solve our budget issues. We can choose to complain or be among those who want to be heard so that we can contribute to the solutions.
The true test of a good working governmental body is how it functions during times of adversity. We, the citizens, are part of that body since we elect those in office. New Mexico is our home, and we all need to be vocal on how to best maintain it.
The ideas I have expressed in this article are just a start. I am sure there are many better ideas out there. I encourage everyone to be vocal and contact our lawmakers with ideas to assist them with this difficult task.
Franken Construction Company