Has New Mexico Really Gone ‘Red’ Under Gov. Martinez?

A version of this op-ed ran in the Albuquerque Journal on January 30, 2017.

Herbert Hoover.

The name is synonymous with indifferent right-wingery in the face of desperate need for “progressive” change.

Earlier this month, Alan Weber, who in 2014 failed to secure the Democratic nomination to run against New Mexico’s incumbent governor, wailed about “the Herbert Hoover policies of the Martinez administration.” Weber and his ilk are crafting a narrative they think will help them achieve legislative victories: New Mexico’s many woes are due to the cruel, anti-government policies pursued by Susana Martinez. The answer to the state’s dismal condition is to go back to a progressive future — and a repeal of her misguided cut in the corporate tax is a good place to start.

But how much change has the governor brought to public policy in New Mexico? Looking at the record, it’s quite clear that it has been mostly business as usual in Santa Fe since Martinez took office. The major reforms that conservatives, libertarians, and free-market voices advocate at the state level have fared very poorly in the last six years:

Tax Cuts: Martinez did sign a modest, multi-year reduction in the corporate tax. But the levy is a miniscule revenue-producer for the state — even before the phase-down, its share of state-raised taxes was in the mid-single digits. (And as the New Mexico Tax Research Institute noted, the revenue raised by the tax is “somewhat volatile and often fickle.”) Most workers in the Land of Enchantment’s private sector are employed by firms that do not pay the corporate tax, but pass their profits through to owners/investors, who are taxed on their income.

Tax/Expenditure Limits: Alone in our region, New Mexico has no limit on the taxes it can impose, and no cap on how much state government can spend. And it’s probably not a coincidence that expenditures are excessive. In 2014, the most recent year for which U.S. Census Bureau data are available, per capita spending was $8,495 — dwarfing our neighbors Oklahoma ($6,028), Utah ($5,790), Colorado ($5,722), Arizona ($4,937), and Texas ($4,843).

Right to Work: It’s indisputable that ending compulsory unionism can be a major factor in boosting economic development. A right-to-work law means job growth and incomes, once adjusted for purchasing power, that surpass those in states without labor freedom. But right to work is dead in Santa Fe — at least until a new crop of legislators is elected.

School Choice: The value of a skilled workforce is another driver of investment and job-creation. Recognizing the failures of a monopolized, unionized education “system,” many states have moved toward K-12 competition. New Mexico has not joined in. Its charter-school law is weak, vouchers are nonexistent, and no tax credits are available for donations to scholarship-granting charities. Even the left-leaning Brookings Institution gives the state’s largest school district a “D” on its “Education Choice and Competition Index.”

Regulations: New Mexico has some of the most burdensome occupational-licensing rules in the nation. But despite an emerging left-right consensus on the need for reform, there has been no progress on cutting the red tape that hinders many people’s ability to earn a livelihood. The prevailing-wage mandate, which limits the contractors that can bid on public construction and thus drives up costs to taxpayers, remains stubbornly resistant to reform, much less repeal. And competition in the electricity market, adopted by a wide margin of Nevada’s voters in November, has no champion in Santa Fe.

Healthcare: In perhaps the state’s worst public-policy blunder in decades, Martinez fell for the claim that a radical broadening of Medicaid eligibility would be both affordable and serve as a “economic stimulus.” Her decision surely pleased liberals, but we now know what a disaster expansion has been. Enrollment soared past expectations, the bills are enormous, and the boost to the economy never arrived.

Has the red-state model really been implemented under Susana Martinez? It certainly doesn’t appear so. Maybe the answer to New Mexico’s twin crises of fiscal strife and economic carnage is to finally implement a policy programme geared toward limiting government and spreading opportunity.

D. Dowd Muska is research director of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 Replies to “Has New Mexico Really Gone ‘Red’ Under Gov. Martinez?”

  1. About once every 8 to 12 years, a majority of N.M. voters (including many Democrats) vote to elect a Republican governor. The Republican governor is elected to control spending from the Dem controlled legislature and to try to return financial sanity to the state. Examples include the election of Gary Johnson after Bruce King and Susanna Martinez after Bill Richardson. The Republican governor is most definitely NOT elected to effect fundamental change. If the voters of N.M. wanted fundamental change, they would make Republicans the majority party in both houses of the state legislature. This is something that the voters of N.M. have not done since 1930.

  2. Mr. Moska,
    To keep things in perspective you should proceed your views on eduation with a comment that you believe or do not believe that the conditions in which children live in the first few years of life have a big impact on their brain development and their performance in school and on the aggregate performance of the school which they attend. Then go on to talk about vouchers, choice, etc.

    1. Bill, I can’t speak for Mr. Muska, but I will add my two cents here. The conditions in which children live in the first few years of life have a major impact on their later lives. The best way to improve those conditions is to have stable, two-parent families (we need to eliminate or alter welfare programs to address incentives for single-parenthood). Another excellent means of giving kids a healthy start is through those parents having the economic means to take care of those kids. New Mexico has utterly failed on that measure due to liberal economic policies.

      1. Mr. Pratt,

        I fail to see the connection between one’s views on how “the conditions in which children live in the first few years of life have a big impact on their brain development and their performance in school and on the aggregate performance of the school which they attend” and whether “vouchers, choice, etc.” are sound public policy. But that aside, The Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning is a good place to start on the argument you appear to be making.

  3. This is only the beginning. We are going to hear nonstop that throwing money from the permanent fund at early childhood education will fix our schools, end crime, build the economy and attract retirees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.