Aside from Sen. Finance Committee Chair John Arthur Smith (the “adult in the room” in Santa Fe when it comes to budget issues) virtually no prominent Democrat had made any significant public statement about New Mexico’s dire budget situation. To his credit Speaker Egolf changed that when he penned the following op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal.
He makes a number of broad statements in the article, most of which are uncontroversial, but there are a few dubious statements worth calling into question.
- Before this pandemic, our state was fighting to change our economic trajectory, and the Legislature made major investments into education, teacher salaries, small business, local economic development and economic diversification. The Legislature grew spending by 21% in just two years in a way that was not sustainable. Taxes were also increased. The policies enacted in 2019 and 2020 would not create a stronger NM economy.
- No one could have predicted the swiftness or severity of our change in fortunes. When the State budget is 40% oil and gas, the Legislature SHOULD be both fiscally prudent and working to diversify the economy. It simply has not happened. A sharp downturn happened in NM just over a decade ago.Senator John Arthur Smith knew at the time the budget passed this year was NOT prudent.
- We are in this together. This is a nice talking point, but it is not government employees who are losing their jobs at this point. Rather, it is the private sector workers who face being deemed “non-essential” and thus being let go.
Most troubling is the lack of solutions we’ve seen so far. Gov. Lujan Grisham and the Legislature need to put forth some detailed ideas on how they plan to address what will undoubtedly be a VERY serious budget situation in our State.