ByElizabeth Miller, The Criminal Justice Project |
Jaime was just 19 years old when a fight with his girlfriend escalated from what he describes as “a lot of back and forth petty stuff” to a conflict that saw him facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges. Around the same time, he’d survived an attempted homicide and was coping with the news that his daughter was on her way. Rather than pursue a conviction, Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court offered him a pre-prosecution alternative: the Domestic Violence Early Intervention Program. As part of that program, he participated in group and individual counseling sessions and parenting classes for six months. It’s the same amount of time his daughter has been alive.
On her third day alone in the house, 7-year-old Linda Fritts slept in her safe place in the closet. She arranged the shelves and fashioned a nest for herself atop a chest of drawers. “I would take stuffed animals in there and my books in there,” she says now. She read by flashlight, Nancy Drew or The Boxcar Children, the series about four inexplicably happy orphans who live by themselves in an abandoned freight car. “I was jealous,” Linda says.
Thirty years ago, a nonprofit report on the well-being of New Mexico’s children painted a disturbingly bleak portrait of the lives of our youngest residents. The Coalition for Children’s “Kids in Crisis: New Mexico’s Other Bomb,” released in 1987, was a compendium of doom: Twenty percent of young children in New Mexico lived in poverty; fully half of Native American children did so. More than 40 percent of students in third, fifth and eighth grades scored below average on standardized tests. Twenty-five percent dropped out of high school without graduating. New Mexico had the seventh-highest teen birth rate in the nation and the highest rate of infant mortality.
New Mexico’s 2018 legislative session begins Tuesday. For the 4th year running we’ve created a special edition devoted to key issues legislators are sure to in one way or the other. The edition runs today in nine newspapers around the state, and we’ve published it online as well. See it in magazine form above, or read each article in print online. ———————————————————————————
In our society, money buys things. That includes at places like the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, where the textbook ideal is an informed citizenry empowered to ask elected officials educated questions about how decisions are made but where the reality often is more muddy.
What money buys in Santa Fe is a pressing question these days in New Mexico, where in the past three years, a former secretary of state has pleaded guilty to embezzlement and a former state senator has been convicted of bribery.
One school of thought is that cannabis, or marijuana, is relatively benign and ought to be legalized, regulated and taxed to spur economic growth and end the harm caused by criminalization. An opposing viewpoint is that it’s a dangerous drug that needs to re-main unavailable legally, with criminal punishment of those who break the law. Proponents of legalization in the New Mexico Legislature for several years have tried unsuccessfully to win a majority of state legislators over in a bid to legalize, regulate and tax the production and sale of cannabis to adults 21 years or older. Expect 2018 to be no different as Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, will again introduce a resolution during the four-week legislative session to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide, a move that would not require support from the governor. Prospects for success
Working in favor of Ortiz y Pino and other legislators bringing similar bills is a shift in public opinion over the past decade, with a majority in New Mexico and nationally believing recreational cannabis should be legal.
It’s been a rough few years for New Mexico’s working families. A stagnant economy has meant high unemployment, low wages and cuts to key programs that help families survive. But it appears the state’s economy and revenue picture
have begun to recover. With the current revenue outlook it is time the Legislature made New Mexico’s children and families whole. Those least able to absorb tax increases or cuts to basic services like health care should be protect-ed and prioritized in the 2018 tax and budget decisions being made.
The Rio Grande Foundation is undoubtedly among the strongest supporters of limited government in New Mexico. As a general rule we don’t support increasing government revenues as an end in itself. Our philosophy (based on reams of data and international comparison) is that resources would be better spent by individuals, not government bureaucrats and politicians. That said, the New Mexico Legislature, by not embracing tax reform during the 2018 session, seems to be willing to forego a chance to both secure upwards of $100 million for the state AND achieve an important public policy reform for New Mexico. Rather than embracing long-overdue reform of the gross receipts tax (GRT), New Mexico’s Democratic legislative leaders have clearly signaled that they are willing to let petty partisan differences with Governor Martinez stand in the way.
We all want a prosperous state, but prosperity requires investments. You can’t grow a garden without good soil, sunlight, water, and some hard work. Same with a state—you can’t have prosperity without resources, infrastructure, and a skilled workforce. But instead of following an investment strategy to prosperity, New Mexico has tried to cut its way to prosperity. You could call this the “don’t build it and let’s hope they will come anyway” strategy.