Albuquerque’s mayoral contest is officially a $2 million race, setting the stage for the most expensive mayor’s race ever in the city. Campaign finance reports filed today show mayoral candidates have raised or otherwise accumulated $2,103,107 since the beginning of the year. That figure includes $380,791 for Tim Keller’s publicly financed campaign. $500,000 in loans to himself by Ricardo Chaves, plus $8,648 he’s contributed to his own campaign. Dan Lewis has raised $355,254, which includes $90,477.56 he started the year with.
Changes are coming to New Mexico In Depth. First, we’re thrilled to announce Sylvia Ulloa is joining our team. Sylvia most recently was managing editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News in the agricultural Mesilla Valley in southern New Mexico. Sylvia brings extensive experience in multi-media reporting and building engagement opportunities. She’ll be instrumental in deepening New Mexico In Depth’s community engagement program going forward, and we are looking forward to on-the-ground reporting from southern New Mexico.
The 2017 legislative session wrapped up at noon Saturday, but the work appears far from over. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez on Saturday afternoon said she would call state lawmakers back in for a special session after the Democratically controlled Legislature had failed to give her a responsible budget. . Exactly when she wouldn’t say. Calling a $6.1 billion spending plan and $350 million tax package the Legislature had sent her “reckless” and “irresponsible,” the governor spoke of a looming government shutdown and of potentially furloughing state workers.
With just three days left in the session, the Senate Rules committee effectively killed an effort to tap New Mexico’s permanent land grant fund to provide additional resources for early childhood education. A motion to table the measure was made by Democratic Senator Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces. She was joined by Republicans on the committee and one other Democrat, Sen. Clemente Sanchez of Grants. The resolution was first brought up for debate in the committee on Monday, when Papen and Sanchez weren’t present. As the discussion got underway that day, Republican committee members got up and left one by one, leaving the committee without the quorum necessary for a vote.
A proposal that would allow the state to draw a greater amount from New Mexico’s land grant permanent fund to pay for early childhood education cleared the House of Representatives on Wednesday night on a 37-32 vote.
The constitutional amendment now heads to the Senate with just over a week to go in the session.
Entering the third week of New Mexico’s 2017 legislative session, several ethics and campaign finance reform bills have cleared their first committee hearings. In the interest of reporting on these subjects in a comprehensive way, we’ve decided to share our internal “ethics tracker” publicly. Ethics and campaign finance are issue areas New Mexico In Depth has reported on for years. This year, two bills that would bring significant change to New Mexico seem to have more traction than in years past:
Creation of an independent ethics commission, or similar entity. Passage of an omnibus campaign finance reform bill.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend about tensions in his relationship. My friend eventually shrugged and said “I don’t know, that’s just the way it is,” resigning himself to accepting the tension rather than find a solution. For a very long time, New Mexicans have been expected to just shrug our shoulders and accept the problems in our state as “that’s just the way it is.”
New Mexico is at a crossroads: with a multi-year budget crisis and some of the low rankings in child well-being (coupled with high levels of unemployment and poverty), we can stay the course of giving tax breaks to big, out-of-state corporations and fix the budget crisis by cutting services for New Mexicans, or we can take bold steps toward creating a brighter future for New Mexico. Several bills are aiming to do just that. Raising the minimum wage, introducing statewide paid sick leave and a constitutional amendment that will allow New Mexicans to decide whether or not to invest in our most precious resource, our children, are pushing our Legislature to take action.
Early childhood care and education is central to any discussion about improving child wellbeing in New Mexico. Decades of research have shown that the early years of a child’s life are a special time when the brain is developing rapidly, and that providing enriching, stable environments for young children is one of the best investments a society can make. Supporting parents to help them be their children’s first teachers, ensuring all families have access to high-quality child care and pre-kindergarten experiences, and investing in strategies to improve the early school years are all ways New Mexico can support the wellbeing of its youngest children. Though investing in early childhood is sound policy, accountability for early childhood investments is critical in this time of declining state resources and competing needs. Without solid data and accountability systems, it is challenging to know the reach and impact of state investments.
Elections have consequences. And, while Republicans strengthened their standing nationwide, here in New Mexico, Democrats are ascendant with working majorities in both houses of the Legislature. Democrats are undoubtedly chomping at the bit to push through a whole range of policy initiatives, possibly via constitutional amendments which will circumvent Gov. Susana Martinez. But the most pressing issue is the budget situation and the economy as a whole and something needs to be done about it right away. While acknowledging the role of declining oil and gas prices, corporate tax cuts enacted in 2013 (and supported by vast majorities of Democrats) will be targeted.
While New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, not all of our treasures are as visible as our golden landscape. Below our state’s sunny surface lie abundant natural mineral resources. The extraction of these resources—particularly crude oil and natural gas—have long helped the state provide essential services like education, health care, and public safety, which bolster our economy and improve our quality of life. Prices for crude oil and natural gas have always fluctuated wildly and always will. They are traded in a global marketplace over which we have no control.