Legislature must do more for working families

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 education and childcare critical to improving child wellbeing

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.

Reform Tax Code, Budget to Grow Economy

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.

Oil and gas prices aren’t the only culprits in New Mexico’s revenue crisis

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.

NMID expands legislative coverage with Melorie Begay

New Mexico In Depth will be covering the New Mexico legislative session with an expanded team this year with the addition of Melorie Begay, a junior majoring in multimedia journalism at the University of New Mexico. Originally from Gallup, Melorie wrote for UNM-Gallup’s campus newspaper, and volunteered at KGLP before transferring to Albuquerque. As a journalist she’s interested in creating informative and engaging content through all forms of media. Outside of journalism her interests include drinking coffee, listening to podcasts, and accruing random facts from the internet. Melorie will be traveling to Santa Fe with our current staff, Trip Jennings, Marjorie Childress, Sandra Fish, and Robert Salas, throughout the 60-day session, and will also do reporting from Albuquerque.

Budget crisis threatens child welfare programs

A gaping revenue shortfall and lack of reserves have New Mexico’s legislators worried about short-circuiting the progress of  large investments made in early childhood and safety net programs in recent years. A steep decline in the price of oil has contracted an industry on which New Mexico relies heavily, leading to broad layoffs, sales of oilfield equipment, foreclosures and bankruptcies. That, in turn, has gutted the cash from tax revenues state leaders counted on to pay for state operations. State leaders emptied out the state’s reserve fund to balance last year’s budget. Now they must close this year’s shortfall — projected at $69 million — without a pot of money that has cushioned economic pain in previous economic downturns.

New Mexico In Depth Special Edition: 2017 Legislative Session

New Mexico In Depth’s coverage of the New Mexico 2017 Legislative Session kicks off with this special edition covering a range of issues:

Campaign finance reform, Capital Outlay, and Ethics Reform
Impact of budget crisis on child welfare programs
Cannabis legalization for adult recreational use
Demographics of the legislature

Newspapers around the state published this special edition the first week of the session: Santa Fe New Mexican, Las Cruces Sun-News, Farmington Daily Times, Carlsbad Current Argus, Alamogordo Daily News, Rio Grande Sun, Silver City Sun-News, Deming Headlight, and the Ruidoso News. Be sure to follow our coverage throughout the session, here on our site and as part of a special project called People, Power, and Democracy, in collaboration with our partners–KUNM Public Radio, New Mexico In Focus, and the UNM News Port.

New Mexico 2016 Election: Will the state house swing?

It’s election day. Here are a few of the questions being decided that we find particularly interesting. Will Republicans be able to keep their historic wins in 2014 that gave them a State House majority and the Secretary of State’s office? While the 2016 presidential race is getting all the attention, whether or not Republicans hang on to their first majority in the New Mexico House of Representatives in 60 years tops our to-watch list. Back in 2014, a non-presidential election year, the Republicans picked up enough seats to wrangle a 37-33 majority, booting Democrats out after six decades of control.

Media bias?

In one of the most contested presidential election in recent times, the national media has been under fire too.