Editorial: Remake state's economy to reach goals

Posted 1/3/19

Congratulations, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, on the beginning of your journey leading the state. We agree with so much of what you talked about in your inaugural speech Jan. 1 as you took the helm of a troubled state.

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Editorial: Remake state's economy to reach goals

Posted

Congratulations, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, on the beginning of your journey leading the state.

You certainly have the political chops and smarts for the job.

We agree with so much of what you talked about in your inaugural speech Jan. 1 as you took the helm of a troubled state.

We applaud your plan to raise the minimum wage and ensure early childhood education for every New Mexican preschooler. Certainly your focus on increasing renewable energy and protecting the environment are vital goals.

We also think you made good choices in Taos Schools Superintendent Lillian Torres for your education transition team and Kate O'Neill, former head of University of New Mexico - Taos, to lead your Higher Education Department.

But one major point remains missing from your plan - one that has plagued every governor, of both parties, for the last 20 years: a plan for shifting the state's economy off its reliance on oil and gas revenues.

Just as Taos' economy remains married to tourism, for better and worse, so are the state's financial fortunes still bound to oil and gas. When a barrel of oil or a btu of gas is at the right price, the state's fortunes go up. When the price dips, our fortunes fall and it impacts every program statewide, including those in Taos County.

In Alicia Keyes, you've chosen an economic development cabinet secretary with a solid background in business and in working with others in both parties to attract new ventures. We hope she can figure out how to look beyond the film industry to create a new model for New Mexico's economy, one that is stable over the long haul.

Removing a cap on taxes incentives for the film industry is a nice move (as long as you can actually afford to give them back their money).

But it will take a lot more than that to wean the state's dependence on oil and gas revenues for its general fund.

Could hemp cultivation and legalizing recreational marijuana be the answer? Both would help farmers rural impoverished areas and bring in tax revenues to the state coffer.

Are solar energy farms and solar for every rooftop the answer? In the short run, yes. But solar, while it makes much more sense for the environment and stabilizing energy prices, creates nowhere near the number of jobs and steady influx of revenues generated by oil and gas.

Make New Mexico a center for technical innovation? Possibly. That will certainly require support of the state's higher education institutions and continued creativity on their part to offer the training needed.

We wish we had a brilliant answer for you and could help you lay out the perfect plan to reinvent the state's economy.

We have high hopes you will surround yourself with the best and brightest economic minds of both parties to figure this out.

Imagine coming up with a whole new economic model where oil and gas revenues become the icing on the cake instead of its main ingredient.

That would truly make New Mexico a model among Western states.

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