By Tom Wright
May 14, 2021 Updated May 14, 2021
The latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau was revealing to New Mexico. We only grew 2.8 percent in the past 10 years. At NMjobkiller.com and Adelante Now Foundation, we documented the stories of why more people are leaving the Land of Enchantment and its high taxes than are moving here. The primary reasons were to find work and, recently, to be able to send their kids to school in a live classroom.
Traditionally, New Mexico ends up at or near the bottom of most of the bad lists, like child poverty, food insecurity, crime, literacy, family income, adverse regulatory business climate, medically underserved communities, a pyramiding gross receipts tax system and lack of jobs. Collectively, all of these reasons and more are the cause of our slow growth, declining enrollment in public and university level schools, and general economic stagnation.
Politicians take note: This is your fault. The latest report from CNBC’s annual best and worst states for business rated New Mexico number 45 in education, number 44 in quality of life and number 44 in business friendliness.
The reason a census is taken is to determine congressional districts and better plan the future. As a benchmark, the national population grew by 7.4 percent. If the reasons for this slow growth are ignored or considered OK, then our education system will never improve and be adequate, and businesses will elect to stay in states where the profits will be larger and taxes and regulatory costs are less.
With new regulations being imposed on the oil and gas industry and our governor and her lawmakers approving recreational marijuana to add to our tax revenue, it is yet to be seen just how this new industry sector will help the ills of our state. In fact, the social cost is yet to be counted. Even Intel’s much-touted $3.5 billion expansion sounds really great, but it brings only 700 jobs. With our lagging educational system, how many jobs will be filled from out of state?
Growth depends on available jobs, and jobs depend largely on a good educational system, safe cities to attract businesses and competitive tax policy. The bottom line is: We need politicians who are awake and willing to make changes, and we, the voters who send these politicians to represent us, need to hold them accountable.
Just looking at the last 10 years, not much has changed for the better. And whose fault is that — the ones fleeing our state or us, the voters? In fact, our legislative balance hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years, except for the increasing number of Democrats in office. For sure, we have more Democratic voters in New Mexico, and granted, it may not all be the fault of politicians, including both Republican and Democratic governors over the past 10 years. We voters must take some responsibility for the rule-makers we elect and reelect.
If New Mexico is going to grow in all areas, we must change leadership and learn from the examples of prosperous states. This really should not be a partisan issue. Pride in our political affiliations should not be as important as the people we send to represent our best interests. The solution belongs to all of us to elect politicians with fresh and real solutions and not the same ol,’ same ol.’
Tom Wright is a director of Adelante Now Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving educational outcomes in New Mexico.