A winning or wasted strategy?
New Mexico is being showered with billions of federal dollars that add to our record state revenues. During the December special session we appropriated a portion of that money to several critical projects. Now, state lawmakers have a once in a lifetime moment to fund a winning plan to raise all New Mexicans up and vastly improve our health, education, job readiness and economic engines.
We can look up and out with investments toward a different future. Or we can waste the opportunity, dribbling it away on unsustainable projects that help few.
Investments in the future: A winning strategy
In this future, lawmakers use a winning strategy to use the billions to reinvent New Mexico, redesigning infrastructure in communications, transport, housing, healthcare, public education, agriculture and city and town planning in urban and rural areas. Visionary projects to consider include:
- Invest in the innovation economy, funding research within our institutions of higher ed to become incubators for new local businesses and services, with a focus on creating jobs with high wages and benefits.
- Expand our Public Education Department (and thinking) from K-12 to include the nurturing of future students in the developmental phase of infancy and early childhood. Fully fund prenatal and infant care and services and all early childhood programs for 100% of infants.
- Fund county-based capacity-building centers committed to identifying gaps in the vital services in rural and urban areas. Invest in the community schools model to make every school fully-resourced for our most vulnerable students.
- Prepare our future workforce for jobs aligned with the future job markets by funding state-of-the-art vocational ed and advanced manufacturing education for high schoolers.
- Fund a bullet train to move consumers from Santa Fe to Las Cruces to Mexico and Colorado, creating a commerce hub from New Mexico’s cities to Colorado’s market with 5.759 million consumers, and Juárez’ and the state of Chihuahua with 3,741,869 consumers.
More of the same: A wasteful strategy
In this scenario, lawmakers ignore the data that clearly illustrates our biggest social challenges including:
- A woefully unprepared public health infrastructure, lacking the capacity to protect us from an unpredictable pandemic.
- Overall lack of access to behavioral health care, resulting in epidemic rates of adverse childhood experiences, abuse, neglect and family trauma that leads to substance use disorders.
- A public education system that doesn’t ensure quality education for our most vulnerable students.
- A lack of economic development strategies that create good paying jobs and produce home grown products and services for the national marketplace.
- Lack of ongoing support to city and county governments to ensure that all residents have access to vital services.
A wasteful strategy means tinkering around the edges of problems and thinking small. We can no longer do just what is easy and cheap. We need to make transformational change for a bright future.
State lawmakers have an historical moment to use billions wisely as we have too many New Mexicans woefully unprepared for our brave new world of mutating viruses, AI replacing workers, and human connections replaced by isolation and web-based transactions. This January, lawmakers stand at a crossroads, holding billions of dollars. Will we have the courage, creativity and collaborative spirit to design a winning strategy? Look up and out or down and back. The choice is ours.
New Mexico Sen. Bill Soules, Democrat-Las Cruces, represents District 37.