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N.M. union: These ideas will improve state

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This Labor Day the working women and men of New Mexico’s unions are reflecting on the future of our state, the needs of our communities and ways we can all work together to create a better New Mexico. Our state’s path to shared prosperity depends on a series of changes that will have a domino effect on improving our state.

If working families earn better wages, their economic stability means their children can do better in school. If our kids do better in school, they can get better jobs, improve our economy and increase our state’s tax base. As we bring more good paying jobs to New Mexico, we will have to update our infrastructure to support our residents.

New Mexico’s AFL-CIO unions challenge our elected leaders to allow the voters of this great state to make the bold changes our state needs. We propose a package of ballot initiatives to be voted on in 2014. We must use the gifts our state possesses to change the future for our children. We believe the citizens of New Mexico are bold enough to make change as none have dared before!

Here’s what we propose.

Poverty: We will work to pass a $12 an hour minimum wage for all state employees and contracts and support a minimum living wage for all employees.

Increasing our state’s minimum wage and requiring wage and benefit minimums in our state contracts, will increase the average wage for every New Mexico family. This step helps pull families out of poverty and improves educational outcomes for children.

Education: 1.5 percent from the yearly earnings of the permanent fund should go to finance early childhood education (i.e., increase distribution from 5.8 percent to 7 percent). By funding early childhood education, we help the children from those families that now have better household incomes to give them a head start on gaining a world class education.

Business: At least 10 percent of all infrastructure investment from our permanent funds should be invested in New Mexico projects instead of investing in other states or other countries. This will help to create good jobs and build superior infrastructure (schools, roads, etc.) for our future.

New Mexico’s permanent funds should be housed in local banks, not in banks outside of the state, wherever possible. By requiring the managers of our New Mexico permanent funds to invest in our state and hold their cash reserves in local banks, we are simply saying, “Invest New Mexico’s money in New Mexico.”

These actions will help our local banks become more liquid and will create more jobs by leveraging our permanent fund assets in-state.

State government contracts should require stronger in-state hiring preference, and contracts awarded for more than $50,000 should have minimum wage and benefit standards for our citizens.

Water and Energy: We can establish a trust, funded by our surpluses and windfalls, to develop new energy sources and buy back our water rights. The 2014 session should authorize an immediate energy audit of all public buildings to retrofit based on need and use the savings to repay the bond investment.

A windfall wellhead tax placed on our extraction industries with a hard sunset to fund programs at our research universities and our national laboratories would place New Mexico at the forefront of alternative energy development. By funding a new energy Marshall Plan in our research universities, we move our state to a sustainable 21st century economy.

Inclusivity: Every municipality and every government department should provide a welcoming, positive environment for everyone. We need to evolve the conversation from driver’s licenses to how we can integrate our newly legalized immigrant population so we all receive the benefit of comprehensive immigration reform.

Lastly, our schools should continue to teach a multicultural curriculum that covers all aspects of our past, including our rich, vibrant labor history.

The union leaders of New Mexico propose these comprehensive solutions to our state’s challenges. Everyone talks about these problems but few have the courage to act. We challenge everyone to have the courage and vision to move this state forward.

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