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NM jobs council recommends new legislation

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SANTA FE – A bipartisan legislative jobs council signed off Monday on a preliminary plan to improve New Mexico’s economy, largely by beefing up existing job-creation programs and coordinating regional efforts.

The plan, most of which would require approval by the Legislature during the coming 30-day session, was described as the first step toward an ambitious statewide goal – adding more than 160,000 new nonservice sector jobs by 2023.

That’s how many jobs members of the jobs council decided it will take for New Mexico to become more economically competitive.

House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said much of the multi-pronged plan endorsed Monday could be introduced as a single appropriations bill during the 2014 session, though he said it’s not clear how much it would cost the state to implement.

“I think we could have one comprehensive bill,” Martinez said. “Even 50 percent funding on a package like this moves the needle.”

The plan endorsed unanimously Monday includes:

  • Creating a discretionary “closing” fund that could be used to help entice out-of-state businesses to relocate to New Mexico.
  • Increasing funding for the state Department of Tourism’s marketing and outreach programs.
  • Increasing the amount of money from the state Severance Tax Permanent Fund available to be invested by the Small Business Investment Corp.
  • Coordinating the efforts of state agencies with regional council of government districts to improve data gathering and economic planning.

The jobs council was created during this year’s legislative session and consists of a mix of lawmakers and business and labor leaders. The lawmakers include, besides House Speaker Martinez, Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, House Minority Leader Donald Bratton, R-Hobbs, and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

Mark Lautman, an economic consultant hired to help the jobs council, said that although some might oppose the idea of spending state money to help private businesses, many other states have already set up special funds aimed at luring large companies.

“Like it or not, it’s a part of the game right now,” Lautman said Monday.

New Mexico has lagged behind its neighboring states in recent economic growth measures, although lawmakers enacted a massive tax package this year that Gov. Susana Martinez has predicted will make the state more economically desirable.

Meanwhile, the jobs council is expected to continue meeting through at least 2014, pending approval by the Legislative Council.

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