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Lawmakers not always right, but it’s a tough job

The 2018 New Mexico State Legislature finished its work for the year and adjourned. It’s now officially in the history books, complete with popular and unpopular decisions, money spent wisely or unwisely depending on your point of view, and budget decisions and new laws that we will unravel as the year goes on.

We, like most people, get frustrated with some of the decisions our legislators make and have been known, over the years, to privately berate them for what we consider brain-dead decisions. We’ll probably keep doing that, and we probably won’t be the only ones.

This time, however, we want to praise them.

We are not praising them for any particular decision; in fact, we probably still disagree on some of those, but we are praising them for making the decisions, deciding what to fund and what not to fund, disagreeing sometimes with constituents, making the tough calls.

Each year when our legislators decide on the state’s budget, they make decisions that truly affect people’s lives. Is giving money or funding research better spent on painkiller addiction or on cancer? What about diabetes and childhood obesity? Which matters more, or which will benefit more people?

How do our legislators ever decide whether early childhood education is more important than giving public school teachers more money? How do they even determine the correct answer when they’re bombarded with lobbyists, advocacy groups and voters? Is it wiser to spend more money on school safety than it is to spend money for more police on the streets or more money to make the court system work better?

Where do legislators find the right balance between looking out for their own constituents and the needs in another part of the state? After all, too often their constituents judge them on how much money they bring home whereas in reality some other areas may really need the money more.

The number of tough calls legislators have to make must seem endless. Debates continue on what to do about drinking and driving, texting and driving, protecting our children, protecting our environment, infrastructure, taxes, education, immigration, health care, spending from the permanent fund. The list keeps going, and legislators must decide where the limited state dollars go and which need is abandoned.

We don’t have a solution to make the legislators’ task easier because each of the issues is important. Making those tough calls is also important. Legislators must struggle as they balance the needs of the people versus the available money. They must determine who to believe, whose case is more important and, we hope, filter out the loud voices and deep pockets of the lobbyists.

So, regardless of whether we agree with the decisions they make, we admire the legislators for making the decisions. It’s a difficult assignment they have but a crucial one for the future of New Mexico. We understand all the forces that come at them during the process – fellow legislators, the administration, state employees, lobbyists, advocacy groups, friends and neighbors. They must put that all together and throw in a healthy dose of heart, mind and conscience before making the call on how to vote.

Our role as constituents and voters is to look at the big picture when evaluating how our legislators did. We must evaluate their decisions. Just because they didn’t support our favorite cause doesn’t mean they didn’t hear us. It may just mean there were a lot more needs than there was money to allocate.

We applaud them for standing up and making the tough decisions.

Contact the Ryans at ryan@abqjournal.com.

 

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