Over 100 years ago, when New Mexico and Arizona were first granted statehood, they both had state land offices established and were deeded land by the federal government to pay for education.
However, while Arizona was paid directly out of the revenue earned on state land, our population in New Mexico was considered too brown and uneducated to be responsible for such a large asset. So the revenue earned was put into a trust to be invested, and we could spend part of the interest earned off the fund for its beneficiaries – all dictated by the state constitution. And we have been squabbling over how to spend that money ever since.
The Land Grant Permanent Fund is probably the best known asset of the State Land Office. It’s fed by nonrenewable sources of revenue on state trust land, and I have sponsored legislation for a modest proposal to amend the state Constitution for an additional 1 percent of the interest earned to be used on universal access to early childhood education in our state.
But no one talks much about the Land Office’s other account, the Land Maintenance Fund – say what!? Yes! There is another fund! One that delivers revenue directly to the beneficiaries, without an endowment structure, and is funded by renewable sources of revenue, such as build out of renewable energy transmission on state trust land.
That fund is the reason I’m running for land commissioner.
With all of our challenges due to our climate reality: health concerns, water scarcity, massive drought and loss of our precious forests, we must use the high-profile and bully pulpit of our state’s Land Office to provide the leadership for a more sustainable land use model; one that can at the same time maximize revenue directly into our schools, universities and hospitals.