A worldwide pandemic that decimated communities and crippled the economy, a collapse in oil prices that threatens the budget, and widespread protests demanding racial justice and police reform – when the Legislature meets this week we will face no shortage of big questions and oversized challenges.
The delegation of state senators and representatives Albuquerque voters are sending to represent them is up to the task. We are united in our focus and ready to stand up for critical, job-creating investments in infrastructure, quality of life and health. We’re proud to fight for Albuquerque, because we know that when Albuquerque does well, we lift up all of New Mexico.
So many of the Legislature’s investments in our city support the economic health and general well-being of all New Mexicans. That’s true whether we are expanding travel infrastructure much of the state depends on, supporting the colleges and universities we send many of our children to, or funding high-quality medical care for people from all over the state to use – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet, although conventional wisdom may say otherwise, and despite being the largest population center in the state and one of the largest generators of state tax revenue, Albuquerque sees a disproportionately small share of state capital investment dollars. Albuquerque generated 43% of the state’s gross domestic product in 2018, but got just 15% of state local capital investment dollars in the last budget. For New Mexico’s long-term stability and growth, that has to change.
Protecting investment in Albuquerque is especially important when oil prices have dropped as low as into the negative range, an unprecedented shock to the state budget. Economic diversity is more critical than ever, and that diversity comes from Albuquerque. The city’s booming film economy, which in just over a year saw billions of dollars of investment from both Netflix and NBCUniversal, is adding steady jobs and filming in locations all over the state, creating economic activity that extends far beyond the city limit signs.
Health care, which added 3,500 jobs last year, is largely centered in Albuquerque. That’s where you find the state’s largest hospitals, health care education facilities, and health care company headquarters. During the coronavirus pandemic and long before, Albuquerque was the state’s destination for critical care, trauma and serious illness.
Through state and local LEDA funds, Albuquerque has also become a hub for manufacturing, with companies like Jabil, EAGL and Kairos Power expanding or setting up high-tech manufacturing centers. The Legislature continues to enact policy that prioritizes renewable energy, and the city’s Solar Direct partnership with PNM to build a massive new solar field, combined with market changes that make renewable energy more affordable and transmittable than ever, mean Albuquerque is poised to lead New Mexico’s growth in the renewable energy field. And although tourism is struggling now, in better times it is a billion-dollar industry that flows through Albuquerque’s International Sunport. Every year, tens of millions of visitors’ first stops and first impressions of the Land of Enchantment happen in the Duke City, creating more than 100,000 jobs in the process.
It is too easy to fall into old arguments that divide New Mexico into rural and urban areas and try to pit us against one another – but those divisions are not as meaningful as you think. Albuquerque’s legislative delegation brings to the table a mix of youth and age, experience and diversity. We come from both urban and rural backgrounds and successfully work together around distinctive issues and opportunities in both urban areas like Downtown and semi-rural areas like the South Valley. We represent the balance of New Mexico’s values: firmly rooted in our state’s proud traditions with an eye toward a secure future for our state so we can pass our way of life to the next generation.
And we know that as goes Albuquerque, so goes New Mexico.
With the Legislature facing unprecedented challenges and preparing for a generational shift in leadership resulting from this year’s primary elections, Albuquerque’s legislators are poised to step up in a way that benefits all of New Mexico, not just their individual districts.