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New Mexicans Desire Lots of Reforms in 2013

New Mexicans are urgently calling for policy reforms. A robust education system, a stronger economy, health care that works, sensible water management, substance abuse prevention and long-term energy planning are among the priorities developed earlier this year at New Mexico First’s Centennial Town Hall.

Many of those worries are echoed nationally. Our state dropped to 49th this year in the Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book — which tracks child well-being in economics, education, health and community.

On the business front, the Forbes 2012 list of the best states for business reported, “New Mexico took the biggest tumble, down 11 spots to number 43 as its current economic climate and growth prospects declined relative to the rest of the country.”

The upcoming legislative session is an opportune time for the Legislature and executive branch to make bold changes that will improve the lives of New Mexicans. Drawing on consensus recommendations developed by 200 people at the March 2012 Centennial Town Hall, New Mexico First offers a platform of reforms.

WATER: 98 percent of town hall participants urged policymakers to advance a comprehensive, long-range strategy for surface and ground water. As an initial step, New Mexico First supports the Office of the State Engineer’s funding request to update regional water plans.

WORKFORCE: 94 percent of town hall attendees urged increased collaboration between state agencies on workforce development and higher education, as well as training to qualify people for specific industries. One legislative strategy is the Job Training Incentive Program that offers job creators financial support to hire and train new employees.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: 93 percent of participants called for more peer-to-peer substance abuse programs. New Mexico First urges the Departments of Health and Human Services to examine existing drug prevention programs, and, where possible, incorporate peer-to-peer programs. We also support the reinstatement of funding for peer education programming conducted by the Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addiction.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: 92 percent of town hall attendees supported a statewide economic policy that is competitive with surrounding states for existing economic base industries (such as ag, tourism, energy, arts and technology). To advance these goals, New Mexico First supports increased tourism funding for advertising and marketing, corporate income tax reform and investment in the MainStreet program, which spurs rural business growth.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: 87 percent of participants supported the alignment and funding of a comprehensive, high quality, early childhood education system. As a result, New Mexico First supports continuation of home visiting services, Pre-K and the K-3 plus program that offers an additional 25 instructional days of school.

ELEMENTARY EDUCATION: 81 percent of town hall attendees supported the identification of practices in other states that have brought 4th grade reading levels up to national standards. We recommend continued research into why other states were able to improve their 4th grade reading proficiency when New Mexico did not.

HEALTH CARE: 81 percent of participants wanted health care equity and access without regard to income, race or ethnicity, geographic location, or health status. Given that New Mexico is among the lowest in the nation for percentage of citizens with health insurance, we recommend that New Mexico accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

It is clear that New Mexicans want policymakers to work together to get things done. Let us all set partisanship aside to improve the lives of New Mexicans.

New Mexico First is a nonpartisan organization that engages citizens in public policy. The 2012 Centennial Town Hall implementation process is led by Toney Anaya, former democratic governor; Edward Lujan, former chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico; and Heather Balas, president of New Mexico First.