For the sake of New Mexico’s future, we cannot miss the opportunity to properly and strategically spend the federal stimulus money that has been awarded to each state for economic relief due to the pandemic. As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, a father and businessman, I believe it is imperative we strategically utilize and invest those federal stimulus dollars in a way that will ensure generational change and foster new growth in the economy and improve quality of life for all New Mexicans. We cannot use hard times and sputtering economies as an excuse. We have the opportunity to make drastic, positive, generational changes. Missing this opportunity would be to the detriment of all New Mexicans and future generations.
Due to the pandemic, all states are receiving once-in-a-lifetime awards of federal stimulus money to reinvigorate, modernize and diversify their economies. With New Mexico’s varied geographic landscape and rich natural resources, we have the opportunity to support, enhance and retain existing industry while also diversifying our revenue streams, improve our quality of life through improved education, roads and health care systems, and retain, attract and train a quality workforce.
To achieve these goals, I suggest a minimum of $400 million be set aside to attract and support multiple, sustainable business ventures. Oil and gas have long been the backbone for our state’s economy, and we know the industry will continue to play a vital role going forward. However, we cannot continue to rely on one industry to continuously sustain our budget, fund our schools, pay our teachers, fix our roads, assist with health care, and so much more.
New Mexico’s vast natural resources make us a prime state to encourage industry to implement innovative technology, like carbon capture utilization and sequestration, solar and wind energy, geothermal and burgeoning hydrogen technologies to further build our economic base and show care for our environment. We have to foster a mindset of further developing our natural resources beyond simply exporting them to other states for manufacturing, driving our own economic diversification, and job and tax-base growth.
The federal stimulus dollars, if spent appropriately, will help us to break the uncertainty of the boom-and-bust budgetary cycle that we have so long ridden due to our dependence on oil and gas. While a budgetary foundation, oil and gas cannot, and should not, be our only support to ensure quality education for our students and attractive pay for teachers. New Mexico is failing our students through botched leadership and lack of foresight. We have had three Public Education Department cabinet secretaries since 2019. That turnover is unacceptable. New Mexico must do better for our children, and we must expect more for our students and teachers. To ensure we best prepare our children for success in the workforce, we have to continue to build and diversify our economy.
Our Native American communities must also share in the benefit of the federal stimulus dollars. For too many generations, basic necessities, such as fresh water and electricity, have been lacking. We must invest in infrastructure that allows a child to read at night and an elder to turn on a faucet to clean drinking water.
In many areas, New Mexico has long led in groundbreaking scientific innovation. From our national labs to space travel, our economy and education systems deserve for state leaders to focus on attracting industry to New Mexico that will continue to change and better the world for generations to come, as well as assist in building New Mexico’s economy and aid in stabilizing and growing our budget.
Living in an arid state, water will always be one of our most precious resources. The only way to further attract business to New Mexico and protect our water supply is to upgrade our long-lacking and suffering infrastructure systems, including dams and bridges. We must also find ways to better incentivize the use of reclaimed water to best utilize our limited and precious water quantities.
The pandemic has created hardships that seem almost unfathomable. The federal stimulus dollars, if invested appropriately, will ensure the economic fallout from those hardships is overcome and one day even eliminated. New Mexico can and will be better, but only if this historic financial opportunity is not squandered.