NM's once-in-a-generation infrastructure opportunity - Albuquerque Journal

NM’s once-in-a-generation infrastructure opportunity

George Munoz

New Mexico legislators recently heard a report from legislative economists that the state will see record-breaking revenues for the fiscal year starting on July 1 – a staggering $3.5 billion in “new money,” or excess recurring revenue. We now have a tremendous opportunity to make lasting investments – in education, tax reform, broadband, economic development, transportation infrastructure, and more.

New Mexico has long faced serious challenges that have held us back from reaching the potential that I – and many others – see in this state. This influx of cash represents the most significant opportunity to address these challenges in the 15 years I’ve served in the Legislature, and perhaps the biggest opportunity in our state’s history as well.

On the education front, we’ve already made significant progress. We gave teachers a much-needed raise and provided New Mexico residents with tuition-free college through the Opportunity Scholarship, which is a credit to our governor’s foresight. However, this investment will only pay off if our college graduates can live and work and thrive in New Mexico.

Making New Mexico more competitive will involve dedicated and resilient tax reform – like a meaningful reduction in the gross receipts tax rate and a fair and equitable restructuring of the personal income tax structure – that makes a difference when businesses decide whether to open and operate in New Mexico, or when workers weigh whether to stay in New Mexico or move out of state.

We also have an opportunity to upgrade our road, bridge, airport, and public transit infrastructure, as well as invest in new infrastructure like broadband. For too long, our infrastructure has suffered from underinvestment, leading to dismal statistics. For example, over half of our major roads and highways are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition, and New Mexico ranks last in the nation for internet access.

While these record state revenues present a major opportunity on their own, they also come at the same time as historic federal funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will provide funds for a range of state priorities – bridge replacement and repair, EV charging, high-speed internet, water infrastructure, and wildfire mitigation, just to name a few. In addition to direct investments of state funds, we must also consider how we can best leverage federal funding by ensuring all our communities are able to meet federal match requirements.

We have a choice – we can leverage this historic opportunity to set up New Mexico for success and mitigate the boom-bust cycle that has plagued our state for decades. Or, we can recklessly spend and find ourselves scrambling in a few years when oil and gas prices inevitably crash once again. As legislators, we must commit to making smart, informed, long-term investments that will pay off – not just for this generation, but for future generations of New Mexicans. Let’s commit to making smart, informed investments that will pay off and will take us off of this roller coaster ride of dependency on oil and gas for the benefit of not only this generation but for future generations of New Mexicans.

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