There is a battle under way in New Mexico over whether to be happy with the status quo or to enact free market reforms that will improve our state. Based on his efforts this session and his recent attack on me and my organization, it is clear that Sen. Michael Sanchez is in the former camp and I and my organization are in the other.
Sanchez seems to believe that he and his liberal allies will regain total control of New Mexico’s political system again soon and that this recent spate of political competitiveness is temporary. Unfortunately for Sanchez, increasing numbers of New Mexicans see that surrounding states with free market policies in place are generating jobs and prosperity for their citizens. They wonder why we can’t have the same here.
Young people wonder why they have to leave New Mexico to find a decent job. Parents wonder why they are forced to spend $11,000 per pupil annually (more than the US average according to the NEA) while their children attend schools that dramatically underperform those in other states.
Between January of 2009 and the end of 2014, Texas, a state that has “right to work” and lacks an income tax, grew its already robust employment base by 13 percent. New Mexico grew by just 1 percent. Each of New Mexico’s more economically-free neighbors generated far greater job growth during the same time frame. Our state has consistently underperformed its neighbors despite significant advantages in terms of federal investment and oil and gas resources.
The definition of insanity is often said to be “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Sanchez’s “Ready to Work” plan was merely the same old big government policies that have led our state to the bottom of most good lists and the top of many bad ones. Despite decades of liberal control over our State’s public policies, New Mexico, according to the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, is the most unequal in the nation. (“Pulling Apart,” November of 2012)
Inequality wouldn’t be a problem if ours was a wealthy, growing state, but the public policies enacted by the Legislature over the years have made our state among the poorest.
My colleagues at the Rio Grande Foundation and I saw Sanchez’s “Ready to Work” plan (raise the minimum wage, increase the gas tax, more government spending) as misguided expansions of government. Interestingly, it appears that Sanchez’s fellow Senate Democrats were only lukewarm on the proposals as well.
The Senate passed only 9 of the 58 bills in their “Ready to Work” proposal. An astonishing 49 of their 58 “critical measures” never got to the Senate floor while 15 were never even scheduled for a hearing. Even a minimum wage hike proposed by Democrat Sen. Clemente Sanchez failed in Committee.
The House on the other hand, passed a variety of free market measures, many of which were based on my Foundation’s research. Aside from “right to work” these included school choice tax credits, alternative teacher certification and teacher licensure reforms, reduction in worker’s compensation for drunk/stoned workers, a regulatory framework for Uber/Lyft ride-sharing companies, and increased penalties for dealing food stamps.
None of these received floor votes in the Senate despite often receiving bi-partisan support in the House. And, while bi-partisan support for “right to work” was limited to one House Democrat, according to 2014 polling by Gallup 65 percent of Democrats nationwide support it. My organization’s ideas are common-sense and much-overdue reforms. Adherence to free market principles hasn’t made New Mexico poor, politicians’ embrace of big government has.
If Sanchez is so sure that reforms like “right to work” and school choice are unpopular and bad for New Mexico, he should have had the courage to put senators of both parties on the record by holding public votes. My suspicion is that more New Mexicans – and their representative – want change than Sanchez thinks.
Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility