The Clinton vs. Trump morass seems to have sucked all of the oxygen out of the 2016 election. New Mexico is not identified as a “swing state” worthy of too much time and attention from either major candidate, so in a sense we are lucky enough to have a (relative) reprieve from the pounding drumbeat of presidential campaign ads that are running in other stats.

While we are not a “swing” state, the reality is that New Mexicans are voting on some very important candidates and issues this fall. In fact, I’d argue that in New Mexico there are no more important votes to be cast than the ones for your state representative and senator.

It is no secret that New Mexico’s economy is in bad shape. The combination of over-dependence on oil and gas and an under-developed private sector has left New Mexico with the 2nd-highest unemployment rate in the nation, high poverty rates, and few growth prospects.

Weeks ago, Gov. Martinez was forced to call the Legislature in for an acrimonious special session to discuss ways to cut hundreds-of-millions of dollars from the budget. While crime-related bills were added to the agenda, New Mexico’s myriad social and educational problems are worsened by both poverty and the lack of economic opportunities available in many corners of our State.

So, to summarize, the most important elections this year are for the Legislature (followed closely by New Mexico’s Supreme Court) and the most important issues are economic. Turning our moribund economy around is the critical starting point to solving any of New Mexico’s problems.

Notably, New Mexico is surrounded by states that are more economically-free, pro-business, and have stronger economies. Those are the policies that can help New Mexico prosper, but it starts with the Legislature embracing them.

Specifically, New Mexico voters should consider candidate stances on issues like:

  • Right to work: Legislation along these lines passed the New Mexico House in 2015 only to be killed in the Senate. The Rio Grande Foundation has been tracking real job creation nationwide in “right to work” and “non-right to work” states for nearly two years as reported by Area Development Magazine.

With the states about evenly split in terms of being “right to work” or not, from January 2015 through September 2016 (21 months), the jobs *total* was 305,566. “Right to work” states got 239,124 or 78.3 percent of those jobs.

  • School choice: We know monopolies like the Post Office don’t work very well. Shouldn’t we give our children the opportunity to learn in the ways that make the most sense for them? While not making the headlines of Gov. Martinez’s other education agenda items, in 2015 a school choice bill passed out of the House only to be killed by the union lobby in the Senate;
  • Prevailing wages: A lot has been made over reforming New Mexico’s arcane capitol outlay process and we support reforms. But New Mexicans are being forced to over-pay for roads, schools, and bridges by 10-20 percent due to the influence of powerful special-interests.

Under New Mexico law, “public works” projects pay inflated wages set by political, not economic considerations. Reforms have been introduced in the Legislature only to be killed by those who care about campaign contributions more than having well-maintained schools, bridges, and roads.

These are just a few of the literally dozens of proven economic reforms that need to be addressed by the Legislature in order to unlock New Mexico’s economic potential. Before you vote, find out what candidates in your area have to say about them.

As early voting continues and we head towards Election Day, we can’t get caught up in the drama and anger over the presidential race. We have a rare opportunity to chart a new course for New Mexico by electing legislative candidates that support economic reforms. Focus your time and attention on those all-important races.

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

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