Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman don’t normally agree on much. They’ve been known to argue about where to have lunch.
So why do the two United States Senators stand shoulder to shoulder in their solid support of a proposed amendment to the New Mexico state Constitution to invest more money in education? Because it’s what is best for the state, that’s why.
You can vote yes on Amendment 2 and channel upwards of $50 million more per year into our schools, not a cent of which will come out of your paycheck or your pocketbook. Or you can vote no and lock New Mexico into its high ranking on the “guess who’s dumbest?” lists.
Look, Domenici is the absolute guru of fiscal conservatism in government. He’s a Republican, an unlikely candidate to enter into some kind of conspiracy with Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson who is pushing for the increased educational spending. Sen. Pete has studied the numbers and pronounced the plan sound.
Opponents are screaming this is a “raid” on the Land Grant Permanent Fund. Raid? When Sitting Bull swooped down on Custer at Little Bighorn, that was a raid. This is no raid. If you want to talk about raid, if you want to get mad about something, look at the idea floating around to stick another 5 cent state tax on a gallon of gasoline. Want your wallet raided? There it is.
Those who watch budgets carefully, their personal budgets and the government’s budget, are to be commended. Financial prudence is a virtue with biblical underpinnings. But when you take it too far, when you leave the waitress a one dollar tip on a $50 check, you are no longer financially prudent, you are just plain stingy.
Those ranting and raving against Amendment 2 are basically asking us to leave New Mexico a $1 tip. They want us to be known as “New Mexico, The Cheapo State.”
Here’s the deal. The Land Grant Permanent Fund, the fountain from which all these blessings flow, has grown to $6 billion. The increased rate of spending will be offset, financial analysts predict, by an approximate $7 billion growth of the fund over 12 years. That will provide revenue for the increased funding of education.
Amendment 2 on the upcoming special election ballot needs a yes vote, and so does its companion, Amendment 1.
Right now, the state has an educational bureaucracy that looks like those horrible charts Hillary Clinton used to haul out to explain her complicated national health plan. Hillary’s plan was doomed, and so should be the present state education department maze.
Amendment 1 would get rid of the 15 member board of education, not two of which, I am willing to wager, you can name. It would elevate education to a cabinet-level department with a state secretary appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Amendments 1 and 2 need to pass. Or we can defeat them and change our official slogan to: “New Mexico, the Little State That Couldn’t.”
Ned Cantwell of Ruidoso is a retired newspaper publisher and member of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame.