By Brett D. Johnson
Tuesday could be one of the most important days in New Mexico’s future. The reason: The people of this state will have a chance to give our education system a needed cash injection — paid for by our children, grandchildren and future generations.
The Permanent School Fund is derived from income off of lands owned by the state. These monies are the proceeds of sales or leases of land or mineral rights.
The income, interest, dividends and capital gains from investments make up the Permanent School Fund that now totals $6.9 billion. Today the Permanent School Fund pays out 4.7 percent of the five-year average to the general fund for schools and accounts for 20 to 25 percent of our state general fund budget. The theory of the fund is once the oil, gas, and minerals are gone, we will still have the income from the principle to fund our schools.
Constitutional Amendment 2 says we will increase the hit on the Permanent School Fund from 4.7 percent to 5.8 percent for eight years then drop to 5.5 percent for four years, then down to 5 percent. If the fund drops $1.1 billion because of this raid, then any payments cease.
Do you wonder where the money will come from after Gov. Richardson leaves office? I would bet the easiest fix would be to keep taking from the fund. Politicians have a way of creating emergencies if there is “extra money” available.
If you look at our country’s richest foundations — the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundations — you will find our U.S. Congress limits them to only 5 percent so they will not be depleted. What are the chances that our governor-appointed administrator will be better at investing money than some of the brightest financial minds in the country that manage the above-mentioned foundations?
California once had a system like ours, except its funds were not protected by its Constitution. The politicians took a little at a time “just for emergencies” and now the fund is gone. We are headed down the same road as California if this amendment passes.
Wake up! When this fund is gone, the money is going to come out of our pockets to the tune of $400 per person per year. Vote no on Constitutional Amendment 2 and secure New Mexico’s Education Future.
Brett D. Johnson is chairman of Curry County’s Republican party.