By Brian Moore: Guest Columnist
Earlier this month, the New Mexico Legislature finished a seven-day special session trying to deal with helping New Mexico residents get through this energy crunch.
There were several proposals bandied about, dozens of bills, numerous amendments and lots of vigorous discussion. In the end, we figured out a way to work together and give some of the state’s extra money back to you. We hope it will help a little bit when you fill your gas tank the next time or start paying those higher heating bills coming up.
New Mexico is in better shape than most states, because we are producing lots of oil and natural gas, collecting taxes on that production and have been reasonably (sometimes hard to say with a straight face) conservative about our spending.
The bigger issues we will face during the next two budget cycles have to do with our guesses about where oil prices will end up, and how we spend the rest of the money coming in.
In years past we have bet the farm on high oil prices, only to see them drop overnight, leaving our budget and our promises smashed to pieces. It’s my hope that we will remember these lessons from the past, be conservative about our guesses and firm in the commitments we’ve already made.
In 2003, we passed a multi-year tax decrease to help us be more competitive with states around us. But just last year, we got worried and delayed some of that tax cut. We need to keep that promise, lower our taxes and encourage businesses and families to move to our part of the country.
Also in 2003, we passed an “education reform” package that included higher minimum salaries for our teachers. While I voted against that bill, the Legislature made a promise that we have to keep.
In late 2003, we passed legislation to build and repair a bunch of highways across the state. Now that asphalt, concrete and steel prices have gone up so much, some of that work may be in jeopardy. The legislature needs to keep those promises, add more money to these projects and get them finished.
At the same time, over the past several years, we have let state buildings, including schools and colleges, deteriorate. They now cost us more to heat, keep clean and maintain. If we spend some money on them now, we can save money in the future, when our income goes down.
We have also not kept up with our transportation budget. Now is the time to put some serious money into getting most of our roads and bridges up to snuff. Our families’ lives are at risk every day … and again, with costs going up, money spent now will save us even more money down the road.
And of course, no conversation about investment can happen without talking about the need to clean up our watersheds, find better ways to conserve water and keep the rural lifestyle we all love in our part of New Mexico.
So the trick, as I see it, is to fully keep the promises we’ve made … not start new programs and new government initiatives … fix the things we own now to save more money in the future, and, most importantly, continue to save money so we’re not caught short in the years to come.
Brian Moore is a New Mexico state representative who represents Curry, Quay and Roosevelt counties. Contact him at 505-374-9681 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org