Au­tumn is a time of hope for bet­ter N.M. fu­ture

The Taos News - - FAVOR Y CONTRA - By Sen. Pete Cam­pos

Ed­i­tor’s note: This was sub­mit­ted prior to Elec­tion Day. We find its con­tent even more rel­e­vant af­ter the elec­tion.

As a younger man, I used to view this time of year with great hope.

As leaves start to fall, days get shorter and nights colder, and it’s time to plan for new op­por­tu­ni­ties. As an ed­u­ca­tor, I learned to see the prom­ise that late Septem­ber holds — class­rooms full of new faces be­gin­ning to grasp new lessons and con­cepts.

As a state sen­a­tor, I view this time of year through hope­ful eyes. Elec­tions will soon give way to new faces and a chance to make good on the prom­ise that we as elected of­fi­cials make to the peo­ple: that their val­ues will be re­flected through our ac­tions and that their voices will be pro­jected through us.

This year, that hope is es­pe­cially bright, as we find our­selves with mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to come to­gether and shape New Mex­ico’s fu­ture in a way that hasn’t been pos­si­ble in a decade.

New mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture, a new gov­er­nor and, yes, over $1 bil­lion in new, non­re­cur­ring money mean that we have an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress some of our most press­ing chal­lenges in cre­ative new ways, all with the goal of im­prov­ing life for all New Mex­i­cans. How we nav­i­gate these de­ci­sions and spend tax­payer dol­lars will de­fine us, both as pol­i­cy­mak­ers and as a state, for years to come.

Of course, we must sea­son our hope with tem­pered cau­tion. Charg­ing head­long into Jan­uary with­out dis­cus­sion, agree­ment and care­ful plan­ning could eas­ily mean that we waste a golden op­por­tu­nity.

To trans­form the hope and con­fi­dence for our fu­ture into pol­icy, there are a num­ber of things we can be­gin work­ing on im­me­di­ately:

(1) In part be­cause of a re­cent court rul­ing, we need to en­sure that ev­ery stu­dent in New Mex­ico is re­ceiv­ing a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. Our chil­dren are per­haps our great­est source of hope. Pro­vid­ing them with an ed­u­ca­tion that will pre­pare them for col­lege and to­mor­row’s work­force is a com­mit­ment from which we can­not wa­ver.

No mat­ter how we ap­proach the so­lu­tion, a big part of it has to in­volve bet­ter sup­port for our teach­ers. We must also be cer­tain that our chil­dren are safe while in school. Much work has been done in the past year re­gard­ing school safety, but I be­lieve there is still more to do.

(2) We must sim­plify our tax code and re­move other hur­dles to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, such as lack of ac­cess to broad­band in­ter­net and to a highly skilled work­force ready to move into to­mor­row’s jobs. We also need to give se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage to make it eas­ier for those earn­ing it to sup­port them­selves and their fam­i­lies.

(3) We must tackle cap­i­tal out­lay re­form. The $1 bil­lion in new money that has been in the news re­cently is non­re­cur­ring, mean­ing that while it can­not be used to fund on­go­ing gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions, it can be used for in­fra­struc­ture projects. Dump­ing money into a cap­i­tal out­lay sys­tem that does not care­fully plan and pri­or­i­tize is not too much dif­fer­ent from re­fus­ing to pre­pare for a mas­sive storm.

(4) We must de­velop a strat­egy to ad­dress and safe­guard the long-term sol­vency of our pub­lic pen­sion plans. Pub­lic em­ploy­ees are a vi­tal thread in the fab­ric that blan­kets each of our com­mu­ni­ties.

Ed­u­ca­tors, po­lice of­fi­cers and state work­ers of all stripes are our friends, neigh­bors and fam­ily; they de­serve a re­tire­ment sys­tem that will be there for them when it is time to re­tire. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant as we look to at­tract new, younger em­ploy­ees to state gov­ern­ment, rather than watch as they leave New Mex­ico for bet­ter-pay­ing jobs else­where.

(5) We have to find ways of di­ver­si­fy­ing our econ­omy to bet­ter in­su­late our­selves from the boom and bust cy­cle of oil and gas. While it’s fair to ac­knowl­edge that the cur­rent wind­fall we are en­joy­ing comes from oil and gas de­vel­op­ment, it is equally fair to note that fall­ing oil and gas prices played a large role in the fi­nan­cial cri­sis the state faced two years ago when we were forced to cut bud­gets that pro­vided im­por­tant pub­lic ser­vices across state gov­ern­ment. De­vel­op­ment of re­new­able en­ergy re­sources, bet­ter mar­ket­ing of our tourism and out­door re­cre­ation in­dus­tries and im­prov­ing ways to nur­ture small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment are all ideas to care­fully con­sider and co­or­di­nate now.

(6) We have to re­main mind­ful of con­fronting many of the other chal­lenges we have been fac­ing for years: water and nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment, pub­lic health is­sues, fam­ily well-be­ing and crime. Each of these chal­lenges is too im­por­tant to take a back seat to the other is­sues out­lined above.

Above all, as we near the end of this elec­tion cy­cle and be­gin to shift our gaze from cam­paign­ing to gov­ern­ing (two very dif­fer­ent things), we must main­tain our ci­vil­ity at all costs.

Par­ti­san and in­tra­party bick­er­ing threaten to undo what­ever progress we can make to­ward the hope for a bet­ter life for all New Mex­i­cans. The no­tion that “there is no com­pro­mise” twists the per­cep­tion of gov­ern­ment to­ward some­thing other than what it re­ally is: hon­est, hard-work­ing peo­ple con­stantly striv­ing to­ward the greater good.

We have been blessed with the chance to weave the in­di­vid­ual fibers of our vi­tal in­sti­tu­tions — ed­u­ca­tion, busi­nesses, pub­lic em­ploy­ees and, above all, our fam­i­lies — into a fab­ric that’s much stronger than the sum of its in­di­vid­ual parts. Through care­ful plan­ning, team­work and vi­sion, we can trans­form the hopes and dreams of the peo­ple we are elected to rep­re­sent, whether or not they voted for us, into the kind of ac­tion that will cat­a­pult New Mex­i­cans to new lev­els of hope and pros­per­ity.

Sen. Pete Cam­pos rep­re­sents the 8th Dis­trict of North­ern New Mex­ico.

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