Re­make state’s econ­omy to reach goals

The Taos News - - FAVOR Y CONTRA -

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Gov. Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham, on the be­gin­ning of your jour­ney lead­ing the state.

You cer­tainly have the po­lit­i­cal chops and smarts for the job.

We agree with so much of what you talked about in your in­au­gu­ral speech Jan. 1 as you took the helm of a trou­bled state.

We ap­plaud your plan to raise the min­i­mum wage and en­sure early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion for ev­ery New Mex­i­can preschooler. Cer­tainly your fo­cus on in­creas­ing re­new­able en­ergy and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment are vi­tal goals.

We also think you made good choices in Taos Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Lil­lian Tor­res for your ed­u­ca­tion tran­si­tion team and Kate O’Neill, for­mer head of Univer­sity of New Mex­ico - Taos, to lead your Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment.

But one ma­jor point re­mains miss­ing from your plan – one that has plagued ev­ery gov­er­nor, of both par­ties, for the last 20 years: a plan for shift­ing the state’s econ­omy off its re­liance on oil and gas rev­enues.

Just as Taos’ econ­omy re­mains mar­ried to tourism, for bet­ter and worse, so are the state’s fi­nan­cial for­tunes still bound to oil and gas. When a bar­rel of oil or a btu of gas is at the right price, the state’s for­tunes go up. When the price dips, our for­tunes fall and it im­pacts ev­ery pro­gram statewide, in­clud­ing those in Taos County.

In Ali­cia Keyes, you’ve cho­sen an eco­nomic devel­op­ment cab­i­net sec­re­tary with a solid back­ground in busi­ness and in work­ing with oth­ers in both par­ties to at­tract new ven­tures. We hope she can fig­ure out how to look beyond the film in­dus­try to cre­ate a new model for New Mex­ico’s econ­omy, one that is sta­ble over the long haul.

Re­mov­ing a cap on taxes in­cen­tives for the film in­dus­try is a nice move (as long as you can ac­tu­ally af­ford to give them back their money).

But it will take a lot more than that to wean the state’s de­pen­dence on oil and gas rev­enues for its general fund.

Could hemp cul­ti­va­tion and le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana be the an­swer? Both would help farm­ers ru­ral im­pov­er­ished ar­eas and bring in tax rev­enues to the state cof­fer.

Are so­lar en­ergy farms and so­lar for ev­ery rooftop the an­swer? In the short run, yes. But so­lar, while it makes much more sense for the en­vi­ron­ment and sta­bi­liz­ing en­ergy prices, cre­ates nowhere near the num­ber of jobs and steady in­flux of rev­enues gen­er­ated by oil and gas.

Make New Mex­ico a cen­ter for tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion? Pos­si­bly. That will cer­tainly re­quire sup­port of the state’s higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions and con­tin­ued creativ­ity on their part to of­fer the train­ing needed.

We wish we had a bril­liant an­swer for you and could help you lay out the per­fect plan to rein­vent the state’s econ­omy.

We have high hopes you will sur­round your­self with the best and bright­est eco­nomic minds of both par­ties to fig­ure this out.

Imag­ine com­ing up with a whole new eco­nomic model where oil and gas rev­enues be­come the ic­ing on the cake in­stead of its main in­gre­di­ent.

That would truly make New Mex­ico a model among West­ern states.

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