In a sweeping address primarily focusing on expanding educational opportunities, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has also called for a greater use of the state’s Severance Tax Permanent Fund, as well as increased funding for economic development.
Lujan Grisham, who was elected as New Mexico’s 32nd governor in November, spoke to members of the New Mexico Legislature at the beginning of their 60-day winter session.
The new governor, in unveiling her executive budget proposals for fiscal year 2020, returned to a theme she had emphasized in her successful campaign: making greater use of the Severance Tax Permanent Fund.
Currently, 5 percent of the $23 billion fund is used for economic growth. Lujan Grisham would like to increase that figure to 6 percent, noting that that would send $50 million “straight into homegrown mom and pop businesses, enlivening our communities.”
Although earlier attempts to draw a greater percentage from the fund for development purposes have passed the House, members of the Senate have routinely defeated those measures.
The Governor additionally hailed the efforts of the state’s Local Economic Development Act, calling it “a great example of how public-private partnerships can elevate communities in this state—not just cities and towns, but groups of people with an idea, committed entrepreneurs, who just need a little help to get going.”
“LEDA works,” Lujan Grisham declared, in asking lawmakers to double the LEDA budget to $75 million. “Let’s show our New Mexico businesswomen and men that we mean business.”
In expanding on her LEDA proposal, the Governor added: “Let’s show this country that New Mexico is more than one industry, and let’s show our communities that we know local businesses provide good jobs to local residents and have a cascading positive effect on their street corner, neighborhood, and region.”
Lujan Grisham also addressed the ongoing need for infrastructure construction and upgrades, calling on legislators to “act with a sense of urgency the situation demands.”
“Too many of our bridges are rated structurally deficient,” she noted. “Too many of our roads are in bad shape, endangering drivers, even cyclists and pedestrians.
Lujan Grisham’s infrastructure recommendations come in the wake of a 2018 report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers awarding New Mexico a D grade for the condition of its roads, bridges, and dam infrastructure, and noting that the condition of the state’s infrastructure “impedes New Mexico’s ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.”
By Garry Boulard
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