By State Rep. Phelps Anderson
New Mexico’s Pandemic Special Session reveals dire need for the next Dr. No.
New Mexico needs our next Dr. No, as Sen. John Arthur Smith’s unexpected retirement as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee leaves us in a lurch.
Today with a $7 billion-plus budget we must search for the next voice of sound fiscal judgement over the state’s budget process. Without a strong leader in the finance committees of the House or Senate we may soon witness more and more out-of-control spending.
To suggest spending has been under control these past two years is an overreach in common sense, but nonetheless somebody should be in a position to say “no” when it comes to appropriating billions and billions of public money in pursuit of wonderful programs. The Senate Finance Committee has long been a spending backstop, but recent victories by the Democrat progressives now place the necessary financial discipline in doubt.
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Who, how and when will our next Dr. No emerge is an uncertain idea.
Sooner or later we must bring state spending under control or we will succumb to the folly that economic prosperity can only be achieved by spending more and more public tax dollars.
Growing the size of state government is not economic growth. Never has been, never will be. Economic growth must come from the private sector of our business economy and to think otherwise has New Mexico high on the path to dead last in per capita income.
Small business growth and private entrepreneurialism is our ticket out of poverty.
Where are we headed in the near term? Free college, legalized marijuana, low income electric car tax credits, defunding the police, increase film production payouts to Hollywood and depleting the state’s cash reserves. All of these initiatives falling on the pocketbooks of the common New Mexico endangered species — the taxpayers.
Is this really the future we see for New Mexico?
Ready, aim, shoot is a wise slogan suggesting an order in which we might move forward with state investment in economic activity. Ready, aim, shoot was not applied in the case of our railroad and our Spaceport. For this reason, it appears we will soon own a near empty, beautiful Spaceport as well as an expensive, money losing railroad.
Both investments show great public popularity, but are woefully deficient in gaining returns on our investment.
Now the rush is to gain further economic development by legalizing marijuana, a new green energy economy and paying out more public dollars to Hollywood. When shall we ever learn?
In the Pandemic Special Session, what was the result? We “sanded” an unsustainable $7.6 billion budget to a really unsustainable $7 billion budget. What does this mean? Take a $2.4 billion budget deficit and cut the growth of state government $600 million by gentle sanding and add $700 million in cash reserves and $750 million in federal money and you have a balanced budget.
In effect we used sandpaper to increase the new budget only 1.5% year over year.
In the January 2021 General Session we will bring out the table saw and hide the sandpaper. We cannot spend our way to a balanced budget, we must eventually cut our way there. Tough decisions next year for New Mexico.
The General Election in November 2020 again offers New Mexico a most dramatic choice. Do we continue on the path of tax and spend or do we seek to improve our business economy and economic growth? I vote for the latter.
Will the next Dr. No please report to the New Mexico Legislature. STAT.
District 66 State Rep. Phelps Anderson represents Chaves, Lea and Roosevelt counties in the New Mexico House. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.