“We need someone who will lead and govern — not play politics!”
This resounding message given by Senator William Soules (D-32-Dona Ana) in the Democratic response to the governor’s State of the State speech set the stage for the start of the 30-day 2014 legislative session.
Sen. Soules countered the governor’s empty remarks and lack of record regarding education, economic development, employment, water, and her predictable and oft-repeated wedge issue of issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented iimmigrants.
“The governor’s budget allows for only a 1.8 percent increase in education funding with most of it being controlled by the Public Education Department and not under local control,” Sen. Soules said. “We (Democrats) have an education budget that calls for a 7.1 percent increase in education funding with most flowing through the funding formula so that local school districts, who know their own communities the best, can make the best decisions to support their schools. New Mexico has the fairest system for funding.”
“Not once did (the governor) mention poverty. Children in poverty start kindergarten 18 months behind. Every child should be able to start school prepared. We need to invest in high-quality early childhood education. Children can’t wait until the economy improves. Children can’t wait until the political climate changes. The children are counting on us. Investing in education is economic development,” added Sen. Soules.
Sen. Soules also questioned the governor’s commitment to jobs and economic development as state agencies under her control returned $65 million to the general fund last year through unfilled positions, cutting of services, and the playing of politics with capital outlay funds, all of which contributed to the stunting of local economies.
“This money would have funded jobs and services to help our most vulnerable,” Sen. Soules said. “The Legislature put together a bipartisan jobs council with specific recommendations. This governor has chosen to ignore the recommendations and instead gave tax breaks to big out-of-state corporations. We need someone who will lead and govern — not play politics!”
Sen. Soules also commented that while the governor spoke about the number of jobs created, she failed to mention the number of jobs that have been lost in her administration. There has been no job growth. �“As other states around us have come out of the recession, New Mexico has continued to drag. The wealthy have seen a rebound, and the poor haven’t. We have the largest income inequality in the nation,” Sen. Soules continued.
Democrats are committed to raising the minimum wage, a measure that was passed in 2013 but callously vetoed by the governor. “Research is clear, moderate increases stimulate the economy. It does not cause job loss,” Sen. Soules said.
The senator from Las Cruces also questioned the governor’s continued focus on taking away driving privileges from undocumented immigrants and her classification of the existing law “dangerous.” Many law-enforcement agencies publicly support the law because it enables them to better track the drivers on the road.
“The governor has tried before and failed and is using this for political gain because it is a wedge issue, designed to separate people by class and to scare people,” Sen. Soules said. “Since last session, 10 additional states have begun issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants.”
Sen. Soules also brought up the governor’s newfound concern for the state’s critical water situation, saying, that all legislators in New Mexico recognize the value of water and appreciate the efforts to make it a priority. But he shared frustration about the fact that Governor Martinez has not included legislators in her plans for water infrastructure improvements.
“Her hidden plans and dismissive attitude toward the legislators around the state hinder the ability of us all to make substantive changes. She will find much more cooperation if she included us rather than trying to work around us,” said Sen. Soules.