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Advocates: NM Budget Cuts Could Hurt Children

Children’s advocates say budget cuts at state agencies could hurt the youngest New Mexicans, whose well-bring already ranks among the lowest in the nation. (rjellis/iStockphoto)
Children’s advocates say budget cuts at state agencies could hurt the youngest New Mexicans, whose well-bring already ranks among the lowest in the nation. (rjellis/iStockphoto)
August 15, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico state budget officials project a $150 million to $200 million deficit this fiscal year due to falling oil prices; and advocates say Gov. Susana Martinez's order for a five percent spending cut by state agencies could hurt New Mexico's most vulnerable children.

Critics blame the state's business development policies for putting New Mexico in the hole. James Jimenez, executive director at New Mexico Voices for Children, said the state's kids are already near the bottom in national rankings for overall well-being. And less spending will only make it worse.

"The agencies are under tremendous strain right now,” Jimenez said. “And a big concern is whether or not they have adequate staff to provide the services that people need here in the state."

There's nothing left to cut from programs aimed at improving kids’ lives, Jimenez said. In the most recent KidsCount survey, New Mexico ranked 49th among the 50 states and District of Columbia, in children's education and health and in family economics.

According to Jimenez, the governor is expected to call a special legislative session in the next few weeks to deal with the revenue shortfall. He said state officials need to devise new strategies: an immediate plan to raise additional revenue, and a long-term repair plan for New Mexico's broken economy.

"It's clear - to me, anyway - that we have pursued a rather flawed economic development strategy that hasn't worked for New Mexico,” Jimenez said. "They've tried to use tax cuts as a way of drawing business here, and the evidence shows that that's a pretty flawed strategy."

Current state policies are shortchanging children and families and putting the state's future at risk, he said. Jimenez's solution is to cultivate a healthy and well-educated workforce, which he believes will go much further than tax cuts in attracting businesses with good jobs to New Mexico.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - NM