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How Republican Governance Has Crushed New Mexico


Since 2011, the awful Susana Martinez has been governor of New Mexico. Her anti-tax, anti-regulation leadership has led to New Mexico lagging far behind the rest of the Southwest in every metric. And while some of this is not necessarily her fault–after all, it’s not as if New Mexico’s neighbors are bastions of liberalism–when a poor state doubles down on right-wing ideology, it really has a terrible impact that gives employers no good reason to locate there.

Between 2010 and 2016, about 53,000 more people moved out of New Mexico than moved in, according to U.S. Census estimates. But because there were more births than deaths, the state’s population grew nearly 22,000, or 1.1 percent, in the six-year time frame.

That’s far lower than the national average of 4.7 percent, and New Mexico experienced the weakest population growth in the Southwest: Neighboring Texas grew 10.8 percent, Arizona 8.4 percent and Oklahoma 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2016.

“It’s not surprising to me that we’re losing population,” says Democratic state Sen. Mimi Stewart, noting that the out-migration trend began in 2010, when Republican Gov. Susana Martinez took office. The two have often clashed on revenue-raising measures. “We’re not creating an atmosphere that makes people want to come to New Mexico through this governor’s policies.”

Of people who did move into the state, most were 25 to 29, or 60 or older. Rhatigan said he could not be certain why, but speculated that the state’s quality of life – spurred by its low cost of living and year-round sunshine – could be a draw for these groups. People in their mid-20s could be pursuing advanced degrees at one of the state’s universities or military installations, and older folks may be headed to New Mexico to retire or return to one of the state’s 22 tribal lands. He also says immigration from outside the U.S. could contribute to growth in the mid-20s cohort.

New Mexico’s recent population stagnancy is a first for the state – between 2000 and 2010, the state was among the fastest-growing in the U.S., increasing its population by 13 percent.

Before and during the recession of 2007 to 2009, New Mexico’s unemployment rate was lower than the national average. But as the state’s economy has struggled to recover as quickly as others, most of the major employers in New Mexico are facing budget cuts and constraints. Many of the state’s largest employers rely on government funding, including universities, hospitals and research labs.

But critics say the tax breaks have failed to recruit companies or bring jobs to New Mexico and have left the state with underfunded public services such as education and health care.

“This idea that cutting taxes for business is supposed to produce jobs — we are a state where that policy has failed miserably,” Stewart says, citing New Mexico’s teacher shortage in recent years.

Health care and social assistance was the fastest-growing industry between 2011 and 2015, accounting for nearly 17 percent of New Mexico’s total employment, according to a report released in June by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. But overall labor force participation rates dropped from 61 percent to 58.4 percent, well below the national average of 63.1 percent, during that time frame.

A recent uptick in the oil, natural gas and mining sector is the main reason for the state’s 2.8 percent growth in gross domestic product during the first quarter of 2017, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data. Martinez credited the growth to her economic reforms, but the volatile industry, a significant source of state revenue, has been unreliable in recent years. Explosive growth between 2011 and 2015 was diminished by sharp losses in 2016, the Department of Workforce Solutions report said.

“Right now we have some skilled workers sitting on the sidelines,” Rhatigan says. “So if a company invests in New Mexico, there are workers here. But as those workers continue to leave, in 15 or 20 years we will have a shortage of young folks and there will be no incentive for employers to invest in New Mexico.”

What’s striking is how a consistently growing state has just completely crashed to population growth levels of states such as Rhode Island. Basically, New Mexico is becoming a state that caters to retirees and is populated by young people who have no other options other than getting out. There has never been a great economy in New Mexico and now there is nearly none. Instead of building up an economy based upon both public and private sector employers, Martinez and New Mexico Republicans have turned away from public employment while erasing what might get private employers to locate there. A microcosm of Republican governance nationwide.

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  • tsam100

    The Brownback model. Don’t invest in the state, what if a poor person ends up clawing her way into the middle class? That would be unamerican.

    • FluxAmbassador

      If nothing else, watching someone come up from grinding poverty into something like financial stability while I remain a temporarily embarrassed millionaire certainly increases my economic anxiety.

  • ChrisS

    I almost moved to Albuquerque last year. Well, not really almost, but we did engage in a realtor to put our house on the market and I had two phone interviews before the position was rescinded.

    I heard about high crime and poverty, but I never heard anything about what they were doing for solutions.

    • efgoldman

      I never heard anything about what they were doing for solutions.

      RWNJs don’t DO solutions. They rely on Adam Smith’s hand. Or maybe his ass.

  • Karen

    One of the things Martinez did that was most foolish was to veto a bill to legalize recreational pot. Antonito CO, about a mile from the state line, has established quite a decent little economy catering to the needs of stoners in New Mexico.

  • SKelley

    I heard good things about the meth business. Sure, there was some turn over at the top….

  • lodger

    In addition, divestment from public services has helped fuel soaring rates of poverty and violent crime, to levels that are both devastating to residents and repellent to employers looking at the state. I grew up in Albuquerque, and it breaks my heart to see what the GOP is doing there,

  • The Republican ideology cannot fail. It can only be failed. Always remember that.

  • Bobby Jindal did this to Louisiana , too. And the GOP legislature is resisting fixing it when roads , flooding relief and all other infrastructure is going the way of the dinosaurs.

  • Red_cted

    I noticed yesterday that opioid deaths in New Mexico are significantly higher than in the surrounding states as well.

  • I would dearly love to get to move back to New Mexico, but with Martinez cutting off nearly all funding to universities, I haven’t even bothered checking most of the various college HR sites.

    I don’t even understand the Republican hatred of higher education. They’re an alien species. :(

    • dstatton

      Colleges are liberal bastions.

  • burritoboy

    The weird thing is that New Mexico could easily have a nice little tech center because you’ve got the research labs and universities. A LOT of people from California and Seattle would be delighted to think about moving there (and that would include me). Lots of New Mexico Republicans would make big piles of money doing real estate development for a new techie influx, some might make even bigger piles through VC investing, and plenty of working class jobs in construction or building maintenance for the WWC. A lot of gentrification would happen and stress lower incomed people, but that also would make a lot of money for Republican real estate holders.

    • prognostication

      Cosign all of this. Just had a couple of beautiful days in New Mexico, and if there were jobs, I’d love to live there.

      • burritoboy

        No joke. I’m talking big dollars potentially here, with a plentiful slice going to well-heeled Republicans. This ain’t chicken feed. This is tens of billions left on the table. (hey, just because I’m a socialist doesn’t erase my years in FIRE out of my mind.)

  • DavidSallis

    Substitute “Mississippi” for “New Mexico” and you get the same damn story. We give away the store to get some company *cough*Nissan*cough* to locate here and when the freebies run out, so do the companies. Then we’re left with the mouldering hulks of their erstwhile physical plants, and no better off economically than when we started

  • Bufflars

    Add 4 more to the total of people who have moved away as my family left just last month. While Martinez’s policies did not specifically drive us away (we left to be closer to family), the State budget cuts were crippling my UNM Hospital where my wife worked and the overall sequestration and federal budget climate is really hurting the labs and Air Force bases there, where I was a contractor. So, in other words, the state of the economy certainly did not give us any compelling reason to stay.

  • Happy Jack

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same year she’s elected Pup ‘N’ Taco ceased to exist in New Mexico. Conservatives destroy everything that is decent as a matter of course.

  • JamesWimberley

    Where does NM stand on solar energy? It’s got the best resource in the country. But the news is from the neighbours.

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