With the end of the 2011 New Mexico Legislative Session behind us, I thought you would like to see the letter I just sent to my constituents. I hope you enjoy reading it.
I hope this letter finds you well. I write today to update you on the recent sixty-day session of the legislature; I hope you find it informative. I am incredibly honored to represent you in the legislature and thank you for the opportunity to serve our community. I understand how difficult the economic situation is and the impact the recession is having on so many in our community. Throughout the session, I have worked with an independent mind and across the aisle to find solutions-based ways to help our economy and our schools recover from the recession. This is work that I will continue throughout my term in office.
Overall, the session had a “slow” feel, with far fewer bills introduced than usual and a great deal of uncertainty about the direction of the new administration. The slim margin in the House between both parties added another new element to our debates and committee work, leading sometimes to good compromise and other times to strenuous debate. None the less, I hope to find more common ground with the governor and the minority party in the future.
On the important issue of jobs, we delivered results in several areas. The legislature passed an extension of the important job training incentive program (JTIP), which has helped employers hire and train thousands of new employees state-wide. I sponsored in the House several bills that will help spur new investment and job creation in renewable energy, including SB 237, 266 and 549. These bills will allow colleges and other public schools to make new renewable energy investments, allocate new bonding capacity for renewable projects statewide and allow towns and counties to keep money in their communities for renewable investment instead of sending it to the state’s large electric utilities. These bills will create jobs and new work all over New Mexico.
I also sponsored a successful bill (HB 174) that will allow homeowners who successfully defend their homes in foreclosure cases their attorney’s fees from the banks who brought the flawed actions against them. While so many of our neighbors are losing their homes around our state, I believe that it is important to give homeowners upon whom the banks wrongly attempt to foreclose a tool in their toolbox against the big banks. This bill is currently awaiting action by the Governor.
Unfortunately, two significant bills to stimulate our economy failed to pass. I introduced HB 173 to move billions of state dollars out of big national banks and into our community banks and HB 290 to create a new state-owned development bank to support our states’ small businesses. I believe strongly that these ideas are good for New Mexico and I will reintroduce them and continue to fight for their passage in the future.
The state’s successful film incentive program was another major issue during the session. The governor announced in her state of the state address her desire to target the program for reduction, and possibly elimination, despite the program’s record of creating and sustaining as many as 10,000 jobs and hundreds of small businesses. This unmerited targeting of the film industry was deeply disappointing to me and to the many legislators who understand the film industry’s importance to New Mexico’s economic future.
Throughout the session, I fought to keep the film incentive program intact because so many constituents and New Mexico families depend of this industry for their jobs. I pointed out that the governor presented a false choice: our schools or the film industry. The truth is that a strong film industry is good for education in New Mexico, offering students well-paying and exciting jobs in the field and generating revenue for our schools. In future sessions, I will continue to be a strong advocate for the film industry and will work to fully restore the program.
You may know that I accepted appointment as Chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which put me in the middle of the debate on conservation and energy policy. This new position allows me to stand up for the conservation and environmental issues that are so important to the future of our state.
With the support of my colleagues on the committee, we were able to pass a wide range of bills to support renewable energy. We also stopped every bill that sought to roll back common sense rules protecting our air, land and water. We were the first committee to hold hearings on the natural gas crisis that struck New Mexico at the beginning of February and learned a great deal about the outage. I am committed to finding solutions to prevent future outages that threaten the lives and property of northern New Mexico families and will continue to push the committee to develop solid recommendations in collaboration with other parts of state government.
The legislature passed a balanced budget package that left me very dissatisfied. As in past sessions, revenues were down and cuts were necessary. This year’s budget will be approximately $5.4 billion, down from more than $6 billion in 2009. The state’s workforce has now shrunk by 25%, and critical services have been scaled back several years in a row.
Unlike previous sessions, however, the governor promised to veto any measure that changed rates of taxation, including a refusal to close tax loopholes that allow large out-of-state corporations to avoid paying their fair share of corporate income taxes. The governor’s pledge means that working families will have to bear the burden of cuts and reductions to basic services. In future sessions, we must begin to address our state’s structural deficit by looking to level the playing field between New Mexico’s businesses and those who come from out-of-state.
While we may not agree completely on every issue, I am eager to hear your thoughts. I remain dedicated to creating and introducing legislation to create jobs, protect our natural resources, and improve the quality of education available to all our children. For a complete list of the bills I introduced, please visit www.nmlegis.gov. You can also stay in touch via my website and blog at www.BrianForSantaFe.com. Please feel free to contact me anytime with your thoughts, concerns and input. Thanks you, again, for the opportunity to be of service.