In what has become a tradition, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed bipartisan legislation designed to protect existing jobs and incentivize growth in one of New Mexico’s fastest-growing industries.
Weeks ago, she vetoed a solar tax credit that would have helped offset the federal tariff on solar imposed in February, kept the cost of solar well below parity with utility power, and encouraged New Mexico residents and businesses to install solar panels — boosting job growth in the local solar industry.
New Mexico ranks second in the nation for solar energy potential. But you wouldn’t know it from paying attention to Martinez’s lack of support in this sector. Because of her inaction on solar, we are lagging behind neighboring states in solar energy jobs. Those are real jobs, permanent jobs and income for New Mexico, erased because of Martinez’s outdated political ideology.
Recently, the Solar Foundation released its annual report on solar jobs. Anyone interested in economic development and the state of our economy should be furious over the findings:
u Colorado saw a 13.1 percent increase in solar jobs.
u Arizona saw a 14.6 percent increase.
And where was New Mexico?
We had a decline in solar jobs of 13.9 percent. That is 407 jobs that were not produced here, in a state that has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country.
Another report released just this month from The University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research stated that solar jobs could triple in New Mexico if we had the right policies.
Gov. Martinez, where’s the leadership on job growth you promised?
We’ll have new leadership in the Governor’s Office next year, and it’s time for a leader who understands that solar power can bring huge economic benefits to our state. New Mexico has a long history of producing energy for other states. With wind and solar, we can continue to be an energy provider, boosting our economy and helping to level out the boom-and-bust cycle of gas and oil. For the many families and towns that are struggling, wind and solar provides safe, steady employment as we build toward a future with more renewable energy in the mix.
Times are desperate because of eight years of an indifferent government. We need a “both/and” strategy for economic development — and renewable energy, with New Mexico’s plentiful wind and sun, can and should be a bigger part of the solution.
The New Mexico House and Senate voted for this bill, and we should all applaud our legislative leaders for fighting to keep this industry healthy and provide a path for new jobs in New Mexico.
It’s not just jobs, it’s also banking dollars and real assets that raise the value of local homes and businesses.
I’m hoping that we’ll “get there” on customer-owned solar with new leadership in the Governor’s Office. Until then, if you’re upset about our economy, ask Martinez why she’s vetoing job-creating bills that have a proven track record of economic development.
Dan Baker is employed in the solar industry and lives in Santa Fe.