If you’ve got some new out-of-state neighbors, they’re likely from California. The Land of Enchantment, of course, has always been a welcoming state.
But we grow increasingly concerned that the Golden State migrants flocking to Albuquerque and Santa Fe are bringing with them overly idealistic demands and a gentrified perspective that conflict with the realities of New Mexico.
This migration is no mirage. Data shows that in the first six months of the pandemic, 44 percent more people moved to our state than left it. Meanwhile, 63 percent more Californians left their state than those migrating there.
It’s easy to grasp why Californians are moving here. Consider how California Movers describes us: “Want to live and work in a place with a rich history, where the cost of living and home prices are low, the culture is unique, and the landscape is extremely scenic? If you have answered YES to these questions, then you can consider moving to New Mexico” where “employment opportunities are growing.”
But beware the cost to our way of life. In the Española Valley where I live, as well as elsewhere, the influx of outside groupthink into local politics already has damaged our major industries. As a group, they’ve been especially injurious to our oil and gas industry, which provides hundreds of millions of tax revenues to New Mexico.
They pretend they understand this industry’s importance. Yet many support the Biden administration’s recent move to suspend oil and gas leasing on federal lands, even though the ban could decrease our oil production by 47 percent and natural gas output by 46 percent.
They contend it’s important to diversify the state’s energy portfolio. But how are they going to make up for the $1.5 billion, or 32 percent, of state revenue at risk from the leasing suspension? That includes an estimated $734 million for our schools, $344 million for health and human services, and $85 million for public safety. Over 62,000 jobs could be lost, representing over 5 percent of our total employment.
It was only two years ago that the state received a half-billion-dollar windfall from a single sale of oil and gas leases on federal lands in New Mexico’s Permian Basin. Royalties from oil and gas are paying for vital public services. The state can’t collect the same kind of money from solar or wind installations to make up the difference.
Together, homegrown anti-fossil fuel politicians and their imported activist allies are ignoring science and New Mexico’s plans to adopt stringent methane standards, instead advocating to end hydraulic fracturing of crude oil and natural gas. That’s the technology that brought billions in revenue to our state for schools and government services we desperately need.
The Biden administration would do well to pay attention to that fact, instead of throwing out blanket policies to please a vocal fringe group. I left the Democratic Party because of the shrill, intolerant thinking its progressive wing espouses. The president’s duty is to all of us, especially our children and the less fortunate among us, not the biggest noisemakers.
New Mexico is not a rich state; it’s one of the poorest in the nation. In terms of child poverty, it ranks 49th in the U.S. So we cannot afford so-called progressive mandates and failed ideas imported from a state with high taxes, an unreliable power grid and gaping wealth inequality.
We can do better, with ideas and policies that are made for New Mexico’s specific situation. Every family in the Española Valley and, for that matter, New Mexico, will suffer if we don’t speak up now in favor of what’s right for us.