In 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession, New Mexico had the 20th best unemployment rate and the 43rd worst poverty ranking among the 50 states. By 2017, it developed the highest poverty and highest unemployment rates among the states. The lack of planning and leadership in New Mexico contributed to one of the slowest economic recoveries in the nation after the Great Recession.
In a cruel turn of events, as the state finally recovered the jobs it lost during the Great Recession, the pandemic hit. Budgets in New Mexico that were recently brimming with increased oil and gas revenues have begun to dry up because of plummeting oil prices.
Our state needs to act now to plan for our post-pandemic recovery. We may not know yet the full extent of the economic and social implications of the pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t start preparing for the difficult road ahead. As the state of New Mexico assembles its recovery effort, it should be sure that process is bipartisan, statewide, inclusive, comprehensive and aggressive.
Growing partisanship nationwide has led to a lot of one-sided policymaking and a lot of people feeling like they’ve been left out. New Mexico has the opportunity to buck that trend, reach beyond partisanship and create thoughtful recovery plans that are inclusive of all New Mexicans.
One-size-fits-all solutions tend to leave out our state’s rural, diverse and underserved communities. Recovery plans that arrive at broad, inclusive, consensus-based solutions will generate results the public will get behind.
There’s no doubt that the virus will have negative implications on our economic, workforce, health and educational systems. The list of needs is certain to be long. In past recovery efforts, like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka the stimulus package), New Mexico’s list of shovel-ready projects wasn’t long enough or developed enough. As a result, we failed to access federal resources as successfully as other states. We can’t let that happen again.
There’s opportunity now to advance New Mexico’s recovery. The Federal Reserve Bank just cut interest rates to near zero and the cost of borrowing will be at its lowest in years. Low rates help mortgage lending, commercial construction and infrastructure development. Our state ought to look at how to leverage these low rates into worthwhile community and economic development projects.
With a federal emergency aid package in the works, New Mexico should be on Washington, D.C.’s doorstep armed with its list of needs. Enlisting the help of our congressional delegation can go a long way toward ensuring that New Mexico is taken care of during the recovery effort.
Finally, our state’s recovery plans have to motivate all New Mexicans to contribute. In situations like this, we can’t expect our leaders to fix it on their own. Our participatory democracy runs best when fueled by citizen involvement. Tapping into New Mexico’s great network of volunteer, community, business and government leaders would enhance our recovery plans tremendously.
New Mexico has the chance to get in front of the recovery process right now. Proper recovery planning will give New Mexicans confidence in the path forward and generate the hope that better days are ahead.