By Governor Susana Martinez
We must all work together to turn New Mexico around. On Tuesday, New Mexico legislators will begin a special session to re-draw electoral districts based on the latest census figures and to consider a limited, but important, agenda of items that will help to create jobs, protect the elderly and disabled, enhance public safety and improve student achievement.
Over the past few weeks, we have met with Democratic and Republican legislators to build as much consensus as possible ahead of the session. Not only do I believe that this important work can be completed quickly, but I believe that Democrats and Republicans can come together to do what's right for our state.
In addition to drawing electoral districts that are fair and competitive, where voters will have an opportunity to choose their representatives (not the other way around), I have asked the Legislature to consider the following items:
* Supporting a high-wage tax credit fix that will continue to allow New Mexico companies to create high-wage jobs and hire new employees.
* Providing a true preference for New Mexico businesses when they seek contracts with the state. This will close a loophole that allows out-of-state corporations to game the system at the expense of in-state businesses.
* Authorizing needed construction and road maintenance projects that will create jobs in the struggling construction industry.
* Fixing the unemployment trust fund in a way that does not impose additional taxes on New Mexico small businesses during a fragile economy; we should also look at ways to take politics out of the fund's management, so that sound actuarial data and economic analysis drives decisions that are made to ensure a stable, solvent future for the fund.
* Ending the practice of social promotion by requiring that third-grade students can read proficiently before advancing to the next grade; our proposal will also require assessments of students between kindergarten and second grade so that struggling children can be helped before they enter the third grade.
* Allowing New Mexico cities, counties and the state to ban the use of fireworks under extreme fire hazard conditions.
* Combining six Cabinet departments into three in order to reduce the size of government and create more efficiency.
* Repealing the issuance of driver's licenses to illegal immigrants; this is supported by 72 percent of New Mexicans -- by people from all backgrounds who worry about the public safety problem this policy has created.
* Extending the state's supplement to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in order to provide nutritional assistance to the elderly and disabled.
Some have questioned whether the Legislature can consider nine important issues and draw redistricting maps that create fair and competitive districts. Not only do I believe this is possible, but I believe this is necessary. During the last special session, which lasted only three days, 30 legislative items were considered and the state budget was passed. It can be done.
Unfortunately, one prominent Senate Democrat chose to run away from our work by saying this past week, "Let's wait," in response to our efforts to ensure that third-graders can read before moving onto the fourth grade.
I don't believe we can wait to pass critical education reforms. Similarly, we cannot wait when it comes to creating a friendlier business environment to create more jobs. We cannot wait to provide necessary support to the most vulnerable New Mexicans. And, we cannot wait until we're the last state in the country to allow people from throughout the world to travel to or be trafficked to our state to obtain a New Mexico driver's license and leave.
This is not a partisan agenda. In fact, these items have all received bipartisan support. By addressing these priorities, we can show New Mexicans that Republicans and Democrats can put aside partisan differences and put New Mexico first. Most important, we can institute key reforms that will help to strengthen our economy and promote job creation, make our communities safer and give our children a greater opportunity to succeed. After all, that's what New Mexicans elected us to do.