Just more than two weeks into the 2017 Legislative Session and boy, there's been a whirlwind of activity up in Santa Fe! Just yesterday Governor Susana Martinez signed a roughly $190 million solvency package comprised of three bills which will resolve our state's $69 million budget deficit and give us about $120 million (2%) in reserves for the current fiscal year. Finally! That was a heavy lift but the good news is we're on the other side of it now and legislators can begin the equally, if-not-more-so, daunting task of readying a FY18 budget.
The good news does get better for those of us interested in the continued growth and diversification of our economy... The governor, while signing two of the solvency bills 'as is,' used her veto authority on the third bill and wiped out proposed cuts to LEDA, the Local Economic Development Act, our state's 'closing fund.' YES!
Preserving LEDA funding has been a primary focus for the Chamber over the last two weeks of the session and in the weeks leading up to it. And our state's solvency issue more than underscores the reason why. If we don't continue to grow the private sector and bring more jobs to the state, we will continue to be at the mercy of oil and gas prices. It's an incredibly important industry in New Mexico; we can't overstate that fact. But, because it's cyclical, it just makes good sense that we not keep all of our eggs in just one basket.
In just a few short years, about 7,000 jobs have been added as a result of LEDA and billions of dollars in private capital investment have been attracted to the state. Facebook, Scorpios, Solar, FedEx, Keter Plastics...the list goes on. These companies have located to or expanded in NM because of LEDA. With more of this type of growth, we'll decrease our dependency on the price of oil and gas (and reliance on federal dollars coming into the state).
According to this story in the Albuquerque Journal, Senator John Arthur Smith, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is warning that more tough decisions are imminent. He said that NM could face shortfall in the coming fiscal year of somewhere between $300-$500 million. All the more reason to protect those tools which allow businesses to expand, create jobs and help grow our state's coffers.
Yesterday's news was a win for economic development, and job creation but the fight's far from over. For FY18, it's only just beginning. Thankfully, we'll get lots of help from the governor and House GOP as well as some Senate GOP members.
Thanks again to our many member companies for allowing us to keep up the good fight for business. The road ahead is long, but we'll forge ahead!
Until next time, Terri Cole