Updated 1/20/16 7:30 a.m.
New Mexico's Senate Majority leader Michael Sanchez yesterday delivered a response to the governor's state of the state address that was largely defensive in nature. Sanchez simply listed the ways in which Democrats intend to thwart the ideologically driven Republican governor's agenda; her agenda mostly involves creating fake issues around crime and immigration and pretending to solve them. The governor has nothing planned in the way of economic policy except to further weaken the state's already feeble unions by passing "right to work" legislation and thereby further suppressing wages in the the state.
New Mexico's economy has stagnated for years because of the lack of consumer demand. Because of the state's low wages and high unemployment, people don't feel like they have any spare cash and aren't buying much -- consumer confidence is low -- so since there's no demand for things, new jobs aren't being created that would meet consumer demand if there was any.
Sanchez made vague references to that dynamic, but then just made a reference to an economic stimulus plan New Mexico Democrats introduced last year, which went nowhere because Democrats have next to no political power in the state. He said Democrats will be pushing the plan again this year.
The plan is a typical "New Democrat" plan, a combination of modest tax breaks and job training assistance measures. It's designed to stimulate growth the Ronald Reagan way, from the supply side. It's also what you might call unimaginative.
Minnesota is said to be the state that has done the best, economically, since the national economy crashed in 2007-2008. It's Democratic governor raised taxes on businesses after the recession. It's citizens already had the fourth highest burden of state and local taxes in the country.
If New Mexico raised taxes on businesses and individuals, it could stimulate its economy in ways suggested by former Albuquerque mayor Jim Baca today, such building much needed school infrastructure. And it could improve its highway and public transportation systems. It could also do things to lower the cost of housing and rent, which Minnesota economists said has been part of the secret to their recovery -- people won't come to your state, spend money and pay taxes if they can't afford to live there.
The industry that has led Minnesota out of recession has been its agriculture industry. New Mexico has great deal of undeveloped agricultural potential. It's antiquated public irrigation system, the ditch system, only allows the kind of irrigation in which farmers flood their fields with water, which wastes most of the water to evaporation. The state could help landowners install more efficient drip irrigation systems and greatly expand its base of irrigated land -- any land, not just flat land, can be drip irrigated. Large scale drip irrigation has already been demonstrated at the Rio Grande Community Farm, which, according to the USDA, is one of the few places in the country this has been done and "stands alone in the state as a model for sustainable farming."
One need only drive through the Navajo Nation's NAPI farm near Farmington, which uses a type of irrigation that's midway between the two, i.e. the sprinkler system, to see how productive New Mexico agricultural land can be.
New Mexico could also get in on the rapidly growing organic food market. It's already home to a few organic farmers, some of whom have said they had no problem converting from traditional farming because they traditionally couldn't afford chemical fertilizer anyway.
And of course New Mexico could be the solar energy capital of the world. It's the fourth largest state, most of its land is vacant, and it gets as much sunshine, in practial terms, as anyplace else on earth.
New Mexico Democrats need to drop Reaganomics and do something that will capture peoples' imagination while they come up with ways to put money in peoples pockets again.