On January 18, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered the annual State of the State address on the opening day of the 2022 New Mexico Legislative Session. It was her 4th State of the State address.
For the second time since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Governor delivered a remote speech from the Governor’s Office covering her agenda to address education, crime, taxes and several proposed health care investments.
The speech was short and lasted upwards 25 minutes in total. The speech was considered by many the best of the State of the State speeches she has given.
Major highlights of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2022 State of the State address can be summarized as follows:
CHALLENGE TO THINK BIG WITH WINDFALL REVENUES
The Governor called upon on lawmakers to think big in a session in which unprecedented New Mexico revenue levels are expected to allow for hefty spending increases and she said in part:
“Dating back decades, a timid mindset has afflicted people in this capitol building, a pessimism that can be self-fulfilling. Thinking small is a curse. Big and meaningful changes are possible, but the biggest change may be our attitude, our perspective. At a moment in time when we have the money to do it all, let’s not limit ourselves; let’s not be unnecessarily incremental. Can’t New Mexico be a state – can’t we be the state – where everything is possible?”
Placing emphasis on the state’s $1.6 Billion projected windfall, the Governor had this to say:
“We have, right now, unimaginable financial resources at our disposal. I believe we can fulfill, once and for all, after a hundred-and-ten years of statehood, the destiny of New Mexico as a genuine homestead of the American Dream, a place where people can grow and thrive and live in peace and prosperity, where people have the resources they need to support themselves and their families. What we do here now, what we do in the coming weeks, will set the stage.”
The Governor highlighted what her administration has been able to accomplished in the last 3 years and said:
“In the last three years, this Legislature and this administration have gotten a lot done. We raised the minimum wage for the first time in a decade. We’ve guaranteed paid sick leave to every worker in the state. We made early education a key priority and have invested hundreds of millions into the future of our earliest learners. We invested in new economic sectors and we’ve sent thousands more New Mexicans of every age and background to college for free, no strings attached. And I could go on. …”
EDITOR’S NOTE: With a projected $1.6 Billion projected windfall in state revenues, the Governor’s proposed budget increases budgetary spending to $8.4 billion. It provides 7% salary increases for teachers and state employees. In the Governor’s budget of $8.4 billion, education accounts for more than half of it at $4.8 billion. Given the state’s revenue situation, the governor said her administration would earmark an additional $230 million in rent and utility assistance for low-income New Mexicans.
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA OUTLINED
Governor Lujan Grisham urged lawmakers to quickly to approve tax cuts, teacher pay increases and stiffer criminal penalties.
TAX RELIEF AND TAX CUTS PROPOSED
Addressing tax credits that have helped the poor, the Governor had this to say:
“Our expansion of the Working Families Tax Credit last year has already saved hundreds of dollars each for about a quarter of a million New Mexicans — the New Mexicans who need those savings the most. Every dollar counts when we’re trying to support the middle class, when we’re trying to help workers build careers and help families build stability.”
“Next year, a half a million more New Mexico taxpayers will benefit from these expanded credits. This has been the most significant and progressive reform of our tax code in a generation; this is real and meaningful change that helps families keep the lights on and keep food on the table. This is money that is going right back into the pocket of the single mom, the small business owner, the veteran who served our country and our state. [From] day one, I said we were gonna make this economy work for the everyday New Mexican, and we’re getting it done.”
The Governor proposed tax cuts in her speech and said this:
“Let’s cut taxes for every single person in New Mexico. We haven’t cut the sales tax in this state in 40 years. It’s only gone up and up and up, for decades, burdening New Mexico households and making it harder for our small businesses to be competitive. But under my tax cut proposal, New Mexicans would save more than 170 million dollars every year. As my colleagues from across the aisle have pointed out in years past, correctly, that money doesn’t belong in government accounts; it belongs in the pockets of hard-working New Mexicans. I agree, and I expect the Legislature to prioritize this relief.”
The Governor called for Social Security retirement income to be exempted from taxation and said this:
“New Mexico is one of only a few states that taxes social security. I am calling today for that taxation to end. We must unburden the New Mexicans who rely on social security benefits by cutting their taxes. This is good government, serving the people who have asked us to serve them. New Mexicans deserve it. Because I believe we have an obligation to find ways to make life easier for the people of New Mexico, and I will keep looking for ways to do exactly that.”
The Governor also called for tax relief for New Mexico families in the form of a 0.25% point decrease in the state’s gross receipts tax base rate from 5.125% to 4.875%. The state’s personal income tax is currently only levied on income above $24,800 annually for a married couple filing jointly.
EDITOR’S NOTE: One major problem the Governor ignored is that each county, municipality, town and pueblos have to some extent taxing authority and they have added their own taxes on top of the state’s existing base rate of 5.125%. There are over 265 county, city, town and pueblo government gross receipts taxes with separate tax rates added the state’s rate ranging from the lowest of 5.5% (Bonita Lake, Alamardo, Lincoln County) to the highest of 9.065%. (Espanola, Santa Clara Grant (1)). Albuquerque’s gross receipts tax rate is 7.8750%, Santa Fe’s gross receipts tax rate is 8.4375%, Las Cruces gross receipts tax rate is 8.3125%, Rio Rancho’s gross receipts tax rate is 7.6875%, Artesia’s gross receipts tax rate is 7.8958%, Gallup’s gross receipts tax rate is 8.3125%. The Governor’s 0.25% tax cut would reduce by one-quarter of a percentage point off the statewide rate, or enough to save a family 25 CENTS on a $100 purchase. Republican State Senator William Sharer, R-Farmington and Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, have repeatedly proposed overhauling the gross receipts tax code and reducing the rate. Sharer said when the governor first made the proposal that it was too small to make any real difference and said:
“While it may be a step in the right direction … it’s not tax reform. … [It] doesn’t amount to anything but a talking point.”
TEACHER SALARIES AND EDUCATION FUNDING
Addressing teacher salaries and education issues, the Governor said this:
“Let’s give every single educator in this state a 7% raise this year, minimum. That would be the biggest pay bump in recent memory, and it would put us first in the region for average educator pay. They deserve it, and we can afford it, and it’s the right thing to do. Let’s also raise the starting salaries for every tier of educators, which means some teachers will see a 20% raise this year.”
“And let me be clear: This kind of progress pays for itself. When we support educators, when we retain high-quality teachers and keep our schools brimming with talented professionals, our other strategic investments in New Mexico children and in public education are supported and sustained.”
“Our graduation rates will continue to rise. Our literacy rates will continue to improve, especially with a targeted new phonics program that we have initiated and that the Legislature must continue to support. We get more kids into high-quality apprenticeship programs and institutions of higher learning that will help them build fulfilling careers and lives. It all starts with demonstrating support and respect for our educators. …”
“Almost forty thousand more students receiving high-quality college education for free under my Opportunity Scholarship program means more skilled workers building 21st-century careers right here in Roswell, Espanola, Sunland Park, Rio Rancho, Chama and so many more; the intellectual infrastructure of a nationally competitive state economy is being built right here, right now, on campuses and in communities through our state.”
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND EMPLOYMENT
The Governor highlighted what has been accomplished with the state’s economy in the last year and economic development by saying:
“In the last year, we’re 11th best for job growth in the country overall. In three years, we have created over ten thousand jobs in every corner of our state; and those jobs now have an average salary better than $90,000 a year: That’s a record high, and it’s a big bright signal to other businesses, like the hundreds of businesses that have relocated here in the last three years, showing them how successful our public-private partnerships can be, and how business-friendly New Mexico is. We’re cutting red tape, and it is making a real difference for New Mexico business owners. …”
“People see the economic potential of New Mexico now; we’re creating a real pipeline of jobs and opportunity. We are the frontier of economic growth. Unlike in the aftermath of the Great Recession, we’re not gonna let the pandemic stall us and take away years of growth; we will not have another lost decade – in fact, despite the challenges of the last two years, we’ve hardly lost a step.
Unemployment has gone down every month for 10 straight months. The number of unemployed New Mexicans dropped by 5 percent in November alone. We’re expanding our economic footprint into every single community.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Governor highlighted the fact New Mexico’s unemployment rate has declined for 10 consecutive months and said the number of unemployed New Mexicans dropped by 5 percent in November alone. What the Governor omitted is that New Mexico has the nation’s fifth-highest jobless rate of 6.2% according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.
The Governor briefly mentioned the impact of the legalization of marijuana in the state and said:
“Legal cannabis is going to create thousands of jobs and serious tax revenue for local governments to support local services in every corner of our state.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ultra Health, New Mexico’s largest medical marijuana company told lawmakers during legislative committee hearings that New Mexico will be “a production juggernaut” and a magnet for tourists and cannabis patients from Texas, despite federal prohibitions against transporting cannabis across state lines. Advocates of recreational legalization argue it will generate at least 13,000 jobs and millions of dollars for the economy. Rodriguez, also told lawmakers that legalizing recreational marijuana will generate up to $800 million a year, a $200 million increase from the last years estimate of $600 million.
She also emphasized the overhaul New Mexico’s liquor laws, saying the state was at the “frontier of economic growth.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: It was just last year during the 2021 New Mexico 60 day session that liquor license reform was enacted. It allows for home delivery of alcohol by restaurants with alcohol delivery permits issued to retailers, dispensers, craft distillers, winegrowers, small brewers and restaurant licensees. Under the new law liquor licenses are more affordable and accessible for those business owners seeking to obtain one. The legislation provides for a significant tax deduction among other protections for existing license holders in recognition of their investment. The law makes licenses more affordable and accessible while providing for a significant tax deduction among other protections for existing license holders to recognize their investment. The enacted law lifted the restrictions on alcohol sales that had been imposed on Sundays and prohibits the sale of miniature bottles of liquor for off-site consumption. Additionally, the legislation prohibits wine and spirit sales at gas stations in McKinley County.
Addressing her support for the development of the hydrogen industry, the Governor had this to say:
“…clean hydrogen will support thousands of jobs, especially in rural New Mexico, while helping us sprint toward our net-zero carbon deadlines and decarbonize the transportation sector.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Governor is supporting a proposed bill that would create a legal framework for hydrogen energy development in the state. Lujan Grisham Administration government officials and the oil and gas industry contend that the development of the state’s hydrogen can provide a tool for the transition to a clean energy economy. They argue that hydrogen has many potential applications as a relatively clean-burning fuel that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide. Advocates argue hydrogen can help decarbonize transportation when electric batteries are not viable options, such as long-haul trucking, trains and planes for freight. Proponents also argue that hydrogen development could be used to produce electricity, replacing fossil fuels like coal or natural gas to run turbine generators in power plants. The hydrogen development plan does have major critics, especially New Mexico environmental groups who have become highly critical of the Governor over the issue. At issue is hydrogen’s actual ability to lower carbon emissions in the hydrogen-production process and the potential danger of applying hydrogen solutions to decarbonize energy use in areas better served by renewable resources.
FUNDING FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT
The Governor specifically asked for more funding for law enforcement and said:
“I am asking the Legislature for a 19% increase in the budget of the department of public safety to fund innovative new crime fighting strategies and hundreds of new positions, including a 19% raise for our state police officers. And I am asking for 100 million to support hiring and retention efforts to get a thousand more officers in place statewide as quickly as we can. I am asking for those things because New Mexicans are asking for them.”
“New Mexico is a state that respects and supports law enforcement officers. I reject the rhetoric from Washington and elsewhere that has made public safety a political battleground. This isn’t about politics; it’s about basic human respect for one another: Respect from officers to the people they serve, and respect for officers from the communities they protect.”
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
The Governor said New Mexico must get it crime rates under control and aggressive action is needed to do just that and she said:
“We have got to get crime under control. I don’t accept the argument that this is an issue in only one part of our state. I don’t accept that any decision-maker in this building would say that somehow this isn’t their problem. We all have a role to play in keeping New Mexico safe.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: These remarks by the Governor were a direct and unnecessary response to comments made by Democrat State Senator Joseph Cervantes, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee. When the Governor unveiled her crime fighting agenda legislation, Cervantes suggested a better-funded state judicial system would do more to address crime rates than hasty changes to sentencing laws. Cervantes pointed out that violent crime rates in some parts of southern New Mexico are much lower than in New Mexico’s largest city and said:
“[Violent crime is] a problem that Albuquerque has largely created for itself. … It’s not really about changing state law.”
According to recent FBI crime statistics, New Mexico has the second-highest violent crime rate in the nation, only surpassing Alaska. In terms of per capita, the 1st Judicial District, which is Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba Counties, has more violent crime than in Albuquerque.
The Governor addressed public safety as follows:
“Public safety doesn’t just exist on its own; we have to create it, and support it, and own it. So we need tougher penalties for the worst of the worst, the repeat offenders and those who have proven themselves to be a danger to our communities; I support rehabilitation and this administration has done a lot of innovative good work in that area, but at the end of the day I stand with the families and communities who have been victimized unnecessarily by the violent criminals that this system needs to secure.”
“The worst offenders, the most serious and dangerous criminals in our state, need to be behind bars, simple as that. And we are going to pass a law, this session, that will keep violent criminals behind bars until justice can be done. We will put a wedge in the revolving door of violent crime in New Mexico. The safety of our communities cannot be up for debate. A smart-on-crime approach can work; it has worked. In my first year in office, violent crime went down for the first time in 6 years: We can regain that momentum when we make sure our local communities and public safety officers have the resources and support they need.”
“[We must] move forward, unified, in our desire to clean up the streets of this state, to keep violent criminals behind bars, and to ensure every day that justice is done, equally, under the law.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Governor, prior to the session beginning, endorsed numerous increases in criminal penalties as well as embraced legislation that would make it a “rebuttable presumption” that a defendant charged with a violent crime is violent and an immediate threat to the public and should be held in jail unless the charged defendant convinces the court the defendant does not pose an immediate threat to the public.
INCREASING CRIMINAL PENALTIES
The Governor is proposing two sperate legislative actions to increase the penalties for certain violent crimes. One proposal would increase sentencing for second-degree murder from 15 years to 18 years in prison and remove the statute of limitations. The second proposal would increase penalties for gun crimes, including making unlawful possession of a handgun a felony instead of a misdemeanor. The law change would also make fleeing a law enforcement officer when it results in injury a third-degree felony and a second-degree felony if it results in great bodily harm. A third-degree felony carries a basic sentence of up to 3 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $5,000. The basic sentence for a second-degree felony is up to 9 years in prison, plus a maximum fine of $10,000.Jennifer Burrill, president-elect of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association responded to the Governor by saying studies have shown that there is no evidence that keeping people in jail for a longer period of time makes them less likely to commit a crime when they are released and said:
“In fact it’s the exact opposite. … The longer people are traumatized and are in prison the more likely they are to be unstable when they come back into the community.”
In our criminal justice system, a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by state prosecutors. The rebuttable presumption shifts the burden of proof from state prosecutors, who must prove a case “beyond a reasonable doubt to convict”, to the defendant who would have to show they are not a danger to the public in order to be allowed to be released pending trial. Some legislators and the defense bar have expressed strong misgivings about the proposal to make it easier for defendants charged with violent crimes to be held in jail until trial. They argue that the proposed law is an an “unconstitutional burden-shifting” and people who are presumed innocent until proven guilty should be not be denied the option of bail and not have to prove that they should get out of jail.
HEALTH CARE DELIVERY
The Governor addressed health care delivery through out the state and said:
“We all want safe communities. And we all want healthy communities. This administration has made important strides: We have capped costs for life-saving medications, we’ve protected safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions, we’ve invested in affordable care for thousands of lower-income families, we have eliminated co-pays for behavioral health services and we’ve begun the great task of rebuilding a mental health care infrastructure that was decimated.
But, still, too many people, especially people in the rural areas of our state, don’t have timely access to the health care they need – or access at all. Every community deserves high-quality care. I propose a new Rural Health Care Delivery Fund that will provide bridge financing to communities that have been waiting for assistance to kickstart construction without massive upfront costs; state government can help fill these gaps.
With interventions like these, communities like those in Valencia County are moving toward securing a brand new hospital, after years of delays. And with investments like those I have proposed in my executive budget, we will put tens of millions of dollars into new behavioral health services, expanding access to treatment for substance abuse, suicide interventions and more. New Mexicans call me about this issue more than almost any other, and we will answer that call.
We can and must ensure that kind of service-delivery is available throughout the state – we have the resources to do so. That means endowing our medical school with 10 million dollars, ensuring that we keep our best and brightest here to provide care for New Mexicans after they graduate. That also means endowing our nursing school with the power of the state, ensuring more highly skilled professionals enter this all-important field. And it means, once and for all, delivering the health care families in the rural parts of our state still desperately need.”
GOVERNOR CALLS FOR DRAMATIC EXPANSION OF CARE GIVER SUPPORT
One major program that was downplayed by the media was the Governor’s call for a dramatic expansion of funding for New Mexico’s caregivers to the elderly naming it New Mexi-Care and help for veterans. The Governor stated:
I propose a dramatic expansion of the state program that directly supports caregivers; what that means is we are going to pay families who are doing the work of taking care of their elderly loved ones, regardless of Medicaid eligibility. Let’s call it New Mexi-Care, and let’s make it a model program for the rest of the country. This is an investment in people that goes well beyond politics or any one politician; this is the kind of investment that can be and should be a lasting service, one that reflects our shared values as a state. In this state, we provide for and care for our parents, our grandparents, our disabled loved ones.
This state government, under my leadership, will help provide for that care, unequivocally. Caregiving is a full-time job, I know it first-hand; and we respect working people in New Mexico. Let’s invest in the dignity of our elders, and of their families, by helping caregivers and those they care for stay in their homes with the financial support they need.
On the same note, it is time that we build a new veterans home – a state-of-the-art independent assisted-living facility for those who sacrificed to protect our freedoms. The original building on the campus in T or C was built in 1936. I think it’s time for an upgrade. So I am calling for 60 million dollars, which we will leverage with an additional $60 million from the federal government, to build the kind of modern facility our veterans, and their families, deserve. We’re going to get it done.
INSPIRATIONAL REMARKS AND CONCLUSION
Governor Lujan Grisham said in part and concluded by saying:
The state of our state is ready to move forward. Ready to rise. We have all the tools we need. My vision is this: Communities all across our state where families aren’t worried about the next bill, or their kids’ future, or a job market or health care system that doesn’t quite seem to work for them. My vision is a New Mexico where the founding ideals of this great country – equal opportunity and justice for all – are made real, and meaningful; where the pursuit of happiness is more than a phrase from a dusty piece of paper; it’s something tangible, something everyone can actually feel.
Once again, this incredible state, our home, is on the precipice of momentous positive change. I said that three years ago when I first swore an oath to carry out the duties of this office to the best of my ability. It’s been true every day since then. If anything, the opportunity has grown, has multiplied exponentially; the sun is rising on a pivotal day, and I believe everything and anything is possible.
So for the next 30 days, let’s be aggressive on behalf of the New Mexicans we’re all here to serve. Let’s remember who benefits from good public service. It’s not about politics, it’s about community: Your community; our community; the families and workers and seniors and parents who just want to live in peace, and with dignity, confident in the promise of tomorrow and the stability of today. We’ve made so much progress. Let’s make sure New Mexicans feel it. Let’s go above and beyond and embrace the potential of this pivotal moment in time.”
The Youtube link to the entire state of the state speech is here:
A link to the transcript to the speech is here:
After the speech, Republicans held a news conference to voice their reaction to the Governor’s speech. Not at all surprising, Republicans reacted in a negative way. Top-ranking Republicans went so far as to accuse Lujan Grisham of shifting her priorities, especially on crime, all because it is an election year.
New Mexico’s Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce, who lost to Lujan Grisham 3 years ago, said her policies have not yielded results, despite spending increases over the last three years and he said:
“This governor needs to take a serious look at what is happening around New Mexico before taking another band-aid approach to fixing our crises.”
Republican Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen suggested a record-high homicide count in Albuquerque last year was specifically behind the governor’s call for a change to New Mexico’s bail reform law and a push for 19% pay raises for State Police officers. Baca put it this way:
“The bar stands at 117 murders in Albuquerque – then we’re going to do something.”
House Republican Floor Leader James Townsend of Artesia took the “smart-ass” approach and said:
“I thought for a minute she actually became a Republican for the election cycle.”
Hobbs Republican State Senator Gay Kernan said the governor pitched several ideas she considered “generational” in change, but she could not resist giving credit to those who she feels will be paying for the programs and said:
“We’ve got great promise in this state, along with great revenues, and I just want to stand here today, representing the oil and gas industry in my particular region, to say thank you to that industry for providing the resources that will allow many of the things that we can consider during this session. … I want to recognize what they are contributing to this state, and I hope everybody on this floor will remember that every time we vote to produce a new program or to fund a new program.”
The Governors State of the State Address was generally well received by Democrats, with a few expressing concerns about the legislation that would make it a “rebuttable presumption” that a defendant charged with a violent crime is violent and an immediate threat to the public and should be held in jail pending trial. Albuquerque Democrats have largely expressed support for the crime-related proposals, which also include retention bonuses for law enforcement officers and creation of a $100 million fund to help hire more officers.
House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, for his part had this to say:
“We have in New Mexico everything we need to build a great future for our state.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
At the very beginning of her State of the State address, the Governor said:
“I know there is a temptation to view today as the opening kickoff of a big game, or the launch of some great battle. Some will describe it that way. But I encourage you to do what you can to resist the perception of a “competition,” to avoid feeding a plotline that would pit one team against another. This isn’t the sports page. We’re all here to do the people’s business. It’s a sacred thing. And we’re all on the same team today – and in fact every day.”
Despite the Governor’s opening comments, all Governor Lujan Grisham gets from Republican leadership are “smart ass” remarks and political posturing, but what else can you expect from Der Führer Trump Republicans.
Links to related blog articles are here:
Making Sausage: Legislative Agenda for 2022 NM Legislature Includes Controversial Legislation; Pre-Trial Detention, Hydrogen Development Legislation, Ethics Disclosure By Legislators And Lobbyists, Election Law Changes