On Labor Day, we should all be celebrating the working men and women of New Mexico and of the nation--we should salute the contributions of organized labor over the years, the people, as the saying goes, who brought us the weekend! (And much much more--including the middle class!)
But in New Mexico, we need to temper our celebration with resolve.
When it comes to jobs and economic opportunity, we are the hole in the regional doughnut: Our neighbors are creating jobs and opening up new opportunities, and truthfully, New Mexico is not.
On Labor Day--and every day--that's what we should be talking about: What will it take to get the economy moving again? How can we create more opportunities for more New Mexicans?
Why aren't we doing better?
And what will it take for us to get our economy going?
After all, it's been a very long time since we saw real, sustained job growth.
What are we doing wrong? It's an important question, because if we can diagnose our mistakes, we can correct them.
I think we're making four fundamental errors.
First, we've witnessed the politicization of the New Mexico economy.
We've wasted valuable years and squandered important opportunities arguing about incentives for the film and TV industry--and even worse, about so-called "Right to Work." And those are only two examples of ways that politics have interfered with the well-being of New Mexicans all across the state. If we turn creating good jobs with good wages for New Mexicans into an ideological tug-of-war, we'll never get the economy moving again.
Second, we've allowed bad management of our own financial house to go on with no accountability. When State Auditor Tim Keller reports that we've got roughly $4.5 billion in unspent capital outlay dollars sitting around--something is radically wrong. And when Auditor Keller goes on to report that we don't have an accurate accounting of the money in the state's checkbook--that's even worse. As a businessman, I can tell you that you can't build a jobs strategy when you don't even know how much money you have in the bank.
Third, we act like we're poor. We've got a permanent fund that would be the envy of most nations. We need to make prudent investments that will yield real dividends. And that starts with early childhood education for every child in the state. Investing in our kids is the smartest investment we can make.
And fourth, we're pursuing the wrong strategy. Smokestack chasing--offering bribes to out-of-state corporations to re-locate to New Mexico is an out-dated, debunked and discarded approach that dates back to another time. It didn't work back then, and it won't work now.
We need a new strategy for jobs and economic opportunity that is right for New Mexico.
Tomorrow, I'll outline the building blocks of that strategy.
In the meantime, happy Labor Day!