New Mexico is at the bottom of nearly every quality of life ranking. It's time to hold politicians accountable. Every incumbent holding political office needs to own up to the fact that New Mexico has hit rock bottom under their watch. Compared to other states, here’s how low New Mexico has sunk:
Rank Among States
50th in Poverty – 20.4% of New Mexicans had incomes below the poverty line of $24,250 for a family 4 in 2015.
50th in Children in Poverty – 28.5% of children under 18 in families whose incomes were below the poverty line in 2015.
48th in Working Aged Women in Poverty - 20.6% of women18-64 years old with incomes below the poverty line in 2015.
51st in Working Aged Men in Poverty - 18.7% of men 18-64 years old with incomes below the poverty line in 2015.
43rd in Income Inequality – The top 20% of New Mexico households earn 17 times more than the bottom 20%.
48th in Unemployment – 6.6% of all workers were unemployed in 2015. This means that 13.8% of people in the state held jobs and were still in poverty.
46th in High School Graduation – only 68.5% of high school students graduated on time at the end of the 2013/14 school year.
50th in Higher Education – 32% of New Mexicans aged 25-34 had a 2-year associates degree or higher in 2015.
47th in Teen Birth Rate – 37.8 babies born per 1,000 New Mexico women aged 15-19 in 2014.
45th in Savings & Assets – 10.3% of New Mexico households used predatory payday and title loans, rent to own, and pawning to get by in 2013.
All above statistics from: https://talkpoverty.org/state-year-report/new-mexico-2016-report/
43rd in Medium Household Income – half of New Mexican households earned less than $41,963 in 2014. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_income
50th in Child Hunger – 30.6% of New Mexico Children have uncertain access to adequate food.
49th in Food Insecurity - 20% of New Mexicans are food insecure. 40,000 people seek help from a free food pantry or food bank every week. Of those 40,000:
- 54% must choose between paying for food and paying utility bills
- 40% are children under 18
- 13% are senior citizens with household incomes averaging only $900 a month
2012 statistics reported in the Albuquerque Journal: https://www.abqjournal.com/278640/hunger-really-does-exist-in-nm.html
50th in Alcohol Attributable Deaths - 16.4% of all deaths in New Mexico are caused by excessive
49th in Drug Overdose Deaths - 23.8 per 100,000 people suffering drug overdose fatalities in 2011. Overall, 8 of the 10 leading causes of death in NM are linked to the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
49th in Teen Cocaine Use
49th in Teen Ecstasy Use
46th in Teen Methamphetamine Use
43rd in Teen Heroin Use
2015 data reported by the Albuquerque Journal: https://www.abqjournal.com/821348/nm-youth-drug-use-rates-among-tops-in-us.html
First and foremost, we need to give everyday New Mexicans a voice in government. We need to listen to what the real problems are that we share and identify solutions everyday New Mexicans can agree on. To do this, as Governor, Peter will host a series of meetings at 5 levels across the state during the first year he’s in office.
Once we have taken the time to listen to everyone and distill down our desires into practical solutions our state can enact, we’ll need to hold the legislature accountable. We’ll ask each incumbent of both parties if they have 100% SUPPORT for New Mexico’s Agenda.
If a lawmaker doesn’t unequivocally support it or tries to weasel out of stating their positions by saying things like “I don’t commit to supporting anything until I see the bill,” Peter will be encouraging the volunteers who helped host the meeting to run in the primary election against those incumbents.
We need to create a climate where political candidates are falling over each other to find creative ways of helping New Mexico. Lawmakers need to run campaigns where they offer ideas to put New Mexico’s agenda into action instead of running the nasty attack ads that currently dominate campaigning.
The whole point of the People First Campaign is to encourage voters to judge candidates by how their actions serve others, not by their slick campaign promises or the candidate’s family name, party affiliation, and fund-raising ability.
- Elementary School Boundary Level: community meetings will be held by volunteers at each elementary school in the state. Everyone in that school’s boundary is welcome to attend, whether or not they have children in school. The goal is to create a list of the top five problems the community can agree on that need solving. The meetings will be strictly regulated so that they’re civil, focused on problems affecting everyone’s quality of life, and avoid wedge issues. This dialogue will identify solutions that can be implemented locally. We’ll be asking that all elected and appointed local officials in the area attend these meetings. By putting the people with resources and programs in the same room with those suggesting solutions, a lot of problems can be solved without state government intervention – provided that local officials actually listen to and commit to reallocating their priorities to match what is really being asked for. Any problems that can’t be solved at the local level will get kicked up to the next level of meetings, along with three representatives tasked to advocate for their list.
- High School Boundary Level: The next set of community meetings will be held by volunteers at each high school in the state (provided there’s more than one elementary school that feeds into that high school). As with the elementary level meetings, the goal will be to create a list of the top five problems the representatives can agree on. Once again, by putting the people with resources and programs in the same room with those suggesting solutions, hopefully, a lot of problems can be solved without state government intervention. Any problems that can’t be solved at this level will get kicked up to the next level of meetings, along with three representatives tasked to advocate for their list.
- School District Boundary Level: The next set of community meetings will be held by volunteers at each school district in the state (provided there’s more than one high school that feeds into that district). The goal of these meetings will be the same as already stated – create a list of the top five problems, solve those that can be solved locally, and kick the rest up to the next level. Once again, three representatives will be tasked to advocate for their list.
- County Level: The next set of community meetings will be held by volunteers at each county in the state (provided there’s more than one school district that feeds into that county). The goals of these meetings will be the same as already stated – create a list of the top five problems, solve those that can be solved locally, and kick the rest up to the state level. Once again, three representatives will be tasked to advocate for their list.
- State Level: The final community meetings will be held by volunteers at the state level. The goals of these meetings will be the same as already stated – create a list of the top five problems, solve those that can be solved without passing new laws, and list the others as New Mexico’s Agenda.
“The person that helps others the most, wins.”
We can all swim together or sink individually. A larger risk pool equals lower cost premiums and co-pays. Plus, the health sector leads NM’s job growth. Providing health care for all will grow even more jobs in rural areas where they’re needed.
The good people at the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign have been working since 1992 to put together a broad coalition of over 145 statewide and local organizations representing diverse interests. Their plan passed the House in 2017, but sadly, was killed in the Senate. Here’s a shout out to the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Roberto Gonzales, and to Rep. Deborah Armstrong, the Chair of the House Health Committee for facilitating its passage. You can read the bill here.
The ground work has already been done for this phenomenal plan which will:
- automatically cover most New Mexicans
- offer a comprehensive set of health care services
- provide freedom of choice of health care provider and facility—no more networks—even across state lines
- simplify administration since it is not dependent on the costly and complicated private insurance system
Why is the United States the only developed country in the world that doesn’t provide universal health care?
Even people in Iraq and Afghanistan have health care paid by US tax dollars! New Mexico can’t wait for the Congress to take action. Congress is more likely to kill health care than expand it. New Mexico can go from worst to first by implementing the New Mexico Health Security Act.
Peter DeBenedittis’ economic plan throws out the failed trickle-down economic policies proposed by other candidates. Instead of relying on giving tax breaks to out-of-state companies who export profits while hardly creating any new jobs, his plan focuses on growing New Mexico’s economy by watering its roots.
DeBenedittis' three-part plan will:
A living wage of at least $15 dollars an hour is critical to boosting New Mexico's economy. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. “Low wages equal a stagnant economy,” says DeBenedittis.
Most economists use a multiplier of 7 to describe the velocity of money—i.e., the spending effect of how often money changes hands between local businesses before it leaves the state. Currently there are nearly 100,000 New Mexicans earning the minimum wage of $7.50 an hour. Paying them $15 an hour pumps $1.5 billion more into the state’s economy. “When the velocity of money is calculated, we’ll see $10.5 billion more in economic activity just from boosting up those workers who are paid the least,” DeBenedittis said.
In order to protect businesses, it’s important that wages increase no more than a dollar or two an hour per year. “Bigger jumps would be too much of a shock to small businesses,” DeBenedittis says. “But because so much more money will be in the hands of consumers buying their products, businesses will see their profits jump by 50 or 100% even after accounting for increased wages.”
Another important step in bringing economic prosperity to New Mexico is the creation of a Publicly Owned State Bank, based on North Dakota’s extremely successful model. In the nearly 100 years since it was founded, North Dakota’s state government has never had a budget deficit and has never had to lay off government workers. When times are tight, the state simply borrows money from itself at low interest rates.
Operating as a Mini Federal Reserve, New Mexico’s state bank can partner with community banks to give targeted economic development loans in years when revenues are high. It can also finance major capital improvements like highways and public buildings, ensuring that all the interest paid goes back to the people of New Mexico instead of being exported out of state.
The state has over $20 billion in trust and operating funds. “Why are we doing business with known banking criminals like Wells Fargo?” DeBenedittis asked. “We’ve seen how large out of state banks were happy to facilitate the Madoff ponzi scheme, Enron’s energy boondoggle and the housing bubble recession that New Mexico still has not recovered from. Are we going to continue to trust them with New Mexico’s money?”
The third tenet to Dr. DeBenedittis’ plan uses targeted loans from our State Bank to Produce What New Mexico Consumes.
DeBenedittis says, “Our state is built on small business. Over 97% of businesses in New Mexico have less than 250 employees. It’s foolish to think that we’re going to save our state by bringing in a few very large businesses. We’ve got to support our many small businesses and entrepreneurs in rural communities with business development education and loans for producing products we know will be consumed locally.”
DeBenedittis' plans include:
1. Food production, including using aquaponics and greenhouses. Currently, 94% of what New Mexicans eat is imported from out of state. That’s over $15 billion a year leaving New Mexico instead of circulating in our economy to grow more local wealth.
2. Expanding medical and legalizing recreational cannabis and hemp. In just its first year, New Mexico will see 16,000 new jobs and $400 million in sales from recreational cannabis.
3. Support micro-grids of 100% renewable energy for cities, counties, school districts and Native American pueblos and tribes. We can offer state land to lease and provide start-up loans. Wind and solar sells for 1/2 to 1/3rd the price of coal and nuclear energy. First, we get the construction jobs. Then consumers will have lower energy prices, communities will generate revenue streams, the state earns interest and lease fees, and our environment becomes cleaner. It’s a win-win-win-win-win!
4. Create value-added economic opportunities such as post production facilities for the film industry or regional hemp rendering plants. Learn more about the importance of investing in the film industry here.
5. Give tax breaks that will entice new businesses to New Mexico that not only create jobs, but also incentivize businesses contributing to the communities they’re in.
Details for each of the three parts to DeBenedittis' economic plan can be downloaded here:
Immediately upon winning the general election, Dr. DeBenedittis will invite all the sponsors of bills for medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, and hemp into a conference to resolve the conflicts between bills. The goal will be to create a unified bill that adheres to the principles laid out in Dr. DeBenedittis’ Statement of Principles for Medical Cannabis, Recreational Cannabis and Hemp.
Peter believes the rights and protection of patients using medical cannabis supersede all other concerns for cannabis and hemp. When in conflict, legislation should be drafted that protects access to an adequate supply of high quality, safe cannabis, and its derivative medicines before any other concern.
Protecting the rights of medical cannabis growers, medicine producers and dispensaries shall be the 2nd most important aspect of a unified cannabis/hemp bill. And where any conflict, other than with the rights of patients occurs, it should be legislated in favor of the medical cannabis growers, medicine producers and dispensaries.
As with medical cannabis patients, the rights of ordinary citizens who choose to use recreational cannabis should be put ahead of recreational cannabis producers and distributors. This means:
Limits for the possession of recreational cannabis should not be set at an arbitrarily low amount.
Personal growth limits sufficient for frequent use by two adults per household should be established. Any cannabis plants grown for personal use should not be sold. Persons profiting from the sale of personal use cannabis should be fined.
The smoking or vaping of recreational cannabis in public should be subject to all state and local laws regulating tobacco use. This is necessary to protect the rights of New Mexicans who do not wish to consume cannabis.
Due to the legislative foot-dragging that continually stifles economic growth and innovation in New Mexico, we are behind the curve in the industrial hemp industry. Except for Oklahoma, all states bordering New Mexico, and the nation of Mexico as well, allow or have pending legislation for hemp research, agriculture or processing. Before industrial hemp becomes another industry that passes us by, we must act quickly to promote its growth and reap its economic rewards.
Farming of industrial hemp should be legalized and its production be regulated to the same degree as any other agricultural product in New Mexico. The only exception should be the regular testing and verification that hemp crops contain a crop-wide average tetrahydrocannabinol concentration that does not exceed three-tenths percent on a dry weight basis.
Peter fully supports the New Mexico Land Grant Permanent Fund Distribution to Early Childhood Education Amendment.
Providing early childhood education across the state will have more impact for improving education in New Mexico than any other educational initiative. According the UNM Center for Health Policy, state-wide expansion of early childhood education would create over 4,000 jobs around the state, with many of them being in rural areas.
Our children, especially the 28% of New Mexico children in poverty, would reap amazing benefits.
The New Mexico Land Grant Permanent Fund Distribution to Early Childhood Education Amendment would allocate one percent of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education services each year from fiscal year 2020 through fiscal year 2032. An estimated $130 to $138 million could be allocated to early childhood education services in fiscal years 2022-4.
The Land Grant Permanent School Fund’s revenues come from leases and royalties on non-renewable natural resources, such as oil and gas, and returns on invested capital. As of 2017, the New Mexico Constitution provided that the annual distribution from the fund is five percent. The Amendment would increase the total annual distribution to six percent.
Peter DeBenedittis has released his 3-pronged economic plan. Details for each of the three parts of his plan can be downloaded here:
Nationally, 6 out of 10 people don’t even have $500 in savings, and, you guessed it, New Mexico ranks dead last in how much families have saved. Think about it this way: For most people in our state, replacing a blown tire is a financial crisis.
It’s not rocket science: states that have higher minimum wages are wealthier.
Most national studies show people need to earn about $15 an hour to be able to keep their family properly fed and clothed and living in decent housing. Based on New Mexico data, Peter will propose a phased-in wage increase so that every New Mexican will earn a living wage.
Rep. Miguel Garcia led the fight to pass a $10.10 minimum wage for New Mexico but saw it vetoed by Governor Martinez. We need to revisit this bill and expand it so that working New Mexicans earn enough to actually feed, clothe, and house their families.
Yes, it's true that increased wages will increase prices -- but only a little bit!
Check out this video to see what an extra $100 circulating in a small town can do to improve everyone’s standard of living.
Peter supports the right for workers to bargain collectively and will veto any bills weakening the power of workers to organize. Peter believes it’s important to empower employees so they have a voice able to compete with corporations that put profits before people. Peter will veto any so called “right to work” legislation.
In addition to the right to bargain collectively, Peter will work with the Legislature to make sure that the welfare of employees are considered as part of any bid for a state contract. Workers in companies benefiting from state funding should be given the same kind of retirement and benefits as state employees. We need to create a culture in New Mexico where the people that work hard to make everyone’s life nicer are treated with the respect, dignity, wages, and benefits they deserve.
Peter DeBenedittis has released his 3-pronged economic plan. Details for each of the three parts of his plan can be downloaded here:
Why New Mexico Needs a Publicly Owned State Bank
For the past 5 years, Banking on New Mexico has gathered a lot of smart people to figure out the advantages of and process for creating a public bank in Santa Fe. Their model can be used for creating a public state bank for New Mexico.
One resource for New Mexicans is the New Mexico Finance Authority. They provide excellent advice to municipalities seeking to secure financing and structure capital improvement loans. The problem is they charge above market interest rates for loans. As governor, DeBenedittis will see to it that the New Mexico Finance Authority offers BELOW MARKET loan rates. Doing so will automatically save millions over the life of the loan for municipalities wishing to improve their infrastructure. Besides reinvesting all the interest collected back in New Mexico, below market loan rates will spur more projects and the construction jobs they create across the state.
Cheers to House Speaker Brian Egolf for introducing a bill to create a public state bank in New Mexico in 2014.
Another banking problem is payday loan interest rates. The 2017 Legislature “compromised” on the interest rates for payday loans by capping them at 175%. Consumer advocates were pushing for a 36% cap, similar to the rates most other states allow. The “compromise” saved New Mexicans over $300 million a year and helps reinvest that money in New Mexico.
Since nearly all payday loan operations are owned by out of state companies all the interest New Mexicans pay on their loans gets shipped out of state – keeping New Mexico cash strapped and poor.
As good as saving $300 million a year for New Mexicans is, it’s not enough. We still lose billions because 175% is an insanely high interest rate. The fact that the Legislature thought letting interest rates be nearly 5 times higher than most other states is a “compromise” shows how out of touch most politicians are. It’s a sad testament that too many lawmakers answer to wealthy industry lobbyists while robbing New Mexicans blind!
Peter will work to cap payday interest loan rates at 36%. He’ll also put out a bid for vendors to compete for offering payday loans to state government employees for between 6 – 24%. Once the system is in place, there will be no risk to the government. All loan money and collections will be the responsibility of the vendor. The state’s only involvement will be to allow access to employees and provide an automatic payroll deduction on checks for employees who have taken out loans.
Dona Ana County offered this service to its 800 employees. 110 have taken advantage of it, mostly to pay off the predatory loans they already had. It’s saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for those employees and boosted the local economy by reinvesting that money in New Mexico.
The importance of investing in the film industry to grow New Mexico’s economy
As New Mexico’s next governor, I know that a key to growing New Mexico’s economy is making sure that money circulates as many times as possible within the state before it gets exported by out of state companies and banks. Trickle-down economics has caused the mess we’re in. Instead we must grow New Mexico’s economy by watering its roots. We must look at development projects that create good paying jobs while keeping as much of the profits generated as possible in the hands of New Mexicans.
New Mexico’s economy has suffered because we’ve relied mainly on resource extraction, defense research, and tourism. Colorado used to do the same, but they’ve weathered the storm of lower oil and gas prices and government spending cuts. How? They invested in education and diversified when oil and gas prices were high.
How to support the film industry while it supports us
One way I propose boosting our economy is by taking full advantage of New Mexico’s natural beauty through the film industry.
Last year the film industry pumped nearly $390 million of direct spending into New Mexico’s economy. The economic impact of that grows to over $1.5 billion when you add in the effect of the velocity of money being spent throughout all the industries that support film. Studies conducted for the New Mexico Film office calculate that each dollar in direct film industry spending generates an increase of more than $7 in Gross State Product.
This is an industry that is giving back to our communities—we need to ensure that we are making New Mexico a desirable and cost-effective place for the film industry to do business.
As governor, I will fully support expanding the film industry state tax credit to 30% and raising the cap on rebates to $80 million a year.
New Mexico’s film industry has created more than 16,000 good paying jobs and over $125 million a year in direct spending paid to resident small businesses. The film industry does not pollute our environment like oil, gas and mineral extraction does. Supporting it is the perfect way to grow New Mexico’s economy by watering its roots.
Establish loan funds for New Mexico based productions
Jon Hendry is the business agent for IATSE Local 480 Film Technicians Union and the president of New Mexico Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO). He has been deeply involved in New Mexico’s film industry for many years and his efforts have contributed to the creation of thousands of long term jobs.
Hendry is working with the New Mexico Finance Authority to set up, through legislation, a modest fund that lends money for up to 50% of a project based on economic development criteria. These loans would be capped at $1 million, keeping the projects low budget and accessible.
Examples of economic development criteria would be:
· if it’s shot outside “the zone” (Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor)
· if the above-the-line participants (screenwriter, producer, director, casting director, actors, etc.) are from New Mexico
· if it promotes New Mexico
· if the creative talent and designers are from New Mexico
· if it uses post production facilities in New Mexico
As governor, I will fully support Hendry’s plan and work with the legislature to make it a reality. And I’d like to see this kind of support for New Mexico based film projects expanded even further once we’re able to create a publically owned state bank.
Film, tourism, and tax incentives
As the film industry grows, so does tourism—especially to sites popularized in movies and TV shows. The New Mexico Film Production Tax Incentive Study found that the medium projected economic impact of film tourism in 2014 was $392 million in Gross State Product and the creating of nearly 8,000 new jobs. The potential for growth in film industry tourism is yet another reason to expand film industry tax incentives.
How the right infrastructure can strengthen New Mexico as a film Mecca
New Mexico must find ways to draw money into the state that would otherwise be spent elsewhere. One example of this would be for the state to create a post production facility that can “finish” the films and television shows shot here, especially those financed in part with state loans. There’s the potential for hundreds of millions money being spent in Hollywood to circulate in New Mexico instead by creating local post production facilities.
As governor, I’m committed to seeing state of the art post production film facilities created in New Mexico. After consulting with local industry and union representatives, we’ll be choosing the best options from:
i. Ask a local county or municipality to build it. This will allow for the issue of bonds (that carry a non-recourse provision). The facility can be financed by the proceeds from the revenue bonds. We will aim to have local banks, if possible, buy these bonds so that there is local investment that allows the money to circulate even more so throughout the state. With a state bank, we’ll be able to guarantee the locals to make the project more attractive for community banks to be involved. But even without local bank participation, we’ll still be easily able to go national to secure bonds. The bond payments will be assured from fees, rents, or taxes on the facilities over a 30-year period to match bond maturities.
ii. If community banks choose not to be involved, we can fund it with a loan from the state bank directly to the local municipality. We’d attach a provision that the local municipality will pay the loan off in 5 or 7 years, at which time either the tenant can start making payments or the state can sell the facility on a lease purchase to a qualified post production companies to take it over.
iii. Ask local film industry workers to create an employee-owned post production company. After their submission of a business plan that is vetted with a feasibility study, we can have the employee owned company be the one that takes over the post production studio should film industry workers desire to be studio owners. Supporting employee owned business (both in film and other industries) is a great way to ensure that company profits stay in New Mexico and further water the roots of other local businesses.
iv. If we locate the studio outside of a major city, but near a major city, it can quality for “rural development.” Let’s say we repurpose the Traditions facility that’s sitting idle on I-25 between Santa Fe and Rio Rancho. That would qualify us to receive federal USDA rural development grants and loans.
Remember that each new dollar brought in is multiplied by seven in terms of how much economic activity it generates. We must be careful to calculate in the cost of lost revenues to the state by giving tax incentives, but also understand that like it does with the film industry, wisely chosen tax incentives for new businesses coming to New Mexico can really help provide jobs and boost the local tax base. Join me in support of New Mexico’s growing film industry and share this message to draw attention to a great industry we can nurture.
In New Mexico, women earn 85 cents for every dollar a man earns.
And it's worse if you’re a Latina. Latinas in New Mexico are paid 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
As Governor, Peter will institute an Executive Order directing that state contracts will only be given to businesses that have pay-check transparency and do not force employees into arbitration for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination claims.
Pay-check transparency will let all employees at those companies see the wages of everyone working there. Any gaps between wages for men and women will be known, thus empowering women and potential hires to ask for equal pay. And by banning forced arbitration, along with the secrecy it entails, companies will not be able to hide the details of potential criminal actions when they discriminate, harass or assault women. Employees should not have their rights to a fair trial hindered by forced arbitration.
Peter will also work with the Legislature to pass a law similar to one in Massachusetts that prohibits employers conducting job interviews from asking candidates about their past salaries. This will help level the playing field for women and people of color who have previously been paid less. Just because a person has been discriminated against in the past should not entitle companies to impose a lifetime of lower wages.
1. Cabinet Appointments From Within State Agencies
The best civil servants should run our government, not cronies who steer contracts to pay off political favors. Because of their ideological dogmas, past governors have appointed cabinets loaded with campaign donors who got rewarded with high paying jobs. Some went so far as to bring in people from businesses that interact with the government department they head so they can use their position to plunder more state resources and set up favorable contracts with other campaign donors in the industry.
Peter will appoint all department heads, except for Education, from people within state government. Immediately upon winning the general election, he will ask all management level employees to nominate an individual among their peers who has a broad understanding of that agency’s mission, shows excellent people skills, and excels at his or her job. He’ll also set up a web site where any government worker can place their suggestion for a person within their agency they think would make a good cabinet secretary. From these nominations, Peter will draw up a short list of workers to interview for cabinet positions, and appoint someone who shares this vision of a government that puts People First.
The only exception will be for the Public Education Department. Peter wants to appoint a teacher—someone who’s been on the front line in the classroom and worked as either a principal or school administrator—to call the shots in education. This kind of practical experience will eliminate outsiders who don’t understand the everyday challenges of education trying to force ideological policies on our schools and teachers.
To achieve this end, Peter plans to ask both the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico and the National Education Association of New Mexico to each submit 3 names of persons who have been both teachers and principals or school administrators. He’ll also set up a web page where any school employee can also submit names. After vetting the nominees, he’ll appoint an accomplished teacher or principal as the new Secretary of Education.
2. Transparent Government Will Be Expanded
“Democracy dies behind closed doors.”
--Damon Keith, US appeals court judge in Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft.
Many governors have promised to become the “most transparent and open” administration there’s ever been. But the truth is, that once they’ve been elected and need to start paying back their big donors with government favors, secrecy takes over. Peter has a plan to fulfill this promise:
- Peter will ask New Mexico media organizations to appoint a pool reporter that will be allowed to attend any and all meetings Peter has as Governor. In fact, this reporter will be welcome to camp out in the Governor’s office if she or he so desires.
- Peter will veto any restrictions, roll-backs or exceptions the Legislature passes to New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act.
- Peter will issue an executive order that all government agencies must provide any and all requests for public information as soon as that information is located, preferably the day it was requested. There shall be no costs charged to anyone requesting public information when it is provided as an electronic file that can be delivered via e-mail.
3. Fill All State Agency Positions
To make New Mexico’s financial crisis worse, Governor Martinez has frozen all state agency hires. This hurts everybody by drying up income that would be spent on other businesses in the community and lowering local tax revenues. As of last October, New Mexico has roughly 5,000 unfilled state positions.
Many government workers are doing a lot of extra work, sometimes the work of 2 people, because there are so many unfilled positions in their deparment. This creates needless stress on good people and damages the quality of services offered to the people of New Mexico. With the additional revenues provided by fixing unfair taxes, Peter will fill all state government employee vacancies. This will provide even more opportunities for good jobs with benefits, and bolster local tax revenues from the increased spending it creates.
4. Open Door Days Twice a Month
Have you ever tried to speak to the Governor? Let’s face it, unless you’re one of the Governor’s big donors, the chances of you having your concerns heard and addressed are slim to none. Many of our legislators have become isolated as well. During the last session, Peter’s own State Representative’s secretary told Peter that the Representative does not make appointments for constituents to see him!
If our government officials don't even take the time to listen to everyday people, it’s a sham to think our government is “for the people” and “by the people.” The truth is that New Mexico’s government is largely deaf to the people. And that’s something Peter is going to fix as governor by having at least 2 open door days per month.
Peter will advertise the days that the door to the governor’s office is open. He’ll take the time to see and listen to any New Mexican who shows up, with those who’ve traveled the furthest being seen first. Peter doesn’t care how long it takes during those days. No one will be turned away. He’ll hire staff whose sole job will be interview citizens visiting to record the facts, sit in on their meetings with Peter, and follow up when real concerns are expressed.
If the ideas people present are honest and beneficial to everyday New Mexicans Peter will take all the executive actions within his power to put those ideas in action, or invite lawmakers to sponsor appropriate legislation to address those concerns.
5. Repeal Citizens United
Peter will work with the NM Legislature to pass a resolution under Article 5 of the US Constitution calling for a constitutional convention to pass the "We the People" Amendment. The Amendment reads:
Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
6. Promote Public Campaign Financing
Peter’s campaign is a test to see if it’s possible for a political outsider to get elected, or if we’re stuck with our state being run by the rich and powerful. Peter will:
- Work towards a publicly financed, transparent system of campaign financing that provides an effective public financing system that amplifies small donations for legislative and state wide political offices in New Mexico. It will be modeled on Bernie Sanders’ Federal Fair Elections Now Act.
- Insist on complete transparency regarding the funding of campaigns, including legislation requiring the disclosure of contributions to and expenditures by groups outside of New Mexico working to influence state and local policy.
- Work to aggressively enforce campaign finance rules.
Peter DeBenedittis has released his 3-pronged economic plan. Details for each of the three parts of his plan can be downloaded here:
An example of a success from Costa Rica
Let’s compare New Mexico to Costa Rica. That country has about twice New Mexico’s population in about 1/6th of the size. In the 1980’s Costa Rica was an economic powerhouse in Central America. They were one of the few countries that didn’t allow private bankers (like our Federal Reserve) to control their economy. Instead Costa Rica had their own national bank, similar to the public bank Peter is proposing for New Mexico. Costa Ricans became so wealthy that economic indexes for the region excluded counting them. They did this because their incomes were so much higher than all other Central American countries.
Costa Rica used the proceeds from their bank to give low interest economic development loans for small scale manufacturing—things like producing their own toilet paper and kitchen sinks, rather than importing them. Despite the US hitting them hard with trade sanctions until they closed their bank and peoples' incomes started declining, incomes in Costa Rica are still significantly higher than neighboring nations.
New Mexico needs to do the same thing. We need to start funding targeted, low-interest economic development loans. Take hemp as an example. Imagine if Governor Martinez hadn’t twice vetoed the industrial hemp research bill. New Mexico’s climate is uniquely suited for growing hemp, which only has a negligible amount of THC. We could jump-start scores of industries across the state, including more small-scale farming, hemp cloth and clothing, hemp paper, hemp oils, and fuel alterantives.
Tax Breaks for Film and Other Industries that Deliver Jobs
The film industry in New Mexico is a great example of how good tax policy benefits everyone. The film industry has kept up its end of the bargain and created tons of good paying jobs in exchange for the tax breaks our state has given it. We need to further expand film opportunities in New Mexico and grow more jobs.
The 2015 New Mexico Film Production Tax Incentive Study found:
The film and television industry engaged a wide variety of local businesses for the procurement of goods and services. It is estimated that approximately $513.9 million was spent by film and television productions on the procurement of goods and services in New Mexico between fiscal years 2010 and 2014 . . .
As a consequence of these expenditures, the film and television industry is estimated to have supported 600 to 900 indirect full-time equivalent positions on an annual basis.
Additionally, film industry tourism, was estimated to bring over hundreds of millions to the state in 2014.
The Importance of Teaching Coding to our Students
Every student at every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Peter will make sure the funds and training are available so that every public school in New Mexico offers beginning computer science classes starting in middle school, and advanced coding classes in high school.
- New Mexico currently has 1,443 open computing jobs (3.1 times the average demand rate in New Mexico).
- The average salary for a computing occupation in NM is $77,287, which is significantly higher than the average salary in the state ($43,170).
- The existing open jobs alone represent a $111,525,141 opportunity in terms of annual salaries.
- New Mexico had only 141 computer science graduates in 2015; only 18% were female. Only 79 high school students in New Mexico took the AP Computer Science exam in 2016.
- Only 10 schools in NM (8% of NM schools with AP programs) offered the AP Computer Science course in 2015-2016.
Coding can often be done remotely, meaning many young people could choose to live in the rural areas they grew up in and still earn a fantastic salary. This will help invigorate rural economies and make the state more attractive for high tech firms.
How We Must Adapt to Retain Homegrown Businesses
Forbes ranks New Mexico as the 47th best state for business. Is it any wonder that homegrown New Mexico businesses valued at $3 billion have left the state in the last 15 years?
There are lots of smart people at our two national labs and our many higher education communities. But when they have really profitable ideas, their businesses outgrow the ability of New Mexico communities to house them. One entrepreneur in Los Alamos told Peter he’s been courted by 18 out-of-state communities for the business he developed. He’s raised the capital to move out of the R&D stage and hire 100 employees to produce and market his product. He was surprised at the lack of interest he was shown by New Mexico communities about hosting his company.
It’s not enough to try to attract businesses with tax breaks or by showing them empty buildings they can occupy. Every community in the country offers those. Here’s what we need to help companies that transition from R&D to operations and production stay in New Mexico.
- Work with cities and counties to develop a network of contacts that help businesses grow. This goes beyond just pitching the economic climate. It means emphasizing the human touch that lets business leaders know they’re welcome, that people in the state are ready to work with them on an ongoing basis.
- Provide better educated employees. Having nearly 70% of adults without college degrees just won’t cut it if we want to see New Mexico’s economy grow. In addition to providing early childhood education, New Mexico youth need to be encouraged to learn high level programming and computer skills. We need a workforce ready to fill the good-paying, high tech jobs New Mexico will have when we help local entrepreneurs transition their R&D into prosperous companies.
- Reasonable Housing. Take the example of the Los Alamos businessman cited above. There’s literally no room for 100 new families to move into Los Alamos, because of its tight housing market. The state needs to be ready to work with communities to find ways to build appropriate housing when business opportunities arise.
- Trailing spouses. It’s really hard to get quality employees to move to New Mexico if their spouses aren’t able to also find work. Part of the business growth and retention network the state builds needs to focus on job placement opportunities for spouses.
- Sell our local culture. In a state so rich in natural beauty, outdoor activities, art, and culture, it should be a simple thing to market the Land of Enchantment. If nothing else, communities should promise to provide the chile for a company’s visitors and board meetings. It may sound minor, but actions such as this demonstrate the personal touch of a community that’s proud of its heritage.
1. Renewable Energy
Oil, gas and mineral extraction has always been important to New Mexico’s economy. But with the wide array of new energy technologies that are now available, we really need to look into the future.
Right now it costs about 8¢ per kilowatt hour for power plants that are fueled by coal and oil. In comparison, wind and solar energy cost only 2.5¢ per kilowatt hour, and also provide their greatest energy output during peak usage times. And rather than stick utility customers with costly new facilities that pollute in order to meet “peak demand,” we could provide a market-based solution by charging higher rates during peak usage hours. This way, consumers that use more energy during peak hours would need pay for it, instead of forcing everyone in the state to subsidize utilities’ profit margins by building more expensive, outdated plants that pollute our beautiful state.
Here are several ways that Peter will boost the production of renewable energy in New Mexico:
- Support the passage of SB 312 requiring that renewable energy comprise 70% of total retail sales to New Mexico customers of rural electric cooperatives by 2040 and 80% of customers of public utilities. (Here's a special shout out to Sens. Mimi Stewart and Jeff Steinborn and Rep. Nathan Small for sponsoring it).
- Extend the New Mexico solar energy tax credit
- Offer low-interest economic development loans through the State Bank (after it’s up and running) to companies that are “pushing the envelope” on alternative energy technologies. These will be prioritized so rural communities in the mining and oil-and-gas-producing regions of the state will continue to see jobs grow as we rely less and less on resource extraction.
Peter has been a lifelong environmentalist. Among other things, he worked for and wrote his Master’s thesis on the California League of Conservation Voters campaign to stop the Peripheral Canal that would have diverted to Los Angeles most of the water that’s currently flowing into the San Francisco Bay.
2. Natural Resource Preservation
As Governor, Peter would:
- Stop the Gila River diversion
- Prevent fracking under Chaco Canyon
- Appoint members to the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board who will reinstitute and strengthen science-based caps on carbon pollution, in order to spur utilities to more quickly transition to renewable energy
- Provide necessary funding to the Natural Heritage Conservation Act in order to receive the full federal match available for wildlife and wilderness conservation
- Reform the Fish & Game Commission so that there’s a permanent voice advocating policies that are based on science and public environmental concerns
- Provide supplemental funding to the Department of Game & Fish to take a holistic approach to wildlife management that also includes and protects non-game species.
In order to reduce the ravages of global warming on people and farms, Peter will work towards significant carbon sequestration into New Mexico’s soil. He will also create and provide funding for a regenerative agriculture program within the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, providing support, education and tools for farmers, ranchers and the public regarding regenerative agriculture.
3. U.S. Climate Alliance
Many Americans were deeply unsettled by the news of our president volunteering our nation to become an environmental pariah state by terminating our participation in the Paris Climate Change Accords. Seldom has an issue been so globally one-sided, with Syria, Nicaragua and now the U.S. being opposed to this diplomatic achievement . . . and every other country in the world favoring it.
However, resistance followed immediately with the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance by three states—California, New York and Washington—with the intent of keeping environmental responsibility moving forward. The fact that it includes two of the three most populous states gives this initiative greater impact, and it will gain additional momentum as other states join in. Even two Republican governors (of Massachusetts and Vermont) have declared their intent to join as well, bringing the total to nine states which together comprise a substantial percentage of the U.S. economy.
As a dedicated environmentalist of long standing, Peter would have New Mexico join the US Climate Alliance within 24 hours of taking office. He is already in discussions with renewable energy engineers to draw up plans for New Mexico becoming 100% reliant on renewable energy.
Fixing Unfair Taxes
Don’t let anybody tell you there’s no money, or the state government is too poor to fix the problems going on. There’s plenty of money available if our state leaders would just stop giving it away to selfish interests. In 2013, when Democrats controlled both the state House and Senate, they passed the largest tax cut for corporations New Mexico has ever seen. Now, just a few years later, we were hit with a $600 million budget deficit. None of the lawmakers who passed the tax giveaway have owned up to what they did to create the shortfall. Instead they blamed our budget crisis on oil and gas prices going down as the sole cause of our budgetary woes.
And to make matters worse, none of the jobs we were promised as a result of that corporate tax giveaway have materialized.
The Republican House and Democratic Senate “solved” our 2016 budget crisis by wiping out the emergency money set aside from the tobacco settlement, along with practically eliminating most county DWI prevention programs. They then heaped more work on already overworked state employees by freezing new hires and cutting most departments’ budget. The bottom line is that lawmakers slashed all kinds of services to everyday New Mexicans in order to keep siphoning off money for selfish interests. Then in 2017, our Republican Governor vetoed the new internet sales, gas, and hospital taxes passed by the legislature to keep the government solvent. Instead, the Governor has advocated to further slash the pay and benefits of teachers and to keep overworking state employees by continuing the hiring freeze.
Our state needs laws that serve everyday New Mexicans, not ones that only benefit selfish interests. Peter proposes to have the appropriate state departments conduct an economic analysis of alcohol and tobacco to see how much money it costs the state to subsidize abuse of these products. He’ll then work to raise taxes to a level sufficient to cover the cost burdens their sales place upon taxpayers. These tax rates would be implemented gradually so business have time to transition to selling less harmful products without displacing employees.
The guiding principle will be that people causing financial problems for the state should be the ones paying for them. We can’t keep asking impoverished New Mexicans to subsidize alcoholism and smoking deaths while the industries marketing these addictive substances rake in billions!
1) Alcohol Taxes
It costs New Mexico taxpayers $1.00 per drink consumed in the state to pay for all the harms caused by alcohol abuse (the extra police, court cases, detention, ambulances, and medical care the state pays for). Yet the average tax per drink the state collects is just 5¢.
Instead of wasting $800 million a year to subsidize excessive drinking, our entire budget deficit could be wiped out in a second if we increased the taxes on alcohol to pay for the problems it causes. But instead, the Legislature forces everyone in the state to pay $400 a year hidden in our gross receipts and personal income taxes to clean up the damage caused by excessive drinking.
Local microbreweries, wineries, and distilleries are an important source of jobs and provide an economic boost in their communities. Increased alcohol taxes need to exclude these businesses. Raising taxes on alcohol by just 25¢ per drink (excluding New Mexico breweries, wineries, and distillers) would provide an additional $170 million to balance our budget.
Here’s a shout out to Sen. Cisco McSorley and Reps. Joanne Ferrary, Miguel Garcia, Rodolpho Martinez, Linda Trujillo and Angelica Rubio for sponsoring legislation to raise alcohol taxes 25¢ a drink.
2) Tobacco Taxes
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports that tobacco addiction cost New Mexicans $886 per household in state and federal taxes to subsidize smoking. Peter advocates raising tobacco taxes until they’re equal to the true cost smoking dumps on the 81% of adult New Mexicans who don’t smoke.
Peter recognizes that debating the reproductive and sexual orientation rights of individuals is a "wedge issue" that has been used to keep political parties and neighbors in opposition. Both political parties have attacked where the other stands on these subjects and created a lose-lose relationship. But there's another way.
The goal of this campaign is to heal divisions, not further entrench them. We must build up enough trust to unite as a statewide community and put People First. When we Heal the Hatred, we can diffuse wedge issues and begin to address these topics with dignity and respect for one another.
Peter will uphold all current laws and regulations regarding reproductive rights and non-discrimination based on sexual orientation until New Mexico reaches consensus on how to move forward in a way that respects everyone.
People First means all people. One of the biggest rifts dividing New Mexicans are the unhealed aspects of how Native Americans have been historically treated. A community is only as rich as its poorest members. The treatment of Native Americans by the United States and New Mexico state government is shameful.
Nationally, 27 percent of Native Americans lived below the poverty level. In New Mexico, 31 percent of Native Americans live in poverty. In Shiprock the rate was 40 percent; in Gallup and Zuni Pueblo, 31 percent; in Farmington, 29 percent; and in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, 27 percent.
Seeking forgiveness for this is a vital first step. Beyond the Golden Rule, it’s a spiritual truth that as we do unto others, so it shall be done unto us. Is it any wonder so many New Mexicans feel ignored and abused by our government when we all carry the historical weight for how indigenous Americans have been treated?
But it’s not just about history. New Mexico is a poor state in a larger sense because of unequal resource allocations and the many rules, customs, and laws that clearly devalue Native Americans. What goes around comes around.
For all New Mexicans to prosper, we’re going to have to spend time and energy on creating better economic and living situations for the Pueblos and Tribal Nations requesting state help. If invited by their governments to do so, Peter will host Truth & Reconciliation Hearings at each Pueblo and Tribal Nation in the state. It’s important that there be an official state government record of the grievances and historical injustices expressed in the voices of those who have been affected by them.
After these hearings, Peter will, as Governor of the State of New Mexico, offer an apology to, and ask forgiveness for, the actions revealed during the hearings. The findings of these hearings will then be used as the basis for future state actions to remember, reconcile with and respect the 11% of the population indigenous to New Mexico.
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
- 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution
Peter doesn’t want to live in a state where only the police have guns. Neither does he want to live in a state where a lunatic can carry a gun openly in schools and churches. That’s why he supports the entire 2nd Amendment—both the part about “bearing arms” and the part about being “well-regulated.”
In this respect, guns are not much different than cars. Both can kill people if not used properly. That’s why we require both drivers education classes and that automakers follow safety standards. Peter supports doing the same with guns—required competency and safety training for gun buyers along with the appropriate safety measures built into guns by manufacturers.
Peter’s vision as governor is to lead New Mexico forward, by enacting progressive policies that put People First—things like a living wage, healthcare for all, and statewide early childhood education. Peter believes the best way to resist Trump and his policies is to model a compassionate government that helps people and solves problems.
But this doesn't mean Peter will allow hurtful policies and bigotry to go unchecked. Peter will do everything in his power to protect the rights, families, and religious freedoms of New Mexicans. Immediately after being sworn in, he will declare New Mexico a sanctuary state for Dreamers and immigrants. There’s a criminal justice system already in place to deal with those who are criminals. Racial and religious profiling has no place in New Mexico.