Let’s re-evaluate our budget priorities

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Howie Morales

During the past few years, New Mexico, like most other states, has fallen victim to the national recession. Our Legislature has made many difficult choices to ensure that we pass a balanced budget, as is constitutionally required.

In doing so, I have tried to protect the high-priority needs of our most vulnerable citizens: educational opportunities for youth, and adequate services for senior citizens, veterans and those with developmental disabilities and mental health conditions. Programs designed to serve these citizens are severely underfunded, not because of a lack of support but because of a lack of money in the state’s treasury.

Through my experience in developing a budget, I understand the importance of every dollar that is spent on these citizens.

That is why I was disappointed, but not surprised, at comments made by an NBA superstar Kobe Bryant during a recent interview aired on ESPN Sport Center. As Kobe reflected on his team’s underachieving 2010-2011 season, including being swept in a Western Conference semifinal series, Kobe didn’t mince words on his disappointment.

“It was a wasted year of my life,” he said in the interview. Kobe endured a “wasted” year that made him $25 million richer. To most, and certainly all individuals I know, this would not be considered a wasted year by any stretch of the imagination, regardless of the disappointment.

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Perhaps if he understood what $25 million could bring to many New Mexican children who deal with developmental disabilities, Kobe wouldn’t be so flippant about what a “waste” of time the past year was for him. Perhaps if he put his situation in the context of what other people endure, he might better appreciate what $25 million means to many of our families: for each $1 million he makes, 22 New Mexico children could be taken off the developmental disabilities waiting list and begin receiving desperately needed services; with $25 million, 224 children could begin receiving services.

The invaluable lessons of gratitude

Throughout the current recession, the Legislature has grappled with how to meet the increased demand for vital services with decreased revenue. We have been forced to make difficult choices and cuts that affect those on the waiting list, many of whom will remain on the waiting list. Unfortunately, our most vulnerable citizens will not receive the funding and protection they deserve.

Although they do not receive the millions of dollars that Kobe receives, it is doubtful that children with Down’s syndrome, autism, or cerebral palsy will ever feel they “wasted” a year of their lives. While they have never experienced the pressures or joys of an NBA playoff game, it appears that Kobe has never experienced the invaluable lessons of gratitude these children teach us as they work at our local grocery stores or restaurants.

For these children, each day is a gift and a blessing, regardless of the many challenges they face. They offer us an opportunity to quietly reflect on the gifts we are given, but tend to take for granted. If Kobe would take advantage of that opportunity, he might have reason to celebrate, even without winning a championship.

Morales, a Democrat, represents District 28 in the New Mexico Senate.

One thought on “Let’s re-evaluate our budget priorities

  1. The following quote is from Pete Domenici at 3 minutes 22 seconds into the March 6, 2011 episode of
    Eye on New Mexico. Nicole Brady then asks Domenici why we never hear this side of the story; to
    which Domenici replys: you tell me.

    http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S2005349.shtml?cat=10106
    Eye on New Mexico – March 6, 2011
    (23:56-20:36)

    Pete Domenici: The two of us worked for eight or nine months and produced what we of thought was a

    method of getting to where we ought to be as a people if we want to avoid what we think could be a

    tsunami, economic tsunami, a crash, going off the mountain; and that our economy, our dollar, could

    be in trouble. We could just turn into a second rate power. Now all of that, let’s just put it in

    here for the people to know, all of that could happen because our deficits have accumulated too big

    a debt. The deficits are annual, debt is the sum of all those annuals. And it’s approaching, it is

    over 14 trillion. And going up at more than one trillion a year. which means we aren’t doing very

    well at controlling our expenditures. And expenditures are one thing but how far the expenditures

    exceed the tax take, that’s the sum of the income tax, that difference is an annual deficit. And so

    we suggested, one, first we said: Is this a big problem? You bet. Everybody agreed it was mammoth.

    It was the kind of thing like a WAR. Number two. How would you put it together? You put everything

    on the table. Everything. Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. Nobody escapes being looked at. Why?

    Not because we want to hurt anybody; not because we want people to march in the street, and say we

    violated our contract; but its because if we don’t, something bad will happen to this great country.

    It’s like losing a war to Hitler. And they say in advance: what would it be if you lost a war to

    Hitler? Well I don’t know. We didn’t. We never lost one. But you want to try? To most of them they

    say: No. But looks like they want to try on this one. If we told you the debt will reach a point

    where they won’t buy our notes…you understand, this debt is nothing more than, we gotta raise

    thirty billion dollars so we put out IOU’s, we announce today, and a hole bunch of people go there

    and bid, countries bid, and in the last 15 years we’ve been selling most of it overseas, and more

    than that, we’ve been selling most of it to a foreign country called China. Who now owns enough of

    those to be a 900 billion dollar creditor. That means they are owed 900 billion dollars …American

    greenbacks that have to be paid so that they can mark the note: “paid in full”. And they are asking:

    What is with this America? We’ve been buying these notes because we thought it was the

    safest place in the world to put money. And here we hear the news is they might go broke. The

    Chinese are saying: What is with them? And we hear that some Chinese leaders are telling some of our

    leaders “we’ve come to the conclusion that your leadership does not want to solve this problem.”
    (20:36)

    http://sites.google.com/site/erikhawkes/Home/pete-domenici
    http://sites.google.com/site/erikhawkes/Home/april-15-2011-our-economy-is-not-recovering
    http://sites.google.com/site/erikhawkes/Home/the-recovery