COMMENTARY: A few weeks ago, Susana Martinez vetoed funding for every state college and university. All of it.
Since then, neither she nor House Republican leaders have proposed a plan to restore it. Because every public school relies on New Mexico for 30-50 percent of their budgets, if not changed this decision will annihilate them.
What does this mean for you? Plenty.
Without funding, schools will either completely shut down or offer dramatically less education for much higher tuition, meaning many of our kids will have to go away for university. We will then have a less-educated workforce, like engineers to design our roads, accountants for our businesses, and doctors to take care of us when we are sick.
Furthermore, two-year schools provide technical programs for well-paid, steady careers like commercial truck drivers, welders, and X-ray techs. Those, as well as specialized classes for wind energy at Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari and aviation maintenance at ENMU-Roswell, could disappear.
And does your child participate in a high school dual-credit course? Those are probably gone.
The governor’s veto will obliterate jobs. Businesses start and grow where they can find people educated in areas like the ones described above; so they won’t start or grow here when those programs vanish.
Furthermore, all of the state’s Small Business Development Centers are funded through Santa Fe Community College. Since 1989, they have created and retained over 30,000 jobs. When our higher education system dies, that giant sucking sound you hear will be jobs fleeing to other states.
The veto wipes out matching funds for university research programs. Grants, contracts, and businesses started from these efforts are the vital to UNM, NMSU, and especially New Mexico Tech. Live in Socorro? Susana Martinez’s choice could butcher your town.
Do you have cancer? You may get chemo at the UNM Cancer Center. Have a baby who needs surgery? You’ll probably take her to the UNM Children’s Hospital. My family depended on NMSU’s Speech and Hearing Center when dad needed help in his last years. The governor’s veto may end all of these programs.
Are you a farmer? The N.M. Department of Agriculture is run by NMSU, with an extension office in every county. You may rely on them for marketing products out of state, monitoring livestock safety, or help with irrigation strategies. The governor just told you to say goodbye to all of that.
Do you have a kid who can’t hear or see? They best choice for them may be the N.M. School for the Blind in Alamogordo or the School for the Deaf in Santa Fe. How about a student who wants the disciplined life of the N.M. Military Institute in Roswell? Because of the governor these schools might not make it, and your kid may not get the specialized education they need.
Maybe most importantly for your day-to-day life, Susana Martinez’s choice will impact the local economy of every community with a college or university. For instance, WNMU in Silver City has a total economic impact of $80 million and creates over 1,100 jobs; a job for every 30 people in Grant county. Her decision will devastate any community (Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Hobbs, Clovis, Farmington, Portales, Carlsbad, Ruidoso, Socorro, Roswell, etc.) with a college or university.
This can be avoided. Nine Republican representatives can join the current bipartisan group in the Senate and House to overturn the governor’s crushing decision before July 1.
Want to help? This is a democracy. Call the governor. If you live in a place represented by a Republican representative, let them know that you value education, kids, jobs, food and your health. Urge them to do the right thing.
Before it’s too late.
Bill McCamley, a Democrat, is the state representative for the Las Cruces-area District 33.