by Angela Merkert, Executive Director, AFLEP
Whew! That 60 day session went by fast. Over 240 bills were passed of the more than 1000 filed. A number of those bills will support increased local economic prosperity. We are grateful for legislative support for them—water quality, acequias, universal breakfasts and lunches for our school kids, broadband expansion, some geothermal support, the Legacy Conservation Fund, and more.
We are disappointed that more of the climate adaptation legislation was not passed. New Mexico walks a fine line between embracing fossil fuel extraction revenues and dealing with the damage done to our environment, to the health of New Mexicans. We are running out of time to have only a reactive position to climate change; we need to be proactive to ensure that our rural communities and small businesses have opportunities to thrive, not only the larger companies of the state.
AFLEP is committed to persist in our advocacy for increased support of rural development, including improved infrastructure, and small business innovation and entrepreneurship in both urban and rural areas. We need additional income sources from expanded economic development support. Although some projections shared in the 2022 interim committees suggest that the revenues from extraction will fall in 7-8 years, there are also projections for those revenues to diminish in 4-5 years as more alternative energy sources ramp up. We don’t have a lot of time to address those upcoming revenue gaps.
We are now being watchful of the Governor’s decisions as she moves through the passed legislation to add her signature—or not. What we do know is that, given the fire-hose of projected revenue to consider in the budget development, there were many requests for revolving funds of a year to 5 or 10 years’ duration. Not all made it through the sausage-making machine. However, sponsors and advocates behind the legislation had data that identified gaps in the state’s financial capacity to advance development in the areas of alternative energy, local economic development, environment, and more.
The state’s needs are significant, especially in preparation for the years ahead when we will be dealing with even more extremes in our weather that will affect our farming and agriculture practices and other impacts. We can be creative and consider how to expand the state’s lending capacity with a tool, like a state public bank, that will expand the investment of an initial $50 million to $450 million in lending power. That’s a significant investment in New Mexicans! We will be meeting with state officials, legislators, allies, and reaching out into more of our communities beginning in April to detail the missed opportunities of the newly passed budget and develop actions to address those possibilities.
There is increased wariness by some individuals about trust in banks, especially after the crisis of the Silicon Valley Bank. They did not meet regulatory requirements, their leadership did not address issues that had been identified and the regulators, for some reason, didn’t step up when they determined that SVB was not responding to the issues. That was not a typical situation. We’ll have more to share and explore in the days ahead about this blip in the financial system.
The team is not standing still. During the legislative session our financial plan for a state public bank was audited by a local CPA firm. The assumptions were tested and we now have broadened and deepened conservative financial projections for a successful bank. Stay tuned for more details about our plans—for a fair, just, equitable financial system that supports ALL New Mexicans! And join in our actions that will begin with interim committee hearings later this spring.
We appreciate your support and look forward to your engagement toward a vision of increased local economic prosperity for all New Mexican communities.