By Lt. Governor Howie Morales , January 7th 2023

New Mexico has a rare opportunity to make lasting and historic progress on difficult problems during the 2023 meeting of the Legislature.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has expressed her strong support for having the state invest in ensuring every child is fed; substantially expanding affordable housing across New Mexico while reducing homelessness; and bolstering our ongoing efforts to rebuild and strengthen the network of behavioral and mental health care. I am hopeful that by working together, the Legislature and executive will accomplish all of these key goals.

Now is the time to tackle the big social issues, when our state is prosperous and doing well financially. If we don’t strengthen our communities and make life better for all New Mexicans now, when will we ever get around to doing it? That’s why we were elected.

New Mexico’s economic outlook has never been stronger than at this moment. The state’s projected revenue for the 2024 fiscal year is nearly $12 billion, including $3.6 billion in new revenues. That’s 42.7 percent larger than the $8.5 billion budget in revenues for the current year, according to the Legislative Finance Committee. The good news comes thanks to surging world demand for Permian Basin oil and gas production, our low rate of unemployment, and a 21 percent increase in taxable gross receipts driven by our administration’s successful efforts to diversify our economy and improve the state’s business climate.

In this year’s legislative session, we will continue the responsible investments we know are working already in education, health care, conservation and public safety. We will also support innovative new strategies with real investments to meet other pressing needs.

As Lujan Grisham has highlighted, no New Mexico student should go hungry. All too many do, however. That is why we will work with legislators to fund healthy, high-quality breakfast and lunch meals for every K-12 student in New Mexico at no cost, improving nutrition and removing the burden of meal debt from schools and families. Making sure all students are fed nutritious meals daily is critical to tackling tough, intractable poverty that exists in every community across our state. We will expand our collaboration with New Mexico farmers for fresh local fruits and vegetables to do so. This goal is achievable and is a top priority.

Second, we will make the needed investments to finally deliver significantly more affordable housing for ordinary New Mexicans who are struggling every day with the rising costs of living and keeping a roof over their heads. The problem is growing worse, and afflicts huge numbers of families, workers and seniors. As a board member of the state Mortgage Finance Authority, I see how acute the issue is becoming with each passing month. In 2020, we found that almost 44% of renters and more than 21% of homeowners are burdened with costs of 30% or more of their annual income going directly to their rental and housing payments. It’s too much. We will take on the related and worsening problem of homelessness in New Mexico, too, in the 2023 legislative session.

Third, we will continue to strengthen our investments in rebuilding New Mexico’s network of behavioral, mental health, psychiatric and substance abuse treatment. Under the governor’s leadership, we have already made remarkable progress during the past four years by eliminating behavioral health copays for hundreds of thousands of residents and expanding access to care across the state for New Mexicans. There is still much more work to do to expand the delivery of services, especially in rural communities. We will do it this year.

Throughout 2023, I will continue my travels across our state to hear directly from residents, communities and leaders how New Mexico can do better to meet their needs. Now is the time to use our strong fiscal situation to help improve the lives of all New Mexicans, and I look forward to it.