I am stunned that Susana Martinez has chosen to defund the legislature and all colleges and universities in our state as her way to balance our state’s budget. If this particular situation is not resolved, then EVERY institute of higher learning in our state will be closed as of July 1. This is truly the most unconscionable act of political gamesmanship I have seen in a long time.

The Governor was given a bipartisan budget proposal that contained both cuts to expenses and tax increases to balance our current fiscal crisis. Members of both parties seem to understand that austerity measures do not work for the long term. This is what we all do with our household budgets. If we can’t afford something, we cut it from our budget. If we have cut our budget and still have financial troubles, we find a way to bring more income into our houses. We get a second job, sell unnecessary items, downsize as much as we can. We don’t cut out what is necessary for us to exist, grow and thrive – our homes, education, food, and healthcare. We cut our budgets to the barebones, but we don’t cut through those bones. This is exactly what Martinez is suggesting the state do.

The Governor blames her decision on the legislature. Is it because they did not hold confirmation hearings on her appointed Regents and dared to propose a budget that includes tax increases? Do I really want taxes to increase for me or anyone else? Of course not. Am I willing to pay a little more if it means my neighbor’s children get a decent public school education and our universities get to stay open to prepare students for a chance at a better career later on? Absolutely.

The Governor’s Chief of Staff argued that higher education is not being held hostage. She simply wants a budget that doesn’t increase taxes and wants her Regents confirmed. I beg to differ with him. How many thousands of employees at colleges and universities across the state are now in a needlessly panicked state because they don’t know if they will have a job after June 30? I know I’m worried. How many families now wonder whether their student will be able to get or finish their higher education in New Mexico? Education IS being held hostage, as is the security of knowing that the next paycheck will arrive on time for thousands of New Mexicans.

I believe the Governor made this decision thinking that residents across our state would indeed panic and flood their representatives with calls demanding they give her whatever she wants so that higher education gets funded. I would suggest a different action, though. Does anyone else remember the Governor coming to UNM last year and making the announcement that she wanted at least 50% of our working adults to have a college education by 2050? That she said earlier this year that New Mexico was going to become the best place to work and raise a family? How can you make these things happen if you are not willing to put forth the resources required to educate people? Am I the only one asking these questions? Rather than flooding your representative with phone calls, flood the Governor’s office. Our representatives were responsible and understand that you need both cuts and revenue for governance to happen. They understand that the oil and gas industry is not going to save our state and that we need to think about new sources of revenue moving forward. The Governor has made the irresponsible decision. Reports are that a special legislative session costs $50,000 per day. If she’s going to spend more money that our state doesn’t have, at least keep her accountable to her words about college education and making our state the best place to raise a family. Ask for true compromise between the Governor and the legislature for the good of ALL in our state.

Sandy Rodrigue

UNM staff member