Editor's Note: The original version of this article read, "New Mexican Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich recently voted against the congressional DREAM Act, despite both men previously speaking in support of the resolution." That is incorrect and has since been removed. The Daily Lobo apologizes heavily for any confusion.
Gov. Susana Martinez opened the 30-day New Mexico legislative session Tuesday with her last State of the State address before her second term comes to an end — but she was interrupted by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals activists who unrolled banners and chanted, “Undocumented, unafraid.”
Order was eventually restored within the legislative sessions, and protesters were told they must take down their banners and cease their interruptions or they would be escorted out of the building by security.
Martinez did not respond to the demonstration as it occurred, nor did she mention DACA in her address.
Instead, she began her speech by acknowledging the economic progress that New Mexico has recently enjoyed and the unpropitious events of 2017 that have to be overcome.
Last year, due to a decrease in the price of oil, New Mexico’s budget was expected to fall short by $600 million. However, Martinez said New Mexicans responded correctly to the adversity, and rather than relying on the “flimsy crutch of the federal government, we set a new course and chose to diversify our economy instead.”
As a result, the budget is currently reporting a $300 million surplus while New Mexico has climbed to the No. 7 ranking in terms of national economic growth.
“Wages are up, per capita income is up and as people look for work again and find jobs, our unemployment rate is declining,” Martinez said.
Martinez also cited a six-point plan that she said she believed would continue to aid local business, as well as benefit taxpayers. The plan includes action items, such as reforming the tax code so that it would be easier for businesses to operate within New Mexico while also investing in new startups that have the potential to supply many jobs.
The governor dedicated the rest of her address to discussing crime and education.
“Education and crime: one creates opportunities, the other stifles them. One helps children realize their dreams, and the other can snuff them out,” she said.
Regarding the concern of crime, Martinez spoke in favor of stricter punishments in all areas, including possibly reinstating the death penalty for capital crimes. She also advocated for technological advancements in police departments, as well as salary increases for local officers, in order to incentivize a strong police force while also cutting back on crime.
Education, however, was an example of mixed successes. Martinez cited improvements in reading efficiency saying, “Nearly 8,000 more students are reading on grade level. 32,000 more kids — more than ever before — are attending an ‘A’ or ‘B’ school.”
Schools in Albuquerque have not enjoyed the same success.
“The number of ‘F’ schools, for example, has tripled in Albuquerque — to nearly 1 in 3 schools — and the Albuquerque Public Schools’ graduation rate is nearly nine percentage points lower than the statewide average,” Martinez said.
Austin Tyra is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers the Board of Regents. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AustinATyra.