Earlier this year, Governor Susana Martinez did something no one could believe. She vetoed the entire higher education budget for the state of New Mexico. Every dollar for every college and university in the state.
This drastic move sent shockwaves throughout the state and did damage to our education system before the legislature stepped in to fix her mess. The legislature restored the funding, but only after New Mexico’s college students were used as pawns in a “political strategy.”
Shockwaves throughout New Mexico
The veto threw our colleges and universities into crisis mode. The President of New Mexico State University feared that “many of our state’s brightest students will move to other states to pursue their higher education” because of the governor’s decision to strip every dollar from it.
The economic implications could have been dire too — some high-quality faculty members began looking for jobs in states with more certainty in the higher education system and businesses looking to locate in a state that values education may have reconsidered their options.
The Chronicle of Higher Education echoed that view: “The budget situation in New Mexico has drawn national attention that could make any educator considering working in the state balk.”
Education — and higher education in particular — is the backbone of any well-trained workforce and, therefore, essential to a thriving economy.
As Armelle Casau, PhD, a research and policy analyst with New Mexico Voices for Children, put it: “Anyone given a chance to make an investment that is guaranteed to give a positive return year after year would do it…Public higher education is one such investment because it improves the workforce and helps families get out of poverty, both of which grow the state’s economy.“
Yet, in New Mexico, Gov. Martinez has overseen deep cuts to public higher education.
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, New Mexico slashed its investments in public higher education by 30% between 2008-2016 (on a per-pupil, inflation-adjusted basis). More cuts were made for 2017-2018, too.
Out-of-touch with New Mexico values
New Mexicans understand the value of having a great education system. Education allows hardworking New Mexicans to create more opportunities for themselves. The investments in education we make now translate into a better quality of life for our children as they grow into adults and look to start a life.
We know many of our young people already struggle to stay in New Mexico after graduation because they can’t find jobs. But better economic prospects are directly tied to the quality of our education system. And the quality of our education system is directly proportional to the investments we make in it.
We need leaders who value education and will fight for it, not use it as a pawn in a political game like Gov. Martinez did.
We know that investments in higher education:
- Create ladders of opportunity that lead to good-paying jobs
- Develop the kind of workforce that attracts high-paying jobs and will keep our young people in New Mexico
- Mean our policymakers must make sound decisions about how to raise revenue and use resources to avoid more short-sighted tax cuts
 Strauss, Valerie. “New Mexico Gov. Martinez vetoes higher education funding. All of it.” Washington Post, 17 April 2017.
 Carruthers, Garrey. “Unintended message a bad one.” Guest column. Albuquerque Journal, 16 April 2017.
 Quintana, Chris. “The next higher-ed funding battle to watch may be in New Mexico.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 April 2017.
 Casau, Armelle. “Despite recent budget fix, higher education is still underfunded.” New Mexico Voices for Children, 5 June 2017.
 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “State Map: Funding Down, Tuition Up.” 19 May 2016.