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Reckless and wrong: The long-term damage of Gov. Martinez’s higher education veto

Reckless and Wrong


On April 7, 2017, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the entire state budget for higher education. Every cent for every college and university in New Mexico.


A special legislative session, costing taxpayers $50,000 a day, had to be called in May to fix the governor’s veto mess. But Gov. Martinez’s reckless veto left long-term damage. 

New Mexico State University President and former Republican Governor Garrey Carruthers has a unique position to understand the impacts of the governor’s actions. He spoke out harshly against Gov. Martinez after her veto:

“The message the [Martinez] veto sent to our 133,505 registered students and their families…leaves them confused and wondering whether they should enroll in a New Mexico college or whether they’ll be able to finish their degree and graduate.

We’ve worked hard to recruit high-quality faculty members to our institutions, yet some are now looking at employment where there is more certainty in higher education. 

When someone’s looking to locate a company here and they see this kind of an occurrence, one would have to wonder about the political environment and whether this is a place their company might be comfortable.” [1]

And President Carruthers was quoted in the Washington Post saying:

“I’m concerned that NMSU and the state’s other universities now appear to be caught up in a political strategy.” [2]


The Elephant in the Room


Gov. Martinez’s real priority is pushing through even more tax breaks for those at the top. 

Since Susana Martinez became governor, devastating funding cuts have meant skyrocketing college tuition and loss of critical faculty and teaching jobs.

But New Mexicans get it, even if Gov. Martinez doesn’t. We understand that investments in higher education create ladders of opportunity that lead to good-paying jobs and help develop the kind of workforce that attracts high-paying jobs and keeps our young people in New Mexico.

When confronted with these decisions our policy makers must make sound decisions about responsibly raising revenues for the state while avoiding Gov. Martinez’s strategy of shortsighted tax breaks for the wealthy and well-connected.



[1] Carruthers, Garrey. “Unintended message a bad one.” Guest column. Albuquerque Journal, 16 April 2017.

[2] Strauss, Valerie. “New Mexico Gov. Martinez vetoes higher education funding. All of it.” Washington Post, 17 April 2017.



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.[1]


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.”[2]


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.[3]

LEARN MORE: NMSU President Garrey Carruthers criticizes Gov. Martinez’s higher ed veto

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.”[4]

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.“[5]

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).[6] More cuts were made for 2017-2018, too.

LEARN MORE: Investing in education pays off economically, but New Mexico’s schools are chronically under-funded



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



[1] Strauss, Valerie. “New Mexico Gov. Martinez vetoes higher education funding. All of it.” Washington Post, 17 April 2017.

[2] Carruthers, Garrey. “Unintended message a bad one.” Guest column. Albuquerque Journal, 16 April 2017.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Quintana, Chris. “The next higher-ed funding battle to watch may be in New Mexico.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 April 2017.

[5] Casau, Armelle. “Despite recent budget fix, higher education is still underfunded.” New Mexico Voices for Children, 5 June 2017.

[6] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “State Map: Funding Down, Tuition Up.” 19 May 2016.




Gov. Martinez supports a proposal to revamp our state tax system that could blow a $44 million hole in the state budget [1] and raise taxes on New Mexico’s poorest families by 66%.[2]


You’d also start paying gross receipts tax on things you take for granted now, like:


  • groceries
  • textbooks
  • hearing aids
  • nonprofit nursing homes
  • prescription medicines
  • prosthetic limbs
  • back-to-school purchases
  • goods purchased from charities

Click on the graphic from New Mexico Voices for Children to the right for a breakdown of the impacts of the “tax reform” proposal.

Unfair. Irresponsible.


The governor’s “tax reform” plan is unfair and irresponsible. Not only will you pay more in taxes on critical things your family needs, but the plan Gov. Martinez supports could blow a $44 million hole in the state budget. That would mean even more funding cuts for our schools, healthcare, and law enforcement.

Under the plan Gov. Martinez supports:

  • Corporations would get a 24% corporate income tax break (this is on top of the huge tax breaks they got in 2013 under Gov. Martinez)
  • Those in the state’s lowest tax bracket (i.e. our poorest families) would see their personal income tax rate rise by 66%
  • There would likely have to be even more funding cuts for our schools, healthcare, and law enforcement because it could blow a $44 million hole in the state budget

There’s a better, more fair way


We New Mexicans willingly pay taxes to fund our communities’ needs. Taxes pay for the things that we need in order to prosper and create opportunity for ourselves and our families – education, roads and highways, public safety and public health, and much more.

But we expect our taxes to be fair.

We expect the wealthy and well-connected to pay their fair share. Under the plan Gov. Martinez supports, hardworking families will suffer while well-connected lobbyists and corporations rack up even more tax breaks.



[1] McKay, Dan. “Analysis: Tax overhaul would slash revenue.” Albuquerque Journal, 13 June 2017.

[2] New Mexico Voices for Children. “2017 Special Session Resources.” May 2017.