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Monday, November 27, 2017

On The Econ Beat This Cyber Monday: New Mexico's Economy Is Like Pedaling A Bike That's Up On Cinder Blocks; We Explain Why Plus Look At A Few Bright Spots, And: Readers Say Don't Forget Mary Thompson And We Don't 

With the big holiday shopping weekend just about done (don't forget Cyber Monday) we thought it would a good time to head back out on the econ beat.

And here we are. Standing in the middle of New Mexico and looking in all directions What we see is a state with a few bright spots but whose economy is largely unchanged from the malaise that has gripped it for the past decade.

The state's population continues to stagnate with imperceptible population growth. More ominously, we appear to be on an inexorable march to becoming a haven for oldsters.

Here are population growth numbers for the the Dona Ana County area from the Sun-News. The New Mexican reports the statewide picture: We're in the slowest growth period in state history and it is unlikely to change.

The Legislative Finance Committee reports that in 2015, 24 percent of the state’s population was older than 60. By 2025, they predict that number will jump to 33 percent

Of course, the whole nation is graying with the aging of the baby boomers but our state, unlike our neighbors, continues to lose our best, brightest and youngest to the proverbial greener pastures.

HERE TO STAY?

There is no reason to believe this entrenched trend is somehow miraculously going to reverse. Why?

--While Facebook is booting up its data farm in Los Lunas with $1 billion in construction, we know of no plans by it or any other major high tech firms to come to New Mexico and provide thousands of permanent jobs that educated millennials hunger for.

--There has been no substantial investment in education--especially early childhood--to match the crisis in education performance by so many of the state's youth. Economists will tell you such investment is a leading indicator for possible future renewal.

--Educated young people leaving the state means less political pressure for change. An increasingly older electorate will vote their interests which are not focused on education, poverty and wage and job growth---the long-term fundamental problems we face but which have grown even more intransigent as the state remains mired in recession or near recession conditions. (Yes, we are creating gobs of low-paying leisure industry jobs but you need two of them or more to make the rent.)

--We detect a new defensiveness arising among those who are here and not doing so badly. There are signs they are tiring of the never-ending negativity surrounding the state. In bumper sticker talk that defensiveness translates into this: "Love it or Leave It." That's not an attitude that brings in sweeping changes.

--The state's challenges require immense public and private investment. Saying so without shading it, scares an electorate that has been mesmerized by 30 years of tax cutting and anti-government campaigning.

--There will be no knight riding to the rescue. The official sources--the legislative experts and the economists--are now officially predicting what we warned of years ago when we were the first New Mexico blogger/journalist to spot the existential threat to the state and write of it extensively (it's all in our archives). Our readers joined us in offering innumerable proposals to keep the state from sliding but in the main they were ignored.

So here we are. After these many years covering what has been the biggest story of our career and one of the biggest in state history--if not the biggest-- (and we're glad we didn't miss it) we have come to what appears to be, if not an ending, a long pause that will keep us where we are--pedaling on a bicycle that is up on cinder blocks.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

--New Mexico is benefiting from an uptick in oil prices that is finally restoring the state's budget reserves and letting us keep the general fund budget about where it has been and, by the way, where it was a long ten years ago.

--Okay, so cleaning hotel rooms isn't so great, but they are jobs. Meantime, the bread and butter of the NM economy--government employment--continues to decline.

--The landslide election of Tim Keller as Mayor of ABQ appears to have given the city higher hopes for a turnaround and perhaps an embrace of the message that political leaders can still make a difference.

Proving our long-term outlook wrong may not be in the offing but there is still reason to believe we can at least begin the long hard climb out.

DON'T FORGET MARY

Frank Bond
In blogging recently about the state offices that women have yet to claim we noted that Kelly Zunie would have been the first Native American to be the Republican Party's lieutenant governor nominee--or of any party for that matter. She has since withdrawn from the race.

We clarified our blog because we made it seem like Zunie would have been the first female GOP lieutenant governor nominee. We then noted that ABQ GOP State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort was the 2006 GOP Lt. Governor nominee but, guess what? She wasn't the first.

Reader Susan Loubet and others say: "Don't forget Mary Thompson." Thompson, a state representative, was the first GOP woman to become the party's Lt. Gov. candidate. She did so in 1990 and ran with governor candidate Frank Bond. The election was never in contention and for that reason Thompson's name has drifted away. They lost to Dems Bruce King and Casey Luna 55 to 45. But Thompson made history. Zunie won't get that chance as she dropped out because of numerous campaign problems.

Of course, Diane Denish became the state's first female lieutenant governor when she was elected in 2002 and Bill Richardson won the governor's office.

And Susana Martinez won election in 2010 to become the state's first female chief executive since statehood in 1912.

Frank Bond, a prominent Santa Fe attorney and former state representative died of cancer at 70 on Christmas Day 2013. Upon his passing we blogged of his family's historic ties to the state. We could not locate any current information on Mary Thompson. Perhaps one of our readers can help.

C.B. TRUJILLO

Speaking of old time politicos, do you remember C.B. Trujillo? Well, you have to go back a ways to recall the power player from Taos who served in the state Senate from 1966 to 1980 and became Senate Majority Leader. He also served as head of the Legislative Finance Committee.

Like most heads of the LFC Trujillo was a conservative Democrat. Because of that he finally lost his seat in the '80 Dem primary to a more liberal politico who also boasted a a colorful nickname, Francisco “El Comanche” Gonzales.

Trujillo died November 20.

Was politics any better back when the likes of C.B. and El Comanche played the game? Well, it was more fun. That's for sure. Look at that great photo of him on the Senate floor eyeing his watch. That was back in the days when they "stopped the clock" so the Senate could work past the noon deadline on the final day. You wonder if he was looking at a stopped watch.

C.B. Trujillo was 85.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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