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Governor, Top Aides Talk With Members

Date: December 11, 2013

“New Mexico is open for business!”

In an exclusive conference call for NFIB/New Mexico on December 11, Gov. Susana Martinez and two of her top economic-policy lieutenants answered phone calls and emails from members on a variety of small-business issues.

Martinez was joined by Jon Barela, secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, and Tom Clifford secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration. Leo Baca, New Mexico state legislative affairs director for CenturyLink, which sponsored the teleconference, started the event by noting that under Governor Martinez, taxes have been cut 19 times.

The governor began by noting her small-business roots, working for her parents who owned a security guard business that grew from three to 125 employees in three states. “I understand what it takes to keep the doors open,” she said.

Governor Martinez also highlighted one of her accomplishments in ending tax pyramiding and restated her governing theme: New Mexico is open for business. The challenge, she said, still remains making New Mexico’s tax rates more competitive than the rates in neighboring states.

Secretary Barela said his department’s Office of Business Development, created on the first day of the governor’s administration, is succeeding in its mission as the place to go for any small business having problems with the state. It has already closed 200 cases, resulting in the saving of 2,100 jobs.

After introductions, the governor and her aides answered questions from NFIB members throughout the state on a variety of issues, including:

  • The bidding process for state contracts
  • The state’s infrastructure
  • Her energy policy
  • How to spur local governments
  • Workforce training
  • Education

It was on the issue of education that the governor was most passionate about. “At the end of the day, they are going to be the people you hire,” she said. “We have to make sure our kids stay here [in New Mexico] to take the job.”

The governor minced no words about the sorry state of New Mexico’s schools, noting that 80 percent of the state’s fourth-graders, a crucial educational development stage, were not reading at their grade level. “It’s not about money,” said the governor, who wants to hold schools and teachers more accountable for what they are supposed to be producing. “This is not about the grown-ups; this about the children.”

Part of her educational agenda is to grade schools and direct resources to failing ones, not scatter educational dollars everywhere.

Better targeting of existing resources is also the top priority of the governor’s infrastructure and energy policies, according to Secretary Clifford, especially with water. “Without water, you’re not going to have economic development,” she said with Clifford noting the struggles Las Vegas is having.

With workforce training, the governor singled out nurses for rural areas as a priority and noted a program she has for their education as a particular accomplishment she was proud of.

But a lot more work on every issue needs to be done, she told NFIB members. “We have a long way to go, but I’m righting the ship,” the governor said. Her goals are to diversify the state’s economy so it’s not so reliant on federal dollars and to put New Mexico in a position to not only be competitive with other states, but also to be a leader in opportunity and business diversification.

Members whose questions could not be answered at the moment were given the numbers and email addresses of the people whom they could call, or have call them. “I appreciate town halls, because we can set up another meeting,” said the governor, who also encouraged small-business owners to get more involved in the process and let their legislators know their concerns.

NFIB/New Mexico State Director Minda McGonagle reminded members listening in on the call that their State Ballot, sent to them last month, was a great way to start grabbing the attention of state representatives, and to please vote if they haven’t done so already.

Putting its members directly in touch with the people making the policies and laws their enterprises must operate under is one of the many benefits in NFIB membership. Always feel free to send an email to Minda McGonagle about any concern you have about policies coming out of the State Capitol.

[Top photo from left to right: Jon Barela, Tom Clifford, Governor Martinez, NFIB/New Mexico State Director Minda McGonagle, and Leo Baca of CenturyLink. Bottom Photo: Governor Martinez, left, with Minda McGonagle.]

Special thanks to the teleconference sponsor:

 

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