By New Mexico District 38 Rep. Rebecca Dow
Think back to the time you were in your elementary school lunch room. Do you remember there was always someone who wanted you to trade away your dessert? You didn’t fall for a bad trade back then, we shouldn’t fall for it now.
Anyone who attends a public school or college in New Mexico is the beneficiary of the oil and gas industry. As the 2019 Legislative Session approaches it’s up to all of us to ensure critical education funding keeps flowing to our classrooms without needless regulations on one end and unfunded mandates on the other.
Last year alone, the oil and gas industry delivered nearly $1 billion to support education in New Mexico. In my district, more than $21 million in revenue went to thousands of students ranging from Pre-K all the way to graduate students at Western New Mexico University. This funding pays our teachers, buys gas for school buses and keeps the lights on in classrooms all over the state.
Outside of education funding, the oil and natural gas industry creates over 100,000 jobs in New Mexico. These jobs not only help our economy, they help ensure the United States is less reliant on the rest of the world for the energy we need.
That’s why it doesn’t make any sense to trade a booming industry that delivers millions for our schools in exchange for over-regulation in the oil fields and our classrooms.
If we pass bureaucratic oil and natural gas regulations that only help grow government, we’ll see fewer opportunities to develop our natural resources for our children. Red tape from Santa Fe is never the answer when it comes to successful businesses.
What is true for the oil fields is also true for our school districts. As we look at how to spend our budget surplus, we have to be sure we’re not passing along needless requirements that will only turn into unfunded mandates the next time we face a tight budget.
The solution on both ends is simple: listen to those who are out in the fields and in our schools.
The workers and families who power our oil and natural gas industry live in our communities where production takes place so their stake in good extraction practices is real. They can tell you which regulations make common sense and which ones only make sense to special interests in Santa Fe.
The same goes for our principals, teachers and superintendents. They live in the same towns where our children learn and grow so they have a huge stake in classroom success. They will tell you where dollars can make a difference or where good intentioned ideas will turn into burdensome mandates.
The budget surplus we enjoy is a historic opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our children. Let’s not waste it on a bad trade.