NM Needs a Stimulus Special Session Now

by | Apr 20, 2020 | Editorials and Opinions

ABQ Journal Sunday, April 19, 2020

We can deal with the budget in June when numbers are clearer


We are living in unprecedented times. It has been over 100 years since our state has faced a crisis that threatens not only the lives of our people, but our economy as well. It is indisputable that when given these serious challenges, protecting the health and well-being of people takes precedent over all other concerns. That being said, we should not ? and cannot ? forget about what will take place after the virus subsides and we are faced with restarting a state that might look drastically different.

That is why we need to have an immediate special session to pass an economic stimulus package, or our state could face a depression for several years.

I have received calls and emails and talked to business owners and business leaders. They are worried. All kinds of businesses are about to go under. Businesses can be expected to have 30 days of reserve funds on hand. If we don’t have a special session until June it will be too late. Businesses that might have been saved will be gone as well as the jobs they provide. Instead, we should have two special sessions ? one now on an economic stimulus package and one in June when we have a better idea of the budget situation and just before the budget goes into effect on July 1.

Our state, unlike most, has socalled “rainy day funds.” We currently have well over a $1 billion in these funds. These funds are separate from the permanent funds, which have billions more. Why not use some of the rainy day funds right now to help small business and their employees?

Per the state Constitution, monies can be made to help the “sick and indigent.” This dovetails perfectly with what we should be doing.

To help the “sick” we should give the governor the means and the money to secure immediate and widespread testing for all New Mexicans. We can’t let people go back to work until we know who has the virus and the antibodies to temporarily fight it. The sooner we have this information, the sooner we can start talking about reopening businesses.

To help the “indigent,” what better investment can we make than getting our businesses back on their feet, putting their employees back to work and restoring the tax base for our local cities and counties.

Any substantial amount of money from this permanent fund will not go far if we are not careful. We cannot create a corporate welfare program that rescues failing businesses. Our objective should be to strengthen companies that are poised to grow and employ New Mexicans. Next, we hope that when federal funding finally arrives, it can be used with a state stimulus and have a multiplier effect. We could, for example, advance funds for the federal payroll protection plan, supplement such funds or fill in the gaps created by the program.

We also must be sure that any stimulus funds are managed by professionals accustomed to evaluating business prospects. However, that cannot prevent money from being disbursed quickly to save as many businesses and jobs as possible.

There are other things we could do like providing the insurance commissioner with emergency powers to deal with insurance companies on things like business interruption coverage, but doing nothing is not an option. If we do nothing and expect businesses to simply turn back on the lights when the public health crisis is over, it won’t happen. Already, we are looking at projections of 20% unemployment for the foreseeable future. There will also likely be devastating poverty, skyrocketing bankruptcies, foreclosures and increased homelessness. The cost to New Mexico families will be unimaginable.

If we work in a bipartisan and transparent way, we can safely have a special session right now when the money could still make a real difference. Let’s get down to business to put New Mexico back in business.

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