Don’t veto New Mexico jobs, groups urge Martinez
Citing the ongoing unemployment crisis in New Mexico, a group of progressive leaders and small business owners gathered today on north Fourth Street in Albuquerque to demand that Gov. Susana Martinez not ‘veto any more jobs.’ At issue are the broad vetoes Martinez wielded at the end of the legislative session that cut a large chunk of the small capital outlay and program investments designated by legislators for communities throughout the state.
“New Mexico is one of only 8 states in the country to see its jobless rate rise in February, from 7 percent to 7.2 percent,” said Javier Benavidez, communications director at the Center for Civic Policy. “Yet following the 2012 New Mexico state legislative session, Gov. Martinez chose politics over proven job creation programs.”
Standing in front of a big billboard with a picture symbolizing Gov. Martinez vetoing Main Street, and noting a special website with information about the vetoes*, Benavidez listed the vetoes that he said were particularly hurtful to New Mexico’s small businesses: SB9, the bill that closed a “massive tax loophole” for multi-state big box stores; designation of funds for New Mexico’s Main Street program, which Benavidez said was expected to create 600 local jobs in 2013; and 87 capital outlay projects in 25 counties, totaling 23 million dollars.
In a statement issued before the event, Benavidez noted that the vetoes included money for excellence training, assessment and assistance for New Mexico businesses and funding for the Tourism Department to promote New Mexico’s adventure tourism destinations, plus funds allocated for capital outlay in the state’s poorest counties, including 71% of projects in McKinley County, 88% in Mora County, 45% in Cibola County, 33% in Rio Arriba County, and 96% in Torrance County.”
“At a time like this we can’t afford for her to play politics with New Mexico jobs,” Benavidez said. “There’s an old saying that you can’t shake hands with a fist that is clenched. The governor, half-way through her term, still hasn’t unclenched her fist.”
Joining Benavidez was Albuquerque City Councilor Rey Garduño, and a small business owner, Melinda Rand Kenefic, who had to close her shop, Celebro, in Nob Hill due to the recession.
The main street program is a catalyst in creating strong local economies, in 23 areas of the state, Garduño said, specifically invoking Nob Hill, a small business district in central Albuquerque that he represents.
“Most of these folks have built their businesses, they have not expected anybody to give it to them, or expected tax breaks,” Garduño said. “But they do expect some kind of support from government which has said they are interested in small businesses. Well let’s prove it. Let’s not veto the main street program.”
Melinda Rand Kenefic spoke about the business she owned for over 20 years, Celebro, describing how she built it from her heart and soul, and her dreams. The economic downturn caused her to lose her business, along with the economic security of her family as well as her employees, she said.
“I’m growing tired of the rhetoric about supporting small businesses when actions prove otherwise,” she said.”This has been the case with Gov. Martinez, especially when she vetoed closing the corporate tax loophole, and funding the main street program of which I was an active participant.”
Kenefic stated that everyone knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. “Every time a small business closes, a dream stops happening. An ability to support the community stops happening, and we are diminished by that loss,” she said.
El Grito asked the participants how they would respond to Gov. Martinez’s explanation for her vetoes. In her executive statement she cited the need for “fiscal restraint,” and a need to serve the “broader interest of the state” rather than particular local needs. To local media outlets, she called the projects that she vetoed throughout the state “wasteful pork.”
Both Benavidez and Garduño pushed back on the notion that the vetoed projects were wasteful. Benavidez said that the projects Martinez vetoed in rural communities are disproportionately important to those communities.
“Appropriations like the ones she vetoed make a much more proportionate difference for small town New Mexico,” Benavidez said, “programs for infrastructure improvements to helping with food distribution programs, those are programs that are helping rural New Mexico, which is hurting in many cases much more [than the urban areas of the state].”
Garduño pointed out that the Main Street program in particular serves about twenty small towns in New Mexico, and that what may seem like small projects to some have a big impact in those places.
“A small venture in a place like Truth or Consequences has a tremendous effect on the business climate of that area,” he said, “…we need small initiatives that are big for those communities.”
*El Grito is supported by the SouthWest Organizing Project.