By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
Gov. Susana Martinez campaigned last time as a Roundhouse outsider who would take on the good fight for regular New Mexicans, especially on economic and education issues. She has done that during her first term, and voters should send her back to Santa Fe for another four years as governor.
On the economic front, Martinez helped guide New Mexico through the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s and pushed through some policies that have advanced New Mexico’s position nationally and with neighboring Mexico.
On education, her reforms that have made it into practice contributed to increased graduation rates and measurable gains for New Mexico’s schoolchildren, especially Hispanic high school students and youngsters who live in poverty. Her policies and administration were successful in taking the state out from under the federal thumb of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Martinez, a Republican, has demonstrated her fighter’s instincts by remaining resolute on important issues shot down each year by a Democrat-dominated Legislature but which polling shows are backed by a wide majority of New Mexicans.
This would include trying to eliminate the state program that grants full-privilege driver’s licenses to immigrants who entered the country illegally, and which has turned New Mexico into an international mecca for ID fraud; and pushing to increase the focus on early reading so that all regular education children who are passed on to fourth grade can read at grade level. She has also faithfully supported the reformer she hired to improve New Mexico’s perpetually low-ranking education system, though the state Senate has yet to discuss on the floor much less vote on her confirmation.
Given the national economic situation when Martinez took office in 2011 and the conditions she inherited, it seemed unlikely that she would be able to keep her campaign promise not to raise taxes. But she did – while increasing the size of the state’s reserve fund from 4.9 percent to 13.5 percent and taking care of a projected $450 million shortfall to balance the state budget as required by the state Constitution.
This was done with bipartisan help from legislators.
And this spirit of cooperation has led to reforms that ended tax pyramiding and the single sales factor tax system that penalized companies for HIRING workers and rewarded them for laying them off. The corporate tax rate has been brought in line with our neighboring states. All of these have improved the business climate in a state that has for too long been overly dependent on federal dollars. There have also been targeted laws such as a locomotive fuel tax break in exchange for railroad infrastructure work that has boosted the Santa Teresa border crossing – which is expected to be a major driver of New Mexico’s economy in the near future.
On health care, Martinez broke ranks with many Republican governors nationally and accepted the Medicaid expansion offered by the federal government, which made health care available to 170,000 New Mexicans who lacked insurance. She has pushed programs to increase the number of nurses and nurse practitioners through incentives and licensing changes; and promoted the use of telemedicine to expand a specialist’s reach into rural areas of the state.
Though Martinez has faced criticism over an audit that led to the restructuring of behavioral health care in the state, it is her opponent who fought to keep the details secret – even from those who may be suspected of fraud. Meanwhile, according to state figures, the number of people receiving behavioral health services increased by roughly 27,000 during the most recent budget year.
During the last four years Martinez rose above the novelty of being the first woman governor of New Mexico to becoming a strong leader making positive reforms in a state dominated by partisan opponents. The Journal recommends voters re-elect Gov. Susana Martinez.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.