Leverage Strength of Oil and Gas to Improve Access to Education for All

Feb 14, 2020 8:57 AM

Ryan Flynn, Executive Director - New Mexico Oil and Gas Association

Record revenue from oil and natural gas production is transforming New Mexico and ushering in a new era of opportunity for our state. Teachers and other public employees are receiving well-deserved raises; and the state is making strategic investments to improve education, update infrastructure, and diversify our energy-based economy.

The resurgence of oil and natural gas production in New Mexico and around the United States is creating these opportunities. Oil and natural gas production right here in New Mexico is consistently growing, soaring to new heights and creating thousands of new jobs. And while the production of oil and natural gas occurs in southeast and northwest New Mexico, the benefits and contributions of the industry emerge in every city, town and village across our state.

Perhaps most importantly, record levels of oil and natural gas production is giving our leaders and lawmakers the opportunity to change the educational landscape in New Mexico. According to the New Mexico Tax Research Institute, oil and natural gas provided our state with a record $3.1 Billion for the state budget in the 2019 Fiscal Year, including $1.36 Billion for our students, teachers, and public schools.

The strength of oil and natural gas in New Mexico is giving policymakers and elected officials opportunities to invest in all areas of our state. Last year, Governor Lujan Grisham captured the attention of the nation with a bold proposal to expand access to higher education with tuition-free college. Big, bold ideas like the Opportunity Scholarship, along with other proposals to increase access to education, are the game-changers we need to move our state forward and open the doors of the future for each and every student in New Mexico.

These types of transformational opportunities are only possible because of the success and growth of New Mexico’s oil and natural gas industry. Our state has enjoyed two consecutive billion-dollar budget surpluses on the strength of oil and natural gas, and our legislative and executive leaders, including Senator John Arthur Smith and Representative Patty Lundstrom, have rightly doubled-down on investments in education.

As one of the nation’s top producers of energy, and as the fastest-growing sector of our economy, investing in education and preparing our students for careers of the future helps New Mexico eliminate the drain on talent and create the kind of home-grown workforce we need to fill jobs in our own backyard. In the Permian Basin alone, recent studies indicate the region will require an additional 50,000 workers in both New Mexico and Texas by 2025, and the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said in 2018 the Permian could lead the nation in the creation of new jobs. Making strategic investments in education ensures that the oil and natural gas industry, the most successful and largest contributor to education in our state, will continue to thrive.

We are at a pivotal moment where our trajectory is so much greater than our past. Realizing our full potential means maximizing the opportunities at our disposal. The time has come for us to double-down on our investments in our future, in education, and leverage the strength of the oil and natural gas industry to make tuition-free college a reality for thousands of current and future New Mexico students.

New Mexico’s oil and natural gas transformation has reverberated across the United States and around the world, and has made our state stronger, resilient, and more secure. With each passing day, the future of New Mexico increasingly shines brighter, and we should take advantage of the resources afforded by the strength of our oil and natural gas industry and make the choices to ensure our brighter future.