New Mexico’s energy opportunity is bipartisan

Oct 28, 2019 1:48 PM

Kyler Nerison | Albuquerque Journal | Octboer 20, 2019

When it comes to policy, President Donald Trump and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham are as far apart as Farmington and Hobbs. When it comes to the amazing things happening here in New Mexico, the two leaders are singing from the same sheet of music.

In recent weeks, both Trump and Lujan Grisham have sung the praises of the soaring production of oil and gas in the Permian and San Juan basins that is improving the lives of New Mexicans right now, while also providing the financial resources we need to lay the foundation for a strong and diversified state economy for years to come.

President Trump opened his campaign rally in Rio Rancho last month talking about the incredible numbers our state’s oil and gas industry has been producing. As the president pointed out, a 40% increase in natural gas and a more than 110% increase in oil development has led to higher wages and more jobs for New Mexicans.

Personal income in New Mexico increased 5.1% compared to the national average of 3.4% in the first quarter of 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. This made us the fifth-fastest-growing state for personal income growth.

When it comes to job creation, New Mexico is again at the head of the pack. In the past year, we’ve added jobs 73% faster than the nation as a whole. According to Albuquerque Journal reporting, “New Mexico has added roughly 29,200 private sector jobs – a 4.6% increase” since 2017 and “nearly half of those jobs are in the construction and natural resource extraction industries that have benefited from the oil drilling boom.”

Gov. Lujan Grisham’s comments in support of the industry came at a recent conference hosted by Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. Carlsbad is in the heart of the Permian Basin, which has propelled the U.S. to become the largest producer of oil in the world.

“The whole world is looking at us, is excited about what is happening here,” Lujan Grisham said at the conference. “I grew up in Santa Fe, but I’m the kind of gal that likes to get out where the money is made, not just where it’s spent.”

The “money” referenced is more than one-third of our state revenue last year that came from the oil and gas industry, which resulted in a record surplus. This surplus allowed legislators to increase education spending by nearly half a billion dollars. Albuquerque Public School employees, including teachers, librarians, nurses and social workers, will see an 11% average salary increase this year.

As a result, the governor said, “New Mexico is now leading the country in innovation and investments in public education. We called it a moonshot. (The oil and gas industry) delivered the resources to make that a reality.”

Strong public schools will not only benefit students who learn within their walls, but also will aid the state economy, as an educated and skilled workforce is critical to attracting new businesses to New Mexico, while enabling our existing industries to expand.

Gov. Lujan Grisham also just announced another plan fueled by oil and gas revenues: free tuition at public four-year college for recent high school graduates and free two-year colleges for any resident of the state. This could further help New Mexico develop a strong workforce to meet the needs of employers looking to create new well-paying jobs.

As the president’s and governor’s comments show, New Mexico is now an energy powerhouse – but the significance of that extends far beyond oil and natural gas production.

The state is on track for another $907 million in “new money” for next year and because of the record revenues coming in, we have the opportunity to lay the foundation for sustained success through improved education, roads and public safety services. That’s enough to unite New Mexicans from across the state – and political spectrum.