As the recent successes of the oil and gas industry reverberate in New Mexico, the state’s projected revenue for the 2024 fiscal year is reported to approach $12 billion. This includes a whopping $3.6 billion in “new money” that has lawmakers excited about the possibilities for long-term fixes to the state’s chronic problems.
With revenue growth estimates for the 2024 fiscal year being 42.7% greater than the current year’s budget, New Mexico has a unique opportunity to address its most pressing issues, including the state’s public schools, which are often ranked near the bottom of national reports.
In light of this, it’s time for the state to consider dispensing some of this newfound wealth to its citizens through rebate checks. This would allow New Mexicans to keep more money in their pockets and stimulate the economy, while still providing lawmakers with the necessary funds to maintain the state’s status quo.
Direct rebate checks for the entire amount of new revenue could deliver about $1,700 for every man, woman, and child in New Mexico. With 2.59 members per household and an average household income of $51,243, these rebate checks could deliver an average of $4,403 per household. This would effectively increase household funds by about 8%, enough to combat rising inflation.
For a family of five, that’s a rebate check for $8,500. In Albuquerque, that’s enough for about six months’ worth of rent, according to rental averages reported by KRQE earlier this summer.
With the likelihood of a recession looming according to the Legislative Finance Committee, a rebate would provide a much-needed boost to the economy and help cushion the blow if a recession does occur.
In a state where almost $4 billion is spent educating children at the lowest standards in the country, any new revenue generated in the state should be returned directly to its inhabitants where it can have the most positive impact. New Mexico’s government has proven that increased spending does not equal improved outcomes.
The reality is that this land is your land, this land is my land: it is our land that provides such a bounty with the labor of the hard-working members of the extractive industries. It does not belong to the government. In fact, it is the people who own government, and the people should receive shareholder distributions on revenues drawn from state resources.
This year in Alaska, eligible Alaskans will receive a $2,622 annual Permanent Fund dividend check. The annual payment enables Alaskans to share in a portion of the state’s mineral revenue in the form of a dividend payment. It happens every year. For a family of five, that’s $13,110.
Rather than implementing another exorbitant government program, can New Mexico embrace a policy of spreading its wealth? Or at least giving its citizens a partial refund.
Instead of employing an “I know how to spend your money better than you do” attitude, lawmakers should consider the potential benefits of redistributing New Mexico’s government-accumulated wealth. This is a unique opportunity for the state and its people and one that should not be missed. The legislative session starts in just a few short weeks. Will they take action to make this a reality?