State legislators convened at the in Santa Fe Tuesday to begin the 51st legislative session, which is scheduled to run 60 days this year.
In her State of the State address, Gov. Susana Martinez said the focus of the session should be on making New Mexico more competitive by adopting legislation that encourages job growth and makes the state attractive to businesses.
One way to do this, she proposed, was by lowering the state’s business tax rate from 7.6 percent to 4.9 percent.
She also asked legislators to pass infrastructure projects, such as those for water systems and roads, in an effort to create jobs that would “kick-start our economy.”
Martinez also noted the role education plays in developing a strong workforce and proposed programs to improve reading proficiency by the third grade and decrease the drop out rate.
Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, said she agreed with the governor on the importance of reading intervention programs.
“If our kids cannot read, they will drop out of school,” she said, noting that close to 70 students drop out a day.
She said she also agreed with Martinez on lowering the state’s business tax rate to establish a competitive foothold and have businesses come into state.
“We’ve got to drop that rate,” she said. “Private enterprise drives our economy, not government.”
Ezzell thought the governor’s speech was very good and noted that it was interrupted several times by applause — especially when Martinez asked the legislature to repeal the law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Martinez also encouraged lawmakers to find common ground despite their disagreements and work for the benefit of the entire state.
Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, said if the support Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, received from both Democrats and Republicans to be elected president proTtmpore of the Senate was an indication, “there’s a very good opportunity for the Senate to be more balanced in its approach this year.”
“Of course, we’re still going to disagree,” he said.
Ezzell said she looks forward to working with the other side of the aisle on issues, such as a creating a balanced budget.
“We need to keep New Mexico solvent,” she said.