February 19, 2015

Lujan Delivers Address to New Mexico Legislature

Santa Fe, NM – Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District addressed a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature this afternoon.  Below are his remarks as prepared.

“To the distinguished members of the New Mexico House of Representatives, the New Mexico Senate, Governor Martinez, Speaker Tripp, President Pro-Tem Papen, tribal leaders, honored guests, family, and friends, thank you for welcoming me here today to discuss our shared commitment to the people of New Mexico and our common goal of building a brighter future for the New Mexico families we are so honored to represent.

“It is always a pleasure to be back in this distinguished chamber, a body that has such a special place in my heart and my family’s as well.  Thank you for allowing me this honor.

“Growing up and watching Dad serve in this body with my Mom always at his side, I have seen first-hand, how important it is to be the voice for those whose voices are often not heard.  I saw the strength of our state and our legislature when New Mexico working families and growing the economy were at the top of everyone’s priorities.

“From all around America to right here in the Roundhouse to every community across the Land of Enchantment, that should be our North Star – our mission as elected officials – fighting to grow our economy for each and every constituent we are fortunate to represent.  

“As a state and a country, we cannot reach our full potential without a vibrant middle class.  
That means working day in and day out to ensure every New Mexican has a good-paying job, food on the table, an education for their children, living their golden years with dignity, and putting a little money in the bank at the end of the month.

“I am not naïve.  I know that for too many New Mexicans, this vision feels like it’s slipping away.  I’ve sat across from many kitchen tables in many homes across New Mexico and looked into many parents’ eyes and seen the hurt and fear as they struggle to provide the next meal for their children.  

“Our vales demand more.  I’ve talked to many New Mexicans who have spent too many days in search of too few jobs.  We all know that New Mexicans deserve better.

“The national economy is gaining speed.  The stock market is up, the private sector has added jobs for 59 straight months – the longest streak on record – but these gains are not being felt in homes across New Mexico.  

“We must ask ourselves the tough questions and look within to find out why our neighboring states are growing, but New Mexico remains near the bottom.  New Mexico leads the nation in child hunger and is near the bottom of childhood wellbeing. We cannot ignore these challenges.  We cannot focus on small issues for political gain that sometimes distract us while the larger ones remain unaddressed.  

“We cannot let our differences stand in the way of progress.  Now is not the time for politics.  Now is the time for helping New Mexico’s families.  As we begin a new Congress and work through our legislative session here at home, I hope that we can work in concert to address these challenges.  I hope that we can work together on middle-class economics and offer struggling families a chance to build a brighter future here at home.

“The hard-working men and women of New Mexico are the backbone of our communities and our economy.  We should be working to expand economic opportunities, create jobs and grow paychecks.  To do this we must diversify our economy by taking advantage of New Mexico’s unique resources.

“The federal labs are one of these resources that set us apart from states all across America.  Three world-class labs in New Mexico create tremendous possibilities, but we must do more to leverage the labs to drive economic growth and job creation.

“Too many dollars that are coming to New Mexico are simply passing through and not staying here at home.  An essential part of that effort is improving coordination between all the stakeholders who have an important role to play.  We need a holistic approach with labs, local businesses, investors, the education community, and more all working together toward a common goal that is putting New Mexico first.

“Understanding the needs of the labs and the skills they value will help educators tailor a curriculum and job training toward those needs.  Working with local businesses there can be internship and fellowship programs that provide valuable experience to prepare New Mexico’s workforce.  With the right focus we can attract and educate workers with the skills that then entice more businesses to set up shop in our communities – building an ecosystem around the labs that establishes a workforce pipeline and broader pool of capabilities to draw on.  

“We need coordination that ensures that these efforts work in concert with our tax structure to incentivize growth in key areas.  On this point I want to commend all the members of the New Mexico Legislature, the Governor, and the Jobs Council for their support of tax credits for Angel investors and research and development.  That is good for New Mexico and it will put people to work.  These are tools that can support startups and innovative businesses here in New Mexico that jumpstart our economy.

“At the federal level, I have been advocating for increased funding for the Small Business Innovation Research program and the Small Business Technology Transfer program.  These programs encourage small businesses to engage in research and development, expanding public/private partnerships to include joint venture opportunities for small business and nonprofit research institutions, enabling them to collaborate with federal research institutions in an effort to bring technological innovations to the marketplace.

“I am also working with the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration to encourage them to implement programs that bring together DOE and the Department of Commerce to engage businesses, venture equity, angel investors, universities, and regional entrepreneurs to develop capabilities the labs and the region need.  

“As we look to the future of the labs and the impact they have on New Mexico, I believe that we should seek a greater role in shaping that future.  The Sandia Management and Operation Contract is in the process of being solicited and re-bid and Los Alamos National Lab’s contract will be here before we know it.  

“We as a state should set a goal of having a New Mexico-led consortium as prime contractor for one or both of our national labs.  If not in this next round, then certainly in the next.  It will change the way those dollars flow through New Mexico, having New Mexico at the front of what will be happening day in and day out.

“I encourage the legislature to consider a joint memorial to bring together legislative leaders, the Governor, universities, and the business community to study how we make this happen so that New Mexico can take a leadership role in the operations of New Mexico’s national labs.

“In addition to our labs, New Mexico is home to a wealth of natural resources.  Wind and solar hold the potential to power our economy.  Building a clean energy economy that turns these resources into jobs will be vital for the future of New Mexico.

“This Congress I will introduce legislation to promote increased investments in clean energy through a renewable energy standard that reduces carbon emissions and drives clean energy deployment in states around the country.  By increasing the amount of renewable energy that our neighbors use, we can create more demand to export New Mexico’s wind and solar.  This means making transmission a key focus and encouraging more projects like SunZia throughout New Mexico so that we can move our clean energy into new markets.  We can create these opportunities and protect New Mexico’s assets, and we must commit to both.

“As New Mexicans, we are blessed by our surroundings with majestic lands that are some of the most beautiful in the world.  We are home to the best hunting, fishing, and hiking.  This is not only a great source for recreation; it is a major economic driver creating jobs in communities across the state.

“New Mexico’s farmers grow crops that are a vital part of our economy as well as our culture, from pistachios to chile.  It’s these lands that truly make us the Land of Enchantment and it is why we must work to preserve them and support the farmers whose value-added products are the best in the world.

“While our lands, our crops, and our Carne Seca and chile are important, the most important and most treasured resource is every man, woman, and child who calls New Mexico home, who are determined, who are resilient.  With the contributions from the Hispanic, Native American, Anglo, African American, and immigrant communities, to our soldiers, veterans, and military families who make us proud, our great diversity is a strength and we must embrace and celebrate it every day.

“With deep roots and a love for our land that has been home to so many generations of New Mexicans, our people are what make our state so strong.  But we must invest in our greatest resources, our people.  We must educate our children from their earliest days and get them on the right path from the very beginning. I will continue to support efforts at the federal level to expand access to Head Start and other early education programs that help children during their formative years, and I encourage you to take action here in New Mexico.  

“With our children ranking near the top of every bad list, we must do something to break this cycle.  The Land Grant Permanent Fund was created to invest in New Mexico, to help create wealth, to pave the way for positive education.  What better place than in our children’s future to invest?

“The challenges we face run deep.  But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.  In fact it calls for bold action.  Universal access to education is a must.

“Affordable higher education and access to job training programs must also be part of the equation.  Too many students are drowning in debt, not being able to get into their first home, and sometimes not even being able to buy their first car.  This is a challenge we can attack together.

“As we grow our economic sectors, we need skilled workers who are prepared for the jobs of the future.  In his state of the Union Speech, President Obama called for more access to community college. I agree with the President that our community colleges can lead the way in an effort to provide a good education to all those who want to work hard.

“This Congress I will be introducing legislation to leverage our community colleges and to help them strengthen their clean energy curriculum so they can prepare students and retrain workers for careers in clean energy.  By providing grants to community colleges to expand programs that focus on workforce development in this growing field, we can give students the tools they need to get ahead.

“Investing in the people of New Mexico so that we grow the middle class and combat the cycle of poverty is the key to a brighter future.  What we should not do is weaken workers’ ability to advocate for good wages and safe working conditions.  

“As many of you know, we lost my Father to lung cancer over two years ago.  Dad was an iron worker who worked up at Los Alamos and the conditions he worked in contributed to his diagnosis.
 
“Worker safety, ensuring that there are protections so that workers come home safe and sound every night to their family and are not impacted decades later, is of critical importance.  And it is a top priority for the unions that fight for working men and women.

“Whether its workplace safety or fair wages, a 40-hour week or overtime pay, unions fought for many protections we now take for granted.  That is why undermining our workers through policies that undermine working families would do more harm than good and will take New Mexico in the wrong direction.

“I am hopeful that instead we work together on areas that will strengthen working families, rebuild our economy, and create more opportunities for the people of New Mexico.

“New Mexico is at a crossroads.  We have struggled through the deepest recession in a generation.  The signs of an economic recovery are all around us, yet seem to be passing us by.  The choices we make today will determine if we continue along this road or if we chart a new course that puts us back on the path to prosperity.

“My Father, Speaker Luján said: ‘We should never give up.  We must preserve in our pursuit to do good, make a difference, and treat every man, woman, and child with respect and dignity.’

“To each and every one of you, I wish you well.  I wish you courage and wisdom.  May God bless each and every one of you and keep you safe.  May God bless New Mexico and may God bless America.

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