by Oriana Sandoval and Eric Griego
One of the less publicized highlights of the 2021 New Mexico legislative session was the passage of the landmark Sustainable Economy Task Force (SB 112). This important legislation will work to ensure our state’s clean energy revolution prioritizes communities most affected while also addressing the climate crisis.
For far too long, frontline and working families have been left out of New Mexico’s clean energy revolution. SB 112 will guide our economic diversification, ensuring future prosperity hits the bank accounts of working families in oil, gas and related industries. The wealthy and well connected have historically benefitted from our energy economy, to the detriment of the rest of us. SB 112 sets the foundation to end that.
Contrary to the fear and misinformation sold to our communities, caring for the environment, and each other, does not come at the expense of an economy that benefits all New Mexicans. Our state’s economic future is bigger than any single issue or industry and rebuilding it will take state and federal investments, and visionary leadership to become reality.
And what if we rebuilt our economy and our lives while addressing the interlocking crises of climate change, racial injustice, high levels of unemployment, and wide-scale economic distress?
In fact, we can. In addition to efforts in the New Mexico legislation, there is also legislation before Congress to transform, heal, and renew our communities by investing in a vibrant new economy. The THRIVE Act has been endorsed by more than 100 members of Congress. THRIVE is a once-in-a-generation economic recovery and infrastructure investment package that will create 15 million family wage jobs over the next 10 years in ways that address the climate crisis, and advance racial justice and economic fairness for all.
The THRIVE Act dedicates $1 trillion a year for 10 years to upgrade this country’s crumbling infrastructure, build clean and affordable public transit, expand renewable energy, modernize buildings to improve sustainability, protect wetlands and forests, and create high-wage manufacturing jobs in the clean technologies industry. Of that, 40 percent will go to communities of color, working-class communities, and communities that have historically been left out of government programs or disproportionately affected by toxic air and polluted water.
The impact on New Mexico would be dramatic. Under the THRIVE Act, the state will receive more than $2 billion a year to reduce emissions and fight climate change, another $2 billion for infrastructure projects, over $1 billion for agriculture and land restoration, and more than $500 million for health care and postal services.
According to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, these investments translate to more than 50,000 new jobs in New Mexico in the first year — expanding the state’s labor force by 5.7 percent, a significant jump in a time when the unemployment rate stands at nearly 9 percent. Over the 10-year life of the THRIVE Act, New Mexico could add more than half a million jobs, with huge jumps in employment in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, public transit and infrastructure renewal, and care and health services.
Together, this powerful national initiative coupled with state and local efforts will bring real opportunities and prosperity for all New Mexicans, regardless of where they live or work. We need not fear the transformation to a more diverse, inclusive and sustainable future. As long as legislation such as the THRIVE Act and the Sustainable Economy Taskforce guide our transformation we can all feel optimistic about what the future holds.
Oriana Sandoval is CEO of the Center for Civic Policy and Eric Griego is state director of New Mexico Working Families. They are co-anchors of the Nuevo Mexico Prospera THRIVE Coalition.