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Day one of the brand-new New Mexico

January 16, 2019

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wove an ambitious, can-do attitude throughout her first State of the State speech Tuesday, an uplifting and wide-ranging discussion about what New Mexicans — together — can do to improve the lives of all residents, with an unrelenting focus on bettering the condition of our children.

Having a governor who obviously likes to govern — and most importantly, one who believes that through governing, citizens can express their best selves — is refreshing. Her speech was more than a litany of promises or even pie-in-the-sky goals, it was a recognition that elected officials have been given a charge to get busy and do more.

It was, as she said to conclude her remarks, “Day one of the brand-new Nuevo Mexico.”

She talked about education reforms, complete with her $500 million request for new dollars — the oft-cited “moonshot” — passing gun control, paying off film incentives, improving the lives of children, rebuilding the behavioral health system, boosting tourism and the outdoors economy, expanding renewable energy, refurbishing infrastructure, raising the minimum wage and so on. We would have liked to hear more on the issue of New Mexico’s water future, both how the state adapts to drier, hotter years and what will happen when the state finally has to settle its water dispute with Texas. Soon, please.

Still, on the whole, Lujan Grisham remained consistent in what she believes are the issues of importance. She was clear on the campaign trail and in her inaugural address and now, in the State of the State, that New Mexico has a lot of fixin’ to do. She has remained clear and consistent about the priorities of what needs fixing. Such steadiness matters. With so many competing needs, it is essential to have a governor willing to engage with legislators and make clear what is most essential. As she spoke, Lujan Grisham made clear what she wants to accomplish, engaging the audience with her enthusiasm and conviction.

That’s because a good speech has less to do with lists or initiatives — even though it was wonderful to hear that New Mexico will be among states pledging to reduce greenhouse gases in keeping with the Paris Accord on climate agreement — and more to do with its spirit and sass. In this, Lujan Grisham was especially effective.

The governor speaks clearly, forcefully — she wasn’t simply reciting words on paper. No, she was speaking to the room about how to improve the state we all love. Most of all, she was talking to the audience, both in the room and watching from afar, as if they were going to answer her back, sharing their own ideas and inspirations. This was no one-sided address; it was the start of a conversation. One, we are sure, that will become heated at times.

Yet one of the more hopeful signs of accomplishments to come came from Lujan Grisham’s repeated pledges to listen to those who disagree with her, whether in her own Democratic Party or among the GOP.

In her words: “I know most of you, and I know you have your own ideas, policies, proposals and programs to move New Mexico forward. I recognize that many of you may share my enthusiasm but not my exact road map for how we move ahead. I get that. In the 60 days ahead, I promise you this: I will listen as much as I talk. Really, I promise. I want to learn from you and incorporate as many of your good ideas into mine, into solid legislation and policymaking for New Mexico.”

She endorsed the idea of the “rocket docket,” which would take legislation already approved but vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez and move it along more speedily. We’re sure she also favors the pledge from Speaker Brian Egolf to limit memorials, too, focusing lawmakers on getting things done earlier in the session. Now, if only committees would start on time. … Both she and legislative leaders want results and plan to save difficult debates for the hard issues rather than going over old ground. That’s a smart way to run a Legislature.

With a budget surplus, legislative leadership from Egolf and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, as well as boundless energy from a smart, focused governor, the promise of the next 60 days is without equal in recent years.

Yes, a lot of that has to do with having money to spend. But more than dollars, we have a governor excited to govern and willing to engage in the process. She’ll stumble. She’ll make mistakes. She’ll fight with the Legislature. Then, Michelle Lujan Grisham will get up and go back to work. And that, we predict, will result in one of the more productive legislative sessions in history — just what New Mexico needs.

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