EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Members of New Mexico’s all-Democratic congressional delegation outlined their agenda in Washington, D.C., at a joint meeting of the state Senate and House of Representatives on Monday in Santa Fe.
The guest appearance by the federal lawmakers at the state capitol was symbolic of a desire by the region’s leaders to work in lockstep, whenever possible.
“Our greatest accomplishments happen when every level of government – federal, state, tribal and local – work together with the private sector on behalf of our beloved communities,” said U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, D-New Mexico.
The members of Congress talked about the need to improve basics like health care and education while bringing higher-paying jobs to the state.
“In order to provide New Mexicans for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow – whether at our national labs or our community health care clinics – we must provide quality technical education and workforce training,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, told the state lawmakers. “We need to align our public schools, our community colleges and our universities with growth industries like health care, biosciences, aerospace and clean energy.”
Freshman U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, also a Democrat, gave a nod to the state’s oil and gas industry playing a role in securing American energy independence. But he said he’ll push for alternative energy generation.
“I believe in taking a two-track approach: supporting workers in our energy economy but also speeding up the capacity in renewable energy and the jobs that come with it,” he said.
Vasquez said he favors allowing local governments to purchase, generate and price electricity to lower costs and encourage more “aggressive new energy development.”
Heinrich said the state has challenges, such as staffing shortages in health care and education. He called for higher salaries for teachers, paid family leave, affordable childcare, and a new raise in the state minimum wage. New Mexico just this January raised the minimum wage to $12 an hour for most workers.
The federal lawmakers were treated to several rounds of applause inside the Roundhouse and shared personal anecdotes with their audience.
Leger Fernandez talked about being a 17th-generation Northern New Mexican.
Vasquez said his grandfather was a rancher in Juchipila, Mexico, and employed his children and grandchildren in a television repair shop after he moved from Zacatecas state to Juarez.
“All 10 of his kids and later his grandkids including myself learned how to fix those TVs,” the El Paso, Texas-born congressman said. “Part of my job was to sell those TVs on the curb in the Chaveña (neigborhood) of Juarez.”
He spoke about the emotion of taking his grandmother to tour the House of Representatives chamber in Washington, D.C. That’s an opportunity he found thanks to living in New Mexico, he said.