SANTA FE, N.M. – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) addressed a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature.
Heinrich began his remarks by denouncing President Trump's executive order banning refugees and immigrants from entering the U.S. from several majority Muslim nations.
“We are not a country that discriminates based on how you pray. We are not a nation that turns our back on the innocent victims of terrorism or the allies who risked their own lives so that American soldiers might live. President Trump’s actions seek to turn us into the kind of authoritarian nation that we have always stood against. This is not greatness, in fact, this is un-American. I will not stand aside as the values that created the greatest nation on earth are trampled,” said Heinrich.
During his address, Heinrich said that bold action was needed to build a brighter future for New Mexicans. He called for New Mexico leaders to invest in early childhood education, take advantage of the growing renewable energy industry, and implement a two-generation approach to break the multigenerational cycle of poverty.
“We need to take bold action that invests in our people and in our communities. New Mexicans are looking to all of us to offer real solutions to turn things around and address the systemic challenges our state faces. Despite the challenges, I know we all share an enduring love for our home state and know that we can turn New Mexico around. Job growth should be our first, our second, and our third priority,” said Heinrich.
He also warned of the harmful impacts repealing the Affordable Care Act would have on New Mexico.
“The Affordable Care Act has led to a dramatic increase in the number of insured New Mexicans and provided hundreds of thousands with critical, and in some cases, lifesaving care. Our communities that continue to confront the public health crisis of opioid addiction and the damage done by the State’s behavioral health shakeup cannot afford to see the chaos to our health care system that an ACA repeal would bring. New Mexico cannot afford to lose the billions of dollars in economic activity or the thousands of jobs the ACA and Medicaid expansion have brought to our state,” said Heinrich.
Below are Heinrich's full remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to thank all of you for inviting me to be with you today.
A lot has changed since the last time I addressed a joint session of the legislature nearly two years ago.
We are facing a new administration in the White House and dangerous new threats to American values and freedoms.
During his first week in office, President Trump ordered a federal hiring freeze, floated the idea of bringing back the CIA's use of 'black site' prisons and torture techniques, imposed a gag order on federal agencies, and renewed talk of a wall on our southern border.
And all of this culminated with an executive order blocking refugees from around the world from entering the United States.
Like many New Mexicans, I was heart sick by what I see as an attempt to fundamentally change our American values.
We are not a country that discriminates based on how you pray.
We are not a nation that turns our back on the innocent victims of terrorism or the allies who risked their own lives so that American soldiers might live.
President Trump's actions seek to turn us into the kind of authoritarian nation that we have always stood against.
This is not greatness, in fact, this is un-American.
I will not stand aside as the values that created the greatest nation on earth are trampled.
Our immigrant communities have helped to write the economic, social, and cultural story of America.
I know this firsthand. My own father is an immigrant who came to America as a boy from Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Had this twisted logic been applied to him he would have been turned away at our border. His life serving in the Navy and raising an American family, would never have existed. I would not be here.
So I know the promise that America represents for families. I know how hard immigrants work, how much they believe in this country, how much they're willing to give back, and how different my own life would be if America had turned my father away.
The challenges our nation faces are significant, but there are solutions before us here in New Mexico that are pragmatic and that uphold our American values.
And I know that here in the Roundhouse the budget difficulties that you face are more challenging than ever.
But we should all remember that it is even tougher for the families in our state who are struggling to make ends meet.
An honest and sober assessment tells us that New Mexico is the only state in the nation that has failed to see any real economic recovery since the Great Recession - despite multiple rounds of tax cuts.
I really wish that the solution was in the tax code.
Or in talking tough about locking up criminals and throwing away the key.
Or even in fighting about drivers' licenses-year in and year out.
It would be easy if the poll-tested policies that build a political resume aligned with a better and brighter future for New Mexicans.
But that approach has failed to produce results.
We need to take bold action that invests in our people and in our communities.
New Mexicans are looking to all of us to offer real solutions to turn things around and address the systemic challenges our state faces.
Despite the challenges, I know we all share an enduring love for our home state and know that we can turn New Mexico around.
Job growth should be our first, our second, and our third priority.
We need new industries and new businesses to call New Mexico home.
New Mexico has opportunities for any new business, but underfunded schools, a multigenerational cycle of poverty, and an inability to govern and invest for a stronger future are what keeps business leaders from creating new jobs in our state.
These are the issues - not tax cuts - that make businesses all too content to grow in Colorado, Utah, Arizona or Texas.
New Mexico's state motto is "It grows as it goes."
We are only going to grow if the direction we go is one that makes smart investments and the hard choices that put us on a stronger path.
My friends, it is long past time to put our Permanent Fund to work for early childhood education.
There will be no bailouts or giveaways of federal mineral rights. That is a pipe dream. But even if it was a serious policy prescription it would take two decades to make a difference.
And New Mexico's children cannot wait.
Inaction is moral failure for a state with the third largest permanent fund in the country and far too many children who show up to their first day of kindergarten without the skills they need to succeed.
The choice could not be any clearer.
Our future-our children's future-and our economy depend on it.
A failure to invest in early childhood education compounds the problem of poverty we all know must be addressed.
So in addition dedicating a sustainable portion of our Permanent Fund to early childhood education, I am calling on all you to join me in reforming our approach to poverty and implementing a coordinated system that puts whole families on the path toward economic opportunity.
We know that new programs and new money is not is not in the cards. But we can do far better with what we have.
The "two generation approach" can coordinate programs across our state's human services, workforce development, education, and health care agencies so they can work more effectively to put parents and children on the path to success together.
I have teamed up with my Republican colleague Senator Susan Collins of Maine to introduce the Two Generation Economic Empowerment Act in the U.S. Senate.
This is the first major bipartisan bill in decades that has a real chance to fundamentally change the way our states, communities, and local service providers help whole families overcome intergenerational poverty.
While multiple programs currently exist to help low-income parents and children, they have individual funding streams and structural barriers that keep services for adults and children separated by nearly insurmountable barriers.
Low-income families willing to sacrifice, save, study and work to better themselves are met with uncoordinated and what can feel like uncaring bureaucracy.
The two-generation approach is at its core about effective government.
The two-generation approach is evidence-based, data driven bipartisan policy that works.
I have visited some great examples in New Mexico of what this looks like on a local scale.
The United Way's Early Learning Center right here in Santa Fe offers year-round, full-day services for children and families including hot meals, health care, teaching and learning technology, employment and social service assistance for parents, and home visitation for new families.
By implementing the two generation approach on a larger, state-wide scale, we can put whole families, even whole communities on a path toward economic success.
There are already states that are leading the way-including our neighbors in Colorado and Utah-with great results.
By better investing in our people, we can pull New Mexico out of the economic slump that has persisted for far too long.
And I know that part of our investment in our community has to be defending the major health care coverage gains we have seen thanks to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion.
Look, I know the ACA is far from perfect.
I have led the charge to help improve the law - repealing burdensome regulations for small business owners and rolling back taxes on employer provided health plans that cover many hardworking New Mexico families.
But despite what some partisan critics may say, the Affordable Care Act has led to a dramatic increase in the number of insured New Mexicans and provided hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans with critical, and in some cases, lifesaving care.
Our communities that continue to confront the public health crisis of opioid addiction and the damage done by the State's behavioral health shakeup cannot afford to see the chaos to our health care system that an ACA repeal would bring.
New Mexico cannot afford to lose the billions of dollars in economic activity or the thousands of jobs the ACA and Medicaid expansion have brought to our state.
Because of the law, the health care sector has been our strongest area of job growth for the last five years.
New Mexico added over 4,000 health care jobs in 2015 alone.
If the ACA is repealed without a real replacement plan in place, it is estimated that we will lose 19,000 jobs here in New Mexico.
Many of these jobs are in the rural communities where we need them most.
When you visit Clayton, Raton, and Santa Rosa, like I did last fall during a rural health care tour, you see the vital role that hospitals play in these communities.
In most cases, these hospitals are the only health care providers for many miles in any direction.
And these hospitals are often the major employer in town.
And speaking of communities in jeopardy, we also have our work cut out for us in standing up for New Mexico's federal workforce in light of the new administration's hiring freeze.
In this hostile climate it will be harder than ever for our national labs, our bases, our ports of entry, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, WIPP, and our incredible national monuments, forests, and wildlife refuges.
They serve critical national missions and are cornerstones in local economies across the state.
Our federal missions support tens of thousands of jobs and bring billions of dollars of economic activity into our state.
Through my roles on the Senate Armed Services, Intelligence, and Energy and Natural Resources Committees, I am constantly seeking to acquire new investments and position our federal installations for forward-looking missions and sustainable futures.
In the last year alone I worked hard to see the relocation of two F-16 training squadrons to Holloman Air Force Base and secured a new 143 soldier Air Defense Artillery Detachment at White Sands Missile Range.
Those new missions will support hundreds of new jobs.
I helped Dell start up its public-private partnership to expand the commercial hours of operation at Santa Teresa's Port of Entry and secured millions of dollars of investments to improve our ports of entry to support our fast growing export economy.
I have stood with local communities to create the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments, and I won't back down from defending the public lands that we all cherish.
I also helped local companies like Aquila and Raytheon Ktech in Albuquerque and Alaska Structures in Las Cruces secure major contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to manufacture essential equipment for our military.
And earlier this month, I was proud to join the community and workers in Carlsbad whose tireless work and patience led to WIPP reopening for safe operations.
I am committed to setting the stage for future growth and sustainable futures for all of New Mexico's vital contributions to our nation's security, innovation, and prosperity.
And I want New Mexicans to fill those jobs.
Here's just one example: one third of the employees at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories will become retirement eligible by the end of 2020.
That means 5,000 jobs that New Mexico graduates could fill.
Last year I brought LANL leadership together with our community colleges and universities to discuss the concrete steps we must be taking to build a better education and training pipeline to prepare New Mexico students for those science and engineering jobs.
When we expose students to science, technology, engineering, and math, they become the next generation of innovators and the future backbone of our state's economy.
And there is no greater opportunity for folks with that training than in the clean energy industry where New Mexico stands to gain thousands of jobs in the coming years.
With our wind, sun and geothermal resources, our labs and entrepreneurs we should be exporting pollution free electricity to the nation and reaping our share of this fast-growing job market.
Wind and solar are growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. Wind technician is the fastest growing job in America and nearly every wind tech works in a rural county.
We are already seeing this happen.
In October hundreds gathered to sign a 180-foot long wind turbine blade in front of the Curry County Courthouse in Clovis.
This gigantic blade joined two others on a tower that will be part of the Grady Wind Energy Center, one of three new wind energy projects in the county that will bring almost $1 billion of economic impact to the economy in eastern New Mexico.
500 construction workers, dozens of permanent wind tech and maintenance jobs, and permanently expanded tax base....that's what that blade represents.
This job creation story is similar for the El Cabo Wind Farm in Torrance County and utility scale solar fields across our state.
Making New Mexico the epicenter of opportunity means creating a better state policy environment that attracts investment in our state's bountiful solar and wind resources.
Instead of repealing solar incentives, we should lead by passing pro-growth tax policies like solar investment tax credits.
And we must build new transmission.
In fact, we should re-commit to New Mexico's Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, which has been line-item vetoed in a move that can only be called penny wise and pound foolish.
Unless we are able to site transmission lines to send clean power generated in New Mexico to hungry energy markets in California, Arizona, and Texas, we are essentially capping the amount of major job-creating wind and solar projects we can build.
This is America's future, and one where New Mexico can shine-but only if we make the right choices today.
If we want to give our state a prosperous new future, we need our best and brightest to be able to find these opportunities and build their careers and start their families here in New Mexico.
This winter, I took my 13-year-old son Carter on his first successful elk hunt on public land in Catron County.
It was the kind of experience you never forget, the type of experience you can only really have in the Land of Enchantment.
But as we sat there looking out over the horizon, I wasn't thinking about the freezer we might fill, I was marveling at all the potential that exists for New Mexico and that it is as boundless as our big skies, our mountains, and our mesas.
Making our state a better place for all of our children and families-is what drives me to serve this beautiful place we call home.
We know that all the potential we could ever ask for sits in classrooms, homes, and churches across New Mexico.
New Mexicans elected all of us to find solutions to our greatest challenges and move our state forward.
Join me in this fight.