State rep on early childhood education: ‘Invest in playpen, spend less on state pen’

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – When it comes to curbing New Mexico’s crime problem, one state lawmaker is saying, “The more we invest in the playpen, the less we will have to spend in the state pen.”

Rep. Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque) along with Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque) are sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would put more money into early childhood education.

Rep. Martinez says that additional dollars toward early childhood education are the most effective means of curbing crime as an early way of social intervention.

This is the right thing to do. It’s the smartest investment we can make,” he said.

However, the way in which he plans to do this will be a tough sell to Republicans.

This constitutional amendment would dip into the State of New Mexico’s permanent land grant fund and take 1 percent over five years. The fund stands at $17 billion, he said, and this would take about $130 million.

Rep. Martinez believes the fund will still grow at a healthy rate, and won’t be hurt by the monies taken out.

Rep. Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque), minority leader of the House of Representatives, however, says we shouldn’t add to the list of beneficiaries of the fund.

If we believe that investing in early childhood development is a worthy cause, which I think we all agree it is, we need to take care of that in the budget process — not depleting the fund which will result in smaller distributions to institutions like the School for the Deaf,” Rep. Gentry said.

Rep. Gentry points to the proposed budget by the bipartisan Legislative Finance Committee, which looks to put an additional $25 million into early childhood education, K-3 plus and increase teacher salaries. The total proposed budget for early childhood education is then roughly $300 million.

In order to pass, Rep. Martinez’s bill would need a simple majority in both the House and the Senate, then it would go to voters to decide.

While both chambers may be Democrat-controlled, some fiscally conservative Democrats could likely shoot this down.

The same measure has passed in the House before, but died in a Senate committee.

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