(The Center Square) – A coalition of nonprofit pro-business groups is asking New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to give up her taxpayer-funded paycheck as the state grapples with the sixth highest unemployment rate in the country.
Lujan Grisham makes $174,000 a year, while the state’s unemployment is currently at 11.3 percent, sixth highest in the U.S.
The Rio Grande Foundation, the New Mexico Business Coalition and Power the Future released a joint statement Monday saying the governor should put herself in the same position as her constituents who are without a paycheck.
“Just last year, Gov. Lujan Grisham announced ‘the lost decade of economic growth is over,’ yet our unemployment rate is far worse now than it ever was under Gov. Martinez,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation. “In fact, you have to go back over 30 years to find New Mexico’s unemployment rate in the double digits.”
Last week, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions said it had paid out more than $2 billion in unemployment benefits since mid-March, depleting the entire fund and forcing the state to borrow money from the federal government to continue paying claims.
There are about 90,000 people in the state currently receiving jobless benefits, down from 150,000 in July. There were 9,600 people receiving unemployment in March before government restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus were put in place, closing or reducing capacity at businesses deemed nonessetial by Grisham.
“While thousands of New Mexican families are suffering without jobs and many without incomes, the elected leader of our state hasn’t missed a payday,” New Mexico Business Coalition President Carla Sontag said. “If Gov. Lujan Grisham wants to put any sense of credibility to her words, ‘we’re all in this together,’ she would stop her income until such time as all New Mexicans are able to work and get paid.”
New Mexico had a $1.1 billion budget surplus when Lujan Grisham took office in January 2019, but now faces a $991 million shortfall.
Lujan Grisham is the first female Democratic governor of New Mexico. She served as the state’s secretary of health from 2004 to 2007 and served three terms representing New Mexico’s First Congressional District starting in 2013 before being elected governor in 2018.
In 2016, she was one of nine members of Congress who took a trip to the Azerbaijan capital of Baku that was found to have been secretly funded by that country’s government. Those who took the trip had to turn over gifts they received after an ethics investigation, although the Office of Congressional Ethics determined the members had no way of knowing the trip was improperly funded.