Elementary economics for Legislators

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By Sherry Robinson

We should have a mandatory economics class for legislators – not the inputs and outputs I slogged through at UNM but a nuts-and-bolts class on how local and state economies work.  

This legislative session I tried to call attention to economic engines – golden geese – because when revenues drop and budget cutters look for targets, they can hinder economic recovery if they’re not careful or stoke those engines that create the jobs we need.

The geese in previous columns were tourism promotion, the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack, the film industry and economic development incentives.

In December, Tourism Secretary Mike Cerletti proposed a tax of one quarter of 1 percent on restaurant food that would provide about $6 million a year to promote tourism in the state. This would cost you 2.5 cents for every $10 you spend in restaurants. And the industry can demonstrate that every $1 spent on advertising produces a $40 return in tourism spending.

What happened? Not only did this minuscule tax go down in flames, but the Legislative Finance Committee wanted to slash the Tourism Department’s budget by $1.6 million; the marketing budget would be $1 million. Neighboring states spend many times that amount.

This is like eating your seed corn, folks.

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