Op-ed by Gabe Vasquez, Las Cruces Sun News
Thanks to Democrats, New Mexico will benefit from more than $3.7 billion in funding to create thousands of jobs over the next 10 years. Much of that will be in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico. Millions more will make its way to our state via competitive grants as part of the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
This accomplishment secured bipartisan support in Congress, yet as the rest of our New Mexico delegation supported this historic legislation, Congresswoman Yvette Herrell could not find the courage to vote for these once-in-a-lifetime investments.
But thanks to Democrats, all of our districts stand to benefit — including New Mexico’s 2nd. That includes communities like Carlsbad, Hobbs and Artesia — communities that will put this funding to the best use possible to support their growing economies and mitigate the impacts of the heavy use of public infrastructure. It will also benefit our Native American communities such as Mescalero, Alamo Navajo and the Pueblos of Isleta, Laguna, Zuni and Acoma, which will benefit from record investments in broadband connectivity and water infrastructure projects.
As a former city councilor, board member of the Las Cruces Utilities Commission, chair of the Mesilla Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, and chair of the South Central Solid Waste Authority, I can’t understate how important these investments are for our communities. Local and state leaders tasked with funding repairs for deteriorating infrastructure, improving public safety, funding new water projects and improving public transportation will have renewed financial support to keep our communities safe, livable, and modernized.
The IIJA will provide New Mexico with job-creating investments like broadband expansion, which is critical for education, and economic growth. A record $100 million investment will help bring high-speed internet access to an estimated 223,941 New Mexicans who currently lack connectivity. Thirty-eight percent of New Mexicans will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity benefit, helping low-income families afford internet access.
We know as well as any other drought-stricken state that water is life, and water is our future. Thanks to this funding, New Mexico can expect to receive $355 million to improve water infrastructure across the state and deliver clean drinking water to many more communities. Millions will be invested for a low-income water assistance program, infrastructure support for mutual domestic water associations, and a Tribal Drinking Water program.
And as our state grapples with the destructive and financially draining force of wildfires, this bill will bring more than $38 million to protect our communities against the devastating impacts of wildfires.
New Mexico Democrats are delivering countless other critical investments to our state and district, including reducing the energy costs for families, improving cybersecurity for local governments, hundreds of millions for public transportation improvements, and more than $2.7 billion to repair our roads and bridges.
It’s easy to talk about what our communities need — high-speed Internet access, blue-collar jobs, investments in infrastructure and water security, and public safety — it’s another thing to vote for it and get it passed through Congress. Despite our current Congresswoman voting against these historic, job-creating investments, I am grateful for our Congressional leaders who stepped up when New Mexicans needed them most.
Gabe Vasquez is a former Las Cruces City Councilor and Democratic candidate for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.