Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons at spoke at Moral Monday Day of Action at the Roundhouse (State Capitol) in Santa Fe, NM.

Build a Budget, Don’t Cut One

by Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons

As a Christian and as faith leader for the United Church of Christ in New Mexico, I know that the moral solution to New Mexico’s financial crisis is adopting a state budget that includes spending levels and increased revenue streams sufficient to assure the wellbeing of all New Mexico residents.

New Mexico’s financial crisis was not caused by wasteful spending; it was caused by not replacing lost revenues while repeatedly cutting taxes, resulting in an inadequate revenue stream. New Mexico’s budget no longer needs to be balanced on the backs of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

So where have state leaders’ previous efforts to cut their way to a balanced budget led?

New Mexico has the highest child poverty rate in the nation.[1]

  • 2 in 10 New Mexicans don’t have enough food;[2] 70,000 New Mexicans are helped with food each week.  That is equivalent of feeding the entire city of Santa Fe weekly.
  • New Mexico’s high school graduation rate is 47th in the nation; 40% of New Mexico high schools graduate less than 67% of their students.[3]
  • Our crime rate is 43% higher than the national average (and the highest in the country per 100K people)[4]
  • 44% of New Mexico’s released inmates are re-incarcerated
  • CRN Magazine ranks New Mexico 50th in quality of life;[5] while CNBC ranks NM 39th in its list of top states for business.

New Mexico’s elected leaders have under-spent New Mexico into being one of the bleakest places to live in America.

This is a solvable problem! Instead of considering only budget cuts in the search for a solution, we must consider every option. Eliminate previously passed tax cuts and adopt fair and adequate tax increases. And don’t take “veto” for answer!

To do otherwise is

to steal meals from the bellies of hungry ones
to wring dry already thirsty ones
to force families from their beds into homelessness
to close shivering ones out in the cold
to abandon sick ones and confined ones in their despair

Jesus told a story about times like ours. It’s a warning story foreshadowing a judgement day.

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all [peoples] will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to [one side] and goats to [the other].[6]

41–43         [The One doing the sorting] “will turn to the ‘goats,’… and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

44   “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

45   “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’[7]

Nov. 8 is a judgement day too. When New Mexico voters fill read their ballots, they’ll ask themselves, “Which name here has made it easier to keep food on my table? Which candidate will quench my thirst for a better future? Which name is most likely to help me keep a roof over our heads, and have some left over to give the kids a nice Christmas? Who is most likely to remember I am a person – not a statistic or an issue – and will govern with real people like me in mind?

We will know the feeling that budgets balanced only with cuts, stab at the heart of our values. We will remember how long Governor Martinez plays politics with our well-being before she calls the legislature into special session to engage the crisis. We will recall if the members of the round house built a budget or simply cut one. We will ask ourselves, “How long before my family’s well-being is jeopardized -or further jeopardized – by business or politics as usual? And then we’ll make our judgments and mark our ballots.

There is yet hope! The words recorded in the Book of Isaiah point us to a new path if we will dare to take it:

If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

You’ll be known as [ones] who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,

make the community livable again.[8]






[6] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Mt 25:31–33). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

[7] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Mt 25:41–46). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

[8] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Is 58:9–12). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.