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Oil Windfall Brings Free College and Day Care to One of the Poorest States

In New Mexico there’s bipartisan support for programs to boost workforce participation and skills.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Photographer: Jim Weber/Albuquerque Journal/Zuma Press

New Mexico this year became the first US state to offer free college to its residents and free child care to most families, all on the back of soaring revenue from royalties and taxes on oil and gas production, which are booming on its patch of the Permian Basin. The state now ranks behind only Texas in energy production.

With support from local legislators, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, is parlaying the record receipts into programs that could lift incomes for many of New Mexico’s 2.1 million residents and ultimately reshape its economy. “New Mexico is so reliant on oil and gas, and these past couple of years have been very good,” says state Representative Derrick Lente. “But it’s not going to last forever, and we have to be smart in regards to how we invest now and how we prudently use these types of dollars to make great change that will last generations.”