Good Government Reforms
The state of government in New Mexico
Since 2014, the Thornburg Foundation has worked in Good Government Reform in New Mexico. Based on learnings from our initial years in this work, we have refined our strategic vision — both in how we approach and accomplish the work in this space.
When looking at good governance, we believe that supporting local organizations whose work can encourage a well-functioning and fair government that will benefit all residents. The focus areas that these organizations work in, like journalism and redistricting, are key issues that have the ability to have a long-term, positive impact on good governance down the line. Since 2014, we’ve partnered with a dozen local and national funders to support these organizations in their efforts toward promoting a more representative, responsive, and accountable state government.
Our Focus Areas
Looking forward, we’ve identified five priority tipping points that will impact good government reform in New Mexico between 2023 and 2027. If actualized, based on our research and learnings, these five pillars represent the greatest progress that can be made in the near term and lay the foundation for further progress in future years.
We believe that a non-partisan, independent approach toward redistricting would enable citizens to choose their representation and support strong democratic systems. Experts believe that New Mexico has a window over the next few years to leverage the existing momentum behind redistricting reform. Additionally, the establishment of an Independent Redistricting Committee has strong public support with 77% of New Mexicans in favor of establishing one in the state.
An Independent Redistricting Committee would help New Mexico:
- Reduce special interest influence and help prevent conflicts of interest
- Increase elected officials’ and candidates’ responsiveness to constituents
- Enable more contested elections
- Decrease hyper-partisanship and polarization
- Improve access for more diverse, representative candidates to run for office
- Improve the public’s trust in government
Advancing a Modern State Legislature
New Mexico is the only state that continues to have a part-time “citizen legislature”. However, political science research suggests that modern legislatures are more effective at policymaking, more representative, and more responsive to constituents. UNM political scientists define modern legislatures as those with paid professional staff for legislators, longer legislative sessions, and fair compensation for legislators. An October 2022 poll by Common Cause demonstrates broad public support for a modern legislature, including 67% of likely voters supporting paid staff, 70% supporting longer sessions, 64% supporting paying legislators, and 84% supporting more disclosure of incomes by legislators and their families.
New Mexico would benefit from having a modern legislature that has:
- Paid staff to enable policymakers to review legislation and not depend on lobbyists for information and research
- Longer sessions to allow greater public engagement
- Adequate compensation for legislators so they can engage fully in their work
- Greater oversight of the executive branch of the state government
- More effective at policymaking and responsive to the public
Decreased Influence of Special Interest Money in Elections
Privately financed campaigns may create dependence or perceived dependence by legislators on lobbyists or special interests. We believe increased access to adequate public financing would allow legislators to run for office without dependence on special interests.
Publicly financed campaigns encourage:
- Legislators to run for office without influence from special interests
- Increased diversity in the pool of potential candidates
- Reduced potential conflicts of interests for legislators
- Increased trust in the work of legislators
Journalistic Coverage of Good Government Issues
We recognize that journalists are vital to enabling public understanding of government actions. Journalism is both a watchdog of government and a partner in expanding public understanding of critical issues.
Journalistic coverage of these issues would encourage:
- Public awareness around the need for good government reforms
- An increase in support for non-partisan journalism in the state
- Increased journalistic reach in New Mexico, particularly in rural areas
Civil Society Engagement in Advancing Good Government
We aim to strengthen civic engagement to advance and promote more accountable and effective government. Only a strong, diverse, and coordinated civil society sector can advance and sustain good government over time.
A more engaged civil society in New Mexico would:
- Protect New Mexico’s government from special interest influence
- Increase effective public demand for good government
- Engage public support for good government across the political spectrum