- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico continues to rank near the bottom in child poverty and the state has been slow to recover economically and stop the dwindling of resources, a new report said.

The New Mexico Voices for Children on Tuesday released its annual New Mexico Kids Count report, which also faulted state lawmakers for not presenting any new anti-poverty initiatives to help one of the poorest states.

The study said the state ranked 48th nationally in child poverty and only four states ranked lower than New Mexico in the percentage of children whose parents lacked full-time, year-round employment.

In addition, the report said New Mexico ranked near the bottom in fourth-grade proficiency reading rates.

Veronica Garcia, the group’s executive director, said the report’s purpose is to track New Mexico’s progress and try to come up with “bold, aggressive and appropriate” legislative action to address poverty in the state.

“We’ve been seeing incremental steps, and we’re just falling further behind,” Garcia said. “We need to come up with better solutions to mitigate these circumstances.”

Among the reforms pushed by New Mexico Voices for Children is a constitutional amendment that would allow officials to tap one of the state’s permanent funds for early childhood education.

The group also wants for funding for child care and to raise the state’s minimum wage.

The report comes as Republicans are set to take control of the New Mexico House for the first time in 60 years.

Incoming House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, agreed that lawmakers must tackle poverty and said economic development remains a high priority for the new session.

“We want to raise the economic possibilities in New Mexico,” Tripp said. “We want to sweeten the pot to attract businesses to this state, and we want to offer better job training.”

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Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

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