- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A bipartisan coalition of New Mexico lawmakers is calling for more money to be funneled into a job training program as part of an effort to attract more businesses to the state.

Under the proposed legislation, $12 million would be provided for the Job Training Incentive Program, which helps expanding companies and those that have relocated to the state cover the cost of training or hiring new employees.

State economic development officials say the program is one of the most generous in the country when it comes to training incentives, and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez pointed to the program in her State of the State address last week as a key factor in trying to get more businesses to locate in New Mexico.

The program, started decades ago, is a priority for the Martinez administration. Her budget proposal calls for $7 million in funding, and she said Monday she was encouraged lawmakers were coming together in support of the incentive.

Martinez said it’s “a proven job creator and is an important part of our work to grow and diversify New Mexico’s economy.”

New Mexico has gained about 14,000 jobs over the past year, but the struggle to rebound from the recession continues. For example, federal labor statistics show the state ranks 48th in the country for jobs gained or lost since 2008 and it remains more than 4 percent below 2008 employment levels.

Neighboring states, including Colorado and Texas, have exceeded 2008 levels by as much as 10 percent.

Some have debated the cost-effectiveness of the jobs training program and other tax incentives New Mexico offers. An ongoing review by the Legislative Finance Committee shows the tax dollars spent to create each job can range from less than $500 to more than $80,000 depending on the types of incentives tapped by the companies.

House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, said Monday the jobs program is something everyone can get behind as the state looks to boost economic development and compete with its neighbors.

“We have an opportunity this year to put party politics aside to do what’s right for New Mexico, and supporting this legislation is a great first step,” he said.

Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen and Rep. Kenny Martinez, D-Grants, are also supporting the legislation.

The program has awarded more than $4 million for 505 jobs so far this fiscal year, according to the state Economic Development Department. Last year, it spent $8.8 million on more than 1,350 jobs.

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