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Economics In Brief: New Mexico Enshrines The Right To Pre-K

Midterm wins on economic justice.

(Photo by Gift Habeshaw / Unsplash)

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Child Care Expansion In New Mexico

New Mexico will be the first state in the country to guarantee a constitutional right to early childhood education. With more than 70% of the vote, voters there have approved a ballot measure to radically expand pre-K and childcare access – by pulling funds from the state’s reserves of oil and gas revenue.

The Land Grant Permanent Fund investment savings portfolio, comprising royalties from gas exploration and oil businesses conducted on state lands (among other businesses), providing universal pre-school and childcare for all families. The measure will also improve home-visit programming for new parents.

The fund currently distributes nearly $800 million a year to 21 educational organizations. The new amendment will allocate an additional 1.25% from the fund to early childhood education programs.

“We are absolutely part of a larger network of states, and not every state has a [Land Grant] Permanent Fund, but every state has a legislature and organizing,” Andrea Serrano, the executive director of Olé, a grassroots group in New Mexico, told March8. “We know they’re watching us to see what happens.”

Arizona To Cap Medical Debt Interest Rates

Arizona voters have passed Proposition 209, which advocates believe will help protect residents in medical debt from bankruptcy and poverty once it takes effect in January.

Known as the Predatory Debt Collection Act, the statewide ballot measure will limit interest rates on newly incurred medical debt to a maximum of 3%. It will not apply to debt that exists before the measure kicks in. But for those in new and old debt, Proposition 209 will restrict debt collectors’ ability to seize people’s homes, property, vehicles or wages if they owe money for medical services.

The successful measure may serve as a test case for advocates looking to curb the impact of medical debt in other states, Vox reports. “Arizonans have charted a path forward to take on predatory lenders through direct democracy,” Fairness Project’s executive said in a statement, according to Vox. “We’re looking forward to working with citizens in other states who want to pass more ballot measures to protect working families from exploitative lending practices.”

Medicaid Expansion In Red South Dakota

Voters in South Dakota passed a measure which would expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to about 42,500 low-income residents. The measure, which passed with 56% of the vote and will take effect mid-2023, amended the state constitution to broaden Medicaid coverage to adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

South Dakota’s Legislative Research Council has found that the expansion would save South Dakota $162.5 million within five years. The measure is also expected to bring the state $328 million more in federal funds the first year and generate 4,000 new jobs, South Dakotans Decide Healthcare told CNN. Earlier this year, South Dakota voters also rejected a proposal restricting ballot measures, seen as an effort to block such an initiative, Vox notes.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter.

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Aysha Khan is the managing editor at Next City.

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