Policy Students in Action

Evaluation Lab News

Posted: Nov 11, 2020 - 12:00am

In our October lunch gathering over Zoom, policy analysts from New Mexico Voices for Children told the MPP students about their organization and their roles within it.

Emily Wildau is a part-time MPP student and full time Research and Policy Analysist for NM Voices, a job she started just before the pandemic. Emily’s main responsibility is to compile the Kids Count data.  Kids Count is a national project and Emily is the point person for the data that represents childhood need in New Mexico. Each year Kids Count produces a national report on childhood wellbeing in the country, and Emily’s job is to track and report the unmet needs of kids in New Mexico. Emily and NM Voices also use the data collected to advocate for policy that will address these childhood wellbeing issues in our state.

Paige Knight started working for NM Voices as a Research and Policy Analyst in her final year of the UNM MPP program. In her work she focuses on a number of policy issues. One of her biggest areas of focus is tax and finance policy, she looks at the implications for certain groups and what effect these policies could have on racial and ethnic inequity. She also examines environmental policy, specifically methane regulations and the impacts on communities most affected by methane pollution.  Another focus for her is New Mexico’s oil and gas policies and diversifying our state’s revenue budget. Diversifying the state budget is especially relevant right now because New Mexico is set to face a huge budgetary shortfall due to COVID. Paige explained that NM Voices has been working on a revenue campaign for past 3-4 years because they knew New Mexico would take a plunge and lose programs that its residents rely on. NM Voices has been developing alternatives to the state’s oil and gas revenue and are always looking at these plans through the lens of equity.

Javier Rojo is also a Research and Policy Analysts for NM Voices. Javier, a UNM alum who completed a Master of Public Affairs from Princeton, focuses on state tax and budget policies, immigration policy, and policies surrounding legal fines and fees.  Javier shared that most immigration policy happens at the federal level but there are things that NM Voices does at the state level. For example, they published a report about the contributions that undocumented immigrants make to their local economies. Within the criminal justice system, fines and fees policies tend to disproportionately affect low income communities. When fined for a minor violation, some people cannot afford to pay and they end up having to spend time in jail, thus creating a ripple effect on the rest of their family and community. One of Javier’s projects is finding out where this money goes and trying to eliminate fines and fees for juveniles.

A lively discussion between the panel and MPP students ensued, ranging from imagining the transition away from reliance on oil and gas, to the educational equity problems exposed and exacerbated by Covid-19.