NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Mexico Governor's Bold Voucher Plan

April 23, 1999

New Mexico's Gov. Gary Johnson (R) is embracing school vouchers with a zeal and conviction that might put governors proposing timid pilot programs to shame. He wants every pupil in his state -- rich or poor, white or minority -- to have a voucher.

  • Johnson proposes to cover 100,000 children in the first year of the program and the rest soon after.
  • Although political advisers cautioned him against using the word "voucher," fearing it would turn off voters, Johnson says he used it in his campaign last year "whenever possible."
  • Before he began speaking out in favor of vouchers, fewer than half of New Mexico's parents supported the idea -- now 58 percent have come around to it.
  • The state's Democratic lawmakers have sent the governor two budgets which do not provide for vouchers -- and he has vetoed both.

Gov. Johnson vows to continue using his veto, even if it means the state government will shut down in July.

When he ran for re-election last year against a strong Hispanic candidate, pollsters predicted Johnson -- described as stridently free-market -- would have a hard time winning. But he did, becoming the first governor in the state to win two consecutive terms in office.

Residents of New Mexico -- where public spending accounts for half the state's economy -- reportedly adore big government. So three-quarters of the population opposed privatizing the state's prisons four years ago. But Johnson privatized them anyway and now most New Mexicans applaud the move.

Source: "America's Boldest Governor," The Economist, April 17, 1999.


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