New Mexico GOP leaders target remote state workers             

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico House Republican leaders are blasting the number of state employees still working from home.

“President Biden, I mean, he did away with the pandemic the other day and New Mexico needs to get caught up and get back to work,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Townsend.

In a letter addressed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Townsend – and fellow house Republicans Rebecca Dow and Rod Montoya – claim only 40% of state employees have returned to work full-time despite most pandemic restrictions being lifted. They believe the large group of remote state workers is making it harder for New Mexicans to access critical public services.

“We have been inundated with calls from constituents all across the state,” Townsend said. “From MVD, to Tax and Rev, to health care, people are not satisfied with the fact that you know, when they call the state office, no one’s there.”

The letter calls on the governor’s office to release data on how many state employees are working from home to “understand how well the state government is operating and whether taxpayers’ dollars are being utilized properly.”

KOB 4 reached out to the governor’s office and received this statement addressing the allegations:

State Personnel Office payroll data shows that 75% of state employees work in-office at a minimum of three days a week, with 65% of state employees working in-person 100% of the time. While the state works to provide a supportive workplace for state employees, our number one priority remains ensuring that state government work needs are being met for the people of New Mexico.

Despite that information, there’s still a question as to why some New Mexicans are struggling to reach state offices. Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke admitted over the summer her department was struggling to hire and retain workers.

During an interview with KOB 4, Townsend admitted the labor shortage may play a factor.

“It certainly could be a worker shortage, because, you know, businesses all around New Mexico are suffering from that,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Taxation and Revenue Department says the department received an unprecedented number of calls over the summer. He says the state made 100 extra workers available to handle those calls.

That same spokesperson sent KOB 4 this statement about concerns at MVD:

Our wait times and abandoned calls at the MVD Call Center have actually dropped as we’ve brought more people on. Recently, we’ve brought the vacancy rate down from about 30% to nearly full staffing. Phone wait times at MVD on average this month have been about 5 minutes, and they were just over a minute Thursday. Wait times in our MVD field offices are now close to just 5 minutes, down from 16 minutes three years ago, and MVD field office staff is 100% in-office.

Townsend says regardless of the answers, New Mexicans are still suffering.

“Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “When they don’t call back, they have good reason to believe no one cares, and, you know, people in New Mexico are hurting right now.”