For the first time, “two of the five largest cities in the nation are in Texas.”
According to the Pew Research Center, migration from the Land of Enchantment is widespread. Just 24.2 percent of New Mexico’s 33 counties grew between 2013 and 2014. Only Illinois and Connecticut fared worse.
Now that the Legislature is in the books, attention has turned to a major land development being proposed for the Albuquerque area called “Santolina.”
According to news reports, Santolina would be home to 90,000 people on 14,000 acres of the southwest mesa.
Opposition has sprung up from some who claim to be concerned that we don’t have enough water for those people. There are some who use the lack of water in New Mexico as an excuse to never do any development. But as I’ve written before, New Mexico doesn’t have a water supply problem; it has a water distribution problem. We need to accurately price water and use market forces to allocate it to its highest and best use.
So, water is not the problem. I do question estimates that the community will create 38,000 homes and 75,000 jobs given New Mexico’s economic woes. Perhaps the political situation in Santa Fe will change between now and when this development gets under way, but with New Mexico LOSING population last year, it is hard to see all these jobs and people coming. This isn’t “Field of Dreams” after all. But quite honestly, that isn’t my problem. If someone wants to buy a bunch of land and develop it, who am I to stop them?
The last major thing to consider with Santolina seems to be the one that, at least at this point is not generating a great deal of controversy. That is the $37.1 million of Tax Increment Development Districts (TIDD) infrastructure investments which Santolina is expected to request if their plans are approved. As free market development and transportation expert Randal O’Toole notes, TIF/TIDD is fraught with problems.
So, by all means, approve Santolina. There’s no reason for government to stand in the way of its development, but there’s no reason for existing taxpayers to subsidize it either.
By Paul Gessing | Watchdog Opinion
Open government and transparency have become watchwords in public policy debates nationwide. Indeed, during the New Mexico legislative session, several bills aimed at transparency were considered. And while the session is not yet over and we don’t know which provisions will become law, it is important to step back and consider what transparency means and why it is important.
Real transparency means opening government up to the citizens. Whether that means access to information or access to the political and legislative processes themselves, it is critical that citizens have adequate information to be engaged in an informed manner.
Transparency does not mean subjecting individuals who wish to engage in the political process to undue scrutiny. In other words, transparency is about the government itself, not individuals who donate to causes related to government. That is a critical difference that is often lost.
Prior to the start of New Mexico’s 2015 legislative session, the Rio Grande Foundation urged legislators to consider allowing for remote testimony before legislative committees as a means of opening the political process to new voices outside of close geographical proximity to Santa Fe.
New Mexico is, after all, the fifth-largest U.S. state in land area making it difficult for interested parties to make their way to Santa Fe for committee hearings during legislative sessions.
Washington State’s Legislature recently allowed for its first remote testimony while Nevada has been doing so for years. In Washington, those wishing to testify remotely before the Legislature in Olympia can make their way to a local community college that is set up with the basic technology needed to testify before a legislative committee. Needless to say, this saves tremendous travel time, opens up the process, and is good for the environment.
The technology needed for remote testimony has been around for years. Allowing for remote testimony would enable those who want to participate in the process, but can’t afford a lobbyist or can’t get away from their business or family to have their voices heard in Santa Fe. It is time for New Mexico’s Legislature to step into the 21st Century by making remote testimony a readily-available option at community colleges across the state.
Unfortunately, remote testimony was not enacted in New Mexico during the 2015 legislative session.
Another transparency-enhancing measure supported by Rio Grande Foundation is to archive testimony from all legislative hearings online. This change was proposed during the 2015 session and passed the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on a unanimous vote. Having this information truly public is critical to improving transparency in New Mexico government.
Lastly, by way of transparency, it is time for the Legislature to make transparency a reality on New Mexico’s Sunshine Portal. The Rio Grande Foundation worked tirelessly to help create the Portal in 2010.
The first thing to do is to make sure all state employee salaries are available on the Portal. This is, after all, public information already, but due to pressure from New Mexico’s government unions, the information was removed from the Portal.
Secondly, New Mexico’s government employee pensions should be added to the Sunshine Portal. California has done this at that State’s equivalent of our Sunshine Portal known as Transparent California.
According to a recent “meta-study” by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, New Mexico’s public pensions are arguably the most under-funded among the 50 states. Our pension system is certainly among the most troubled in the nation. Yet, voters and taxpayers are given little in the way of information in terms of which government workers are receiving the most generous pension payouts and what, if any, abuses might be taking place.
New Mexico’s taxpayers are paying the bills. It is time to give them the information they need to understand how their money is being spent and to engage intelligently in the political process.
Article printed from Watchdog.org: http://watchdog.org
URL to article: http://watchdog.org/206441/open-government-new-mexico/
With an average score of +34.9, representatives from the East, like their colleagues in the Senate, posted the highest average score. At -23.6, metro Santa Fe again ranked at the bottom. For perspective, the representative with the highest score in the state was David Adkins (R-Albuquerque), at +78. The lowest performer was D. Wonda Johnson (D-Church Rock), at -61.
Since New Mexico adopted its renewable portfolio standard in 2007 under then-Gov. Bill Richardson, electricity prices in New Mexico have exploded. Seven such states with renewable mandates saw their rates soar by an average of 54.2 percent between 2001 and 2010, more than twice the average increase experienced by seven other coal-dependent states without mandates.
As New Mexico continues to struggle economically and rising electricity prices are not helping the situation. But the worst is yet to come. Federal and state policies are poised to push electricity costs even higher.
During the 2015 legislative session, HB 445 which passed the House would have limited New Mexico’s renewable requirement to 15% rather than continuing to implement it on the way to a 20% requirement by 2020.
James M. Taylor is vice president for external relations and senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute. Taylor is the former managing editor (2001-2014) of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly publication devoted to sound science and free-market environmentalism. Taylor writes a weekly column for Forbes which appears on the magazine's Forbes.com Website.
Taylor will be presenting on the myriad forces threatening to drive electricity prices in New Mexico even higher at a Rio Grande Foundation event.
Taylor has presented energy and environment analysis on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel, MSNBC, PBS News Hour, PBS Frontline, CBS Evening News, ABC World News and other TV and radio outlets across the country. Taylor has also been published in virtually every major newspaper in the country.
Taylor received his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College where he studied atmospheric science and majored in government. He received his Juris Doctorate from Syracuse University.
The Rio Grande Foundation’s Freedom Index tracks each legislator’s support for or opposition to free markets and limited government. But what about geography? The delegations from which part of New Mexico support liberty, opportunity, and prosperity the most?
We looked at six regions: North, East, South, West, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. With an average score of +17.0, senators from the East posted the best performance in 2015. At -2.1, metro Santa Fe ranked worst. For perspective, the senator with the highest score in the state was Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces), at +51. The lowest performer was the now-out-of-office Phil Griego (D-San Jose), at -18.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the House delegations.
Michael Sanchez, the Majority Floor Leader of the Senate, succeeded in blocking his chamber from voting on HB75, the high-profile compromise to raise the minimum wage while making New Mexico a right-to-work state.
But the Senate’s liberal “czar” was able to block many other bills that passed the House of Representatives this session. Among them:
* HB43 would have stiffened penalties for illegally dealing in WIC checks and food stamps.
* HB55 would have reformed the state’s costly prevailing-wage mandate.
* HB238 would have reduced workers’ compensation for employees injured while drunk or on drugs. (Passed 64-2.)
* HB272 would have established a regulatory framework to legalize ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. (Passed 56-8.)
* HB333 would have expanded educational options by creating a tax credit for opportunity scholarships.
* HB445 would have maintained the “renewable portfolio standard” — essentially, a requirement for politically correct power — at 15 percent, rather than raising it to 20 percent by 2010.
The Rio Grande Foundation has been instrumental in educating the public, the media, and elected officials about the issues involved with many of the bills. In 2015, meaningful change may have fallen victim to Michael Sanchez’s obstructionism. But the Foundation will continue to provide research and commentary on the need for pro-growth, pro-taxpayer policies in New Mexico.
With close of this year’s legislative session, the final numbers are in for the Rio Grande Foundation’s Freedom Index. Our legislative tracking tool ranked hundreds of bills, from positive (+8) to negative (-8), on the degree to which they promoted liberty, opportunity, and prosperity. Legislators were held accountable for their floor votes on all bills assigned a score.
Here are the best and worst performers:
Best Score: Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces), 76 percent
Worst Score: Phil Griego (D-San Jose), 34 percent
Best Score: David Adkins (R-Albuquerque), 74 percent
Worst Score: Doreen Johnson (D-Gallup), 30 percent
SANTA FE, NM—On the final day of the 2015 legislative session, the Senate unanimously passed Representative Zachary Cook’s bill to end civil asset forfeiture—also known as “policing for profit”—in New Mexico. This unfair practice allows police to seize and keep property of citizens who haven’t even been charged with a crime, never mind convicted. Rep. Cook’s legislation would end the legal fiction of civil forfeiture—that property can be responsible for a crime—and replaces it with criminal forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to the crime.
“Crime should not pay,” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “This bill strikes exactly the right balance by allowing law enforcement to bring criminals to justice while protecting the property rights of innocent New Mexicans.”
The bill enjoyed widespread bipartisan support at every stage of the legislative process, passing unanimously through every committee and both the House and Senate floors. This support mirrors the movement at the national level, which is fueled by a powerful partnership between conservative and liberal advocates. Bipartisan legislation has already been introduced in both houses of Congress that would dramatically reform federal civil asset forfeiture laws.
“This bill is one of the most powerful proposals in the country to end a practice that undermines American’s property rights and violates due process,” said Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, a national organization pressing for forfeiture reform. “This is a big day for New Mexico.”
The proposal is also endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Drug Policy Alliance.
A new analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts explored the shrinkage of middle-class households, which the organization defined as “those making between 67 percent and 200 percent of the state’s median income.”
Between 2000 and 2013, three states saw their middle classes decline by double digits.
* Wisconsin: 10.4 percent
* Ohio: 10.2 percent
* New Mexico: 10.0 percent
The Land of Enchantment needs an aggressive strategy of pro-growth public polices, implemented immediately.
In some ways the Rio Grande Foundation has had a very successful legislative session. Our ideas and research formed the basis for a number of economic reform proposals passed by the New Mexico House, including Right to Work.
Unfortunately, the liberals who control the New Mexico Senate were not willing to compromise for the good of our State.
The good news is that one last bill, HB 560 which would dramatically reform New Mexico’s civil asset forfeiture laws in order to protect individual property rights, is still alive and ready for Senate approval. It passed the House unanimously and is the result of bi-partisan work by a number of people and organizations. The Santa Fe New Mexican has an article in today’s paper outlining some of the problems with current asset forfeiture laws and what the reforms might do. At this point we don’t know what the Martinez Administration would do with a bill that passed both houses, but the Senate has to act before that is even a concern.
Nonetheless, while we at RGF always look to preserve individual liberties and are not shy about the divisive nature of some reforms, it is fun to occasionally have “strange bedfellows” coalitions.
With the 2015 legislative session about to end, it’s a near-certainty that right-to-work (RTW) legislation, which passed the House, will not be voted on in the Senate.
Given New Mexico’s struggling economy and declining population, it’s unfortunate that senators have rejected a powerful, and cost-fee, tool for job creation. Since the start of the year, the Rio Grande Foundation has been tracking announcements of expansions, relocations, and greenfield investments published on Area Development’s website. Founded in 1965, the publication “is considered the leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection and relocation. … Area Development is published quarterly and has 60,000 mailed copies.”
Here are the findings for January:
Here are the findings for February:
In all, 27,389 jobs (80.6 percent) were to be created in RTW states. Only 6,605 jobs (19.4 percent) were planned for non-RTW states.
Notably, many projects involved shifts from non-RTW to RTW states:
* Brad Penn Lubricants moved production from Pennsylvania to Indiana.
* Mercedes-Benz USA relocated its corporate headquarters from New Jersey to Georgia.
* American Stair Corporation moved its operations from Illinois to Indiana.
Contrary to unions’ claims, the positions slated for RTW states are not limited to “McJobs,” but run the gamut, including healthcare, software/IT, manufacturing, finance, engineering, and logistics/warehousing — exactly the kind of opportunities New Mexico needs to reverse its economic woes.
In all, New Mexico’s four RTW neighbors are projected to gain 6,122 jobs, while non-RTW Colorado posted no project announcements.
Some methodological specifics:
* All job estimates — “up to,” “as many as,” “about” — were taken at face value, for RTW and non-RTW states alike.
* If an announcement did not make an employment projection, efforts were made to obtain an estimate from newspaper articles and/or press releases by elected officials and economic-development bureaucracies.
* If no job figure could be found anywhere, the project was not counted, whether it was a RTW or non-RTW state.
A: When a majority of the Santa Fe City Council says it isn’t? I don’t know the real answer to that question, but if there’s any group that can raise revenues without raising taxes, the ever-creative liberals at the City of Santa Fe might just be it. See the Santa Fe New Mexican’s coverage of a new proposal to levy a 10 cent fee on each paper bag used by shoppers. A prior attempt by city councilor to tax paper bags was killed on concerns that it was illegal, but the Council has changed the name of the fee from “service fee” to “environmental fee” in an effort to skirt the law.
Interestingly, the City’s Assistant City Attorney Theresa Gheen, claimed that the new fee passes legal muster, but when asked to explain why the fee wasn’t an illegal tax, Gheen couldn’t. The fee hasn’t passed Santa Fe’s City Council yet and it only passed on 3-2 vote. There is still time to win the political argument against this tax increase, but if the tax hike is passed, there will definitely be a legal argument as well.
The end of the legislative session just a few days away, and appropriations for the new fiscal year — which starts July 1 — will soon be finalized.
For a broader perspective, the Rio Grande Foundation looked at the the trend in all state spending, adjusted for inflation, for the fiscal years 2003 to 2013. Figures are in billions, and come from the comprehensive annual financial reports issued by the Department of Finance and Administration. They include every dollar spent, from unemployment benefits to transportation, education to prisons, Medicaid to the the New Mexico Finance Authority.
In all, state expenditures rose by 30.2 percent, a sharp divergence from population growth of just 11.6 percent.
Stingy state government? Not exactly.
According to Gallup, New Mexico was among the worst states in the nation during 2014 for finding a job (only beating out Alaska and Connecticut).
Although the “right to work” bills seem to have been killed by liberals during the 2015 session, it is worth noting that 8 of the 10 best places for finding jobs are “right to work” while 8 of the 10 worst places for finding jobs are “forced-unionism.” I didn’t include Wisconsin in the “right to work” camp despite the significant reforms enacted under Gov. Scott Walker a few years back. “Right to work” only became law in Wisconsin last week. The full list can be seen below:
The City of Albuquerque has received some positive public relations in recent weeks for tackling the supposed issue of gender equity. Mayor Berry recently advanced new legislation to further the City of Albuquerque’s efforts to bridge the gender pay gap. In August of 2013 the City of Albuquerque was the first in the nation to adopt gender equity reforms at the municipal level.
Lest one believe that the City is just angling for public relations purposes, The Women’s Pay Equity Task Force completed its work in late 2014, and forwarded recommendations to Mayor Berry. Recommendations include establishment of a 5% incentive preference for businesses who can demonstrate that they are moving towards gender pay equity in their companies. Of course, with the makeup of the task force which included radical feminist Martha Burk (who has stated her support for mandatory birth control for men), any other result would have been a real shock.
But all of this is merely tiptoeing around the real questions: “Is there a gender pay gap and if so, how much is it?” For starters, no one who actually studies the issue believes, as does President Obama, that women make only 77% of what men do. According to economists June and Dave O’Neill who studied the issue for the American Enterprise Institute in 2012—nearly all of the 23% raw gender pay gap can be attributed to factors other than discrimination. The O’Neills conclude that, labor market discrimination is unlikely to account for more than 5% of the gender pay gap but may not be present at all.
So, the gender pay gap, if it exists at all, is about 5%. That is worth discussing and perhaps working to overcome, but one would have to more fully understand what, if any pay gap exists in businesses that do business with the City of Albuquerque. Opening up an entire new area to rules and regulations without adequate information could make the “cure” worse than the supposed problem.
After all, even President Obama hasn’t acted to resolve the 13% pay gap experienced by female employees at the White House.
In case you don’t already know, the Obama Administration has proposed yet another round of regulations, this time on ozone. The American Petroleum Institute says this set of regulations could be “the most expensive ever” with losses to New Mexico’s economy totaling $1.6 Billion Gross State Product Loss from 2017 to 2040 and 7,380 Lost Jobs or Job Equivalents per year. This is higher than for most states because of their impact on the oil and gas industries.
The EPA is collecting comments on the regulations through March 17. See the comments below the image below which illustrates the expected impact of the proposed regulations.
Dear Administrator McCarthy:
The Rio Grande Foundation is a New Mexico-based policy research organization based in Albuquerque, NM. Our state’s economy has struggled for several years now and we are deeply concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently proposed rule to make ozone standards more stringent. These new regulations could have a negative impact on our state’s still struggling economy.
Ozone standards at the levels considered in EPA’s proposal could push virtually the entire country into “nonattainment” – where local communities face burdens to commercial and industrial activity not only vital to creating jobs, but also to providing tax revenue that support important local services like public safety and education. This proposal’s hardship to the American worker is real and immediate, while the benefits are unverified and uncertain. Therefore, Rio Grande Foundation strongly urges you to retain the current ozone standard when finalizing this proposal.
All of us and our families breathe the same air. We are proud that emissions of ozone-forming emissions have been cut in half since 1980, leading to a 33% drop in ozone concentrations. Moreover, EPA just updated ozone standards six years ago. These current standards are behind schedule due to EPA effectively suspending their implementation from 2010-2012 while the Agency unsuccessfully pursued reconsideration. This country can expect to see even greater reductions in ground-level ozone as states make up lost ground in putting the current standards into effect.
Indeed, states are currently committing substantial resources – both in time and money – towards achieving emissions reductions under those current ozone standards. Yet despite over three decades of cleaner air and before states can catch up with EPA’s delays in implementing existing ozone standards, EPA is now proposing a new stringent range of standards from 70 to 65 parts per billion that would bring vast swaths of the country into nonattainment. In some areas, this proposed range is at or near the level of background ozone that is naturally occurring or internationally transported, pushing even remote counties far from industrial activity into nonattainment. According to EPA data, even the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks would fail the proposed ozone standards.
If finalized, EPA’s proposed stringent ozone standards could limit business expansion in nearly every populated region of the United States and impair the ability of U.S. companies to create new jobs. EPA’s proposed range would immediately add red tape to companies seeking to grow even in areas that can attain those standards. The Clean Air Act carries even stiffer consequences for nonattainment areas, directly impacting economic vitality of local communities and making it difficult to attract and develop business. Increased costs associated with restrictive and expensive permit requirements would likely deter companies from siting new facilities in a nonattainment area. Making America a less attractive place to do business in this way risks shipping jobs overseas.
Companies building a new facility or performing major modifications to certain existing facilities resulting in increased ozone concentrations in, or near, a nonattainment area will be required to meet the most stringent Clean Air Act standard by installing the most effective emission reduction technology regardless of cost. As well, states are mandated to offset any ozone-forming emissions from new projects or projects undergoing major modifications by reducing emissions from other existing sources in a nonattainment area. If no party is willing to provide offsets, then the project cannot go forward. This offset can be a 2-to-1 ratio in certain situations. Nonattainment designation also has profound impact on infrastructure development vital to the business community. Beginning one year from the date of the nonattainment designation, federally-supported highway and transit projects cannot proceed in a nonattainment area unless the state can demonstrate that the project will cause no increase in ozone emissions.
These restrictions do not disappear when an area finally comes into attainment. Instead, former nonattainment areas face a legacy of EPA regulatory oversight. Before a nonattainment area can be redesignated to attainment, EPA must receive and approve an enforceable maintenance plan for the area that specifies measures providing continued maintenance of ozone standards and contingency measures to be implemented promptly if an ozone standard is violated.
Stringent ozone standards may have severe unintended consequences for public health. Studies show that by increasing the costs of goods and services such as energy, and decreasing disposable incomes, regulation can inadvertently harm the socio-economic status of individuals and, thereby, contribute to poor heath and premature death.
Paul J. Gessing
In today’s Albuquerque Journal, both the “For” and “Against” sides got to make their cases with Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Foundation in support and Connie Derr, Executive Director of AFSCME in New Mexico against.
Derr complains about the Koch brothers for several paragraphs and brings one salient point to bear: “average wages for all occupations in RTW states are $4 an hour less than in non-RTW states.”
Mix, on the other hand, brings myriad facts to bear citing New Mexico’s struggling economy and showing how Western RTW states are outperforming their non-RTW peers. He also notes that once cost of living is accounted for, workers in RTW states make more. Mix also illustrates how RTW empowers workers and makes unions more responsive to them while not “killing” labor unions.
For more on why unions hate RTW, check out this video:
(Albuquerque, NM) – A new website from the Rio Grande Foundation provides both accountability and an understanding of how the process is working or not working in Santa Fe. Particularly, the new website, www.michaelsanchezbillkill.com will track New Mexico’s Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and his “iron-grip” on the agenda of the body he leads as legislators continue to meet during the State’s 60-day session. The site includes a count of (currently 148) and details on all of the bills that have passed the House without having been voted on in the Senate.
As of Wednesday, March 11, according to KOAT TV, only one bill, the legislative funding bill, had passed both houses.
Prior to the legislative session, Sanchez proclaimed his intent that the New Mexico Legislature “will not end up like Washington, D.C.” implying that the Legislature would see a spirit of cooperation and compromise that has not been seen in our Nation’s Capitol in recent years. Unfortunately, that has not been the case to date.
The public and media can use the new website to see how Majority Leader Sanchez is using his control over the Senate’s agenda to quash debate on a variety of important issues. While Rio Grande Foundation does not support or even take a position on several of the issues that are now awaiting action in the Senate, to the greatest extent possible one legislator should not be able to squash debate.
Examples of bills dying a quiet death in the Senate without a vote or debate are ubiquitous. During the 2011 legislatives session, for example, Sanchez killed a bill (HB 126) introduced by then Rep. Al Park, a Democrat, that would have made it a petty misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of six months or less to interfere with zoo animals. There is currently no crime relating to entering an animal enclosure at a zoo specified in New Mexico law.
After sailing through the House on a 64-0 vote and moving through the Senate, Sanchez provided the sole “No” vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee and killed the bill without a floor vote. Similar legislation has been introduced during the 2015 session.