Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings

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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
Updated: 1 hour 13 sec ago

New Mexico to Retirees: Drop Dead

9 hours 12 min ago

According to Kiplinger (hat tip to Albuquerque Business First), only one state — California — is a worse place to retire than New Mexico.

In a new analysis, the business and finance publisher warns, “When it comes to taxes, the Land of Enchantment presents a lackluster reality to its retired residents.”

The gross receipts tax was singled out as a villain. The rate for New Mexico’s peculiar form of sales taxation is 8 percent or higher in some locales, and is obviously a deterrent for cost-conscious senior citizens.

Kiplinger’s conclusion: “If you’re eyeing the Southwest for its sunny climate and multicultural vibe, check out Arizona, one of our 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees, instead. The Grand Canyon State does not tax Social Security benefits … and its top income tax rate of 4.54% is lower than New Mexico’s 4.9%.”

The profound silliness of “divesting” UNM from oil and gas

10 hours 49 min ago

I recently brought up a variety of ridiculous aspects relating to divesting UNM’s investments from the oil and gas industry. Mark Mathis, a film maker and someone who “gets” oil and gas, had a very humorous column in the Albuquerque Journal mocking the efforts.

The effort to divest is being pushed by the profoundly radical 350.org which is the creation of the radical environmentalist Bill McKibben.

Unfortunately for McKibben and his radical allies, Americans are less concerned (and rightfully so) about the state of the environment, than in years past (according to Gallup):

Florida reconsidering film subsidies: Gessing weighs in on New Mexico’s experience

Fri, 2015-04-17 16:22

Florida’s legislators are considering discontinuing or reducing that state’s film subsidies. The grassroots activism group Americans For Prosperity Florida asked me as president of the Rio Grande Foundation of New Mexico, one of the most generous states in the nation in terms of film subsidies.

I wrote a guest post that can be found here for the AFP Florida blog.

If UNM divests from Oil and Gas, can oil and gas “divest” from UNM?

Thu, 2015-04-16 09:08

In yesterday’s Albuquerque Journal, leftist State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino and a small group of people received attention for efforts attempting to convince the University of New Mexico’s board of regents to cease investing in the oil and gas industries.

As with so many actions of the left, the action is largely symbolic. It really doesn’t matter whether UNM’s endowment is invested in oil and gas or not, but it would feel good to some on the left who see oil and gas as evil rather than as the basis for our civilization. Or, on second thought, some of these left-wingers hate our civilization and perhaps see destruction of oil and gas as the fastest way to undermine it. I don’t know.

Regardless, it is also true that the oil and gas industries contribute approximately $104 million annually to the UNM budget. I don’t see why the university should accept this money if it is unwilling associate itself with “evil.” So, rather than allocating oil and gas funds to UNM (if the regents choose to divest), perhaps that $104 million can be returned to average New Mexicans instead?

By my calculation, every man woman and child in the state would get $50 annually from the oil and gas industry with the amount fluctuating based on price and the amount of oil and gas extracted in a given year. If other universities chose to divest, we’d get a great deal more back from the industry. Plus, taxpayers in our state would have a direct understanding of the positive impact of the oil and gas industries in New Mexico rather than only glimpsing those dollars as they flow into the bureaucratic maw.

Majority Leader’s attack shows RGF effectiveness

Wed, 2015-04-15 13:46

There is an old quote that supposedly came from Ghandi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. I hope it is right because, based on the comments New Mexico’s Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez made recently in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, we are winning.

Prior to the session, I argued that Sanchez would likely be the singular obstacle to economic reform in New Mexico. I was right. The Rio Grande Foundation tracked the myriad issues on which the Senate refused to act. Below are some of the important bills of importance to the New Mexico economy or education system that passed the House that failed to receive action in the Senate (many of the bills passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support).

Right to Work HB 75
School Choice Tax Credits HB 333
Reduce Worker’s Compensation drunk or stoned on job (HB 238)
Increase penalties for dealing food stamps (HB 43)
Simplify paths for alternative teacher certification (HB 181)
Regulate ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft (HB 272)
Keep NM’s Renewable Portfolio Standard at 15% rather than moving to 20% by 2020 (HB 445)
Reform teacher licensure (HB 76)
Reform Prevailing Wage law (HB 55)
Dental Therapists (HB 349)
Social Promotion ban (HB 41)

Of course, Sanchez focuses his ire on the Rio Grande Foundation’s efforts on Right to Work, but he apparently missed the memo that such laws are overwhelmingly supported by members of his own Party (both nationally and here in New Mexico) as seen in the August 2014 polling from Gallup below:

If you support RGF’s efforts to move New Mexico in a more free market direction whether Sen. Sanchez likes it or not, click here.

Education union takes wrong side repeatedly

Tue, 2015-04-14 14:49


Once again, the National Education Association (NEA) has proven itself to be simply another left-wing special interest group that cares more about obtaining and spending taxpayer money than enacting policies that benefit New Mexico’s children. This is the clear message of the recent article by their president, Betty Patterson.

She spends her first few paragraphs decrying efforts to make New Mexico a “right to work” state. Interestingly, in New Mexico, teachers already have the option to join or pay dues to a union. In other words, teachers in New Mexico government schools currently live under a reasonable approximation of “right to work.” The NEA did actively fight “right to work” but that’s simply because the organization supports all manner of liberal causes regardless of their impact on students.

Opposition to what Patterson calls “vouchers” is just one prime example of unions’ divergence from the interests of children, families, and taxpayers. There was no “voucher” bill introduced in the 2015 session, but a system of tax credits to enable low-income and needy kids to go to the school of their choice did pass the House.

School choice tax credit programs exist in 14 states from “deep blue” Rhode Island to “red” Arizona. Wherever they’ve been enacted, demand for scholarships outpaces availability. The best available polling found that New Mexicans support tax credits on at least a 2-1 basis, yet the unions and their liberal Senate allies didn’t give the tax credit bill so much as a hearing.

Failure of the ban on social promotion was another cause for celebration for the unions. The ban would have required that all third-graders who score in the lowest category on the statewide reading test be held back in school starting in the 2016-17 school year. The bill also would increase support for struggling readers in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Banning social promotion is a policy change supported on nearly a 3-1 basis by New Mexicans. Prominent Democrats including both Bill and Hillary Clinton have spoken out in support of banning social promotion as a stand-alone policy (not including the increased support for remediation included in the bill considered during New Mexico’s 2015 session). Yet again, the unions and their allies convinced the Senate’s liberal leadership to not even have a committee hearing on the bill.

The failure of those two reforms with such strong public backing should be enough to illustrate that the NEA is more interested in its own power than it is in the academic success of students. Unfortunately, the unions and their allies killed two more house-passed bills (HB 76 and HB 181) that would have simplified or provided for alternative teacher licensing. The idea behind both was to attract and keep our best teachers in New Mexico classrooms.

Unfortunately, the unions seem to oppose any reform that does not pour more money into the education system. According to the Friedman Foundation, between 1992 and 2009, New Mexico’s student population rose by 7 percent while the number of teachers went up by 30 percent and the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff rose 47 percent. Results have not been commensurate with these increases but the unions continue to oppose reforms.

The accumulation of money and political power are the unions’ goals and any student that is allowed to go elsewhere or even be held back is an admission that the current system is not working. The unions depend on that system and an ever-growing infusion of tax dollars to grow their bottom lines.

Slowly but surely, New Mexicans are realizing that accountability and reform, not money, are needed to improve our schools. Unfortunately, large numbers of our children will continue to fall through the cracks until the voices of parents outweigh those of the politically-powerful unions in Santa Fe.

Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

Is New Mexico ‘Poised for Growth’? Not Exactly

Tue, 2015-04-14 13:40

It didn’t garner much media coverage here in New Mexico, but last week, the American Legislative Exchange Council issued its annual report “Rich States, Poor States.” The analysis “ranks the 2015 economic outlook of states using 15 equally weighted policy variables, including various tax rates, regulatory burdens and labor policies.”

How did New Mexico fare? Not great. The state ranked 34th, receiving the worst demerits for its sales-tax (GRT, that is) burden, number of government employees, and liability system.

Also hobbling the Land of Enchantment was its lack of right-to-work (RTW) law. (Every state at the bottom was not a RTW state, while every state at the top was.)

Notably, New Mexico neighbors Utah and Arizona ranked among the list’s best prospects. Maybe we could learn something from them?

RTW Wins, the Third Month in a Row

Mon, 2015-04-13 11:56

The Rio Grande Foundation is 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.” In an explanation to the Foundation, its editor wrote that items for Area Development‘s announcements listing are “culled from RSS feeds and press releases that are emailed to us from various sources, including economic development organizations, PR agencies, businesses, etc. We usually highlight ones that represent large numbers of new jobs and/or investment in industrial projects.”

In announcements made in January and February, 27,389 jobs (80.6 percent) were to be created in right-to-work (RTW) states. Only 6,605 jobs (19.4 percent) were planned for non-RTW states.

In March, the trend continued — and was even more one-sided. Of 14,197 projected new jobs, 91.2 percent were slated for RTW states:

It’s more clear than ever that in rejecting right-to-work legislation, New Mexico’s lawmakers declined to implement a powerful economic-development tool.

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.

* Intrastate relocations were not counted, interstate relocations were.

Footage of NM Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Press Conference

Mon, 2015-04-13 10:42

Recently, Gov. Martinez signed the nation’s strongest protections for civil asset forfeiture. The Rio Grande Foundation, ACLU of New Mexico, and Drug Policy Alliance held a press conference on the issue. The full conference can be seen below:

KOB Channel 4 did a story here:

KOAT TV also covered the press conference although they focused heavily on the DUI provisions that have been enacted by some cities and which may or may not conflict with the new legislation.

Protecting the Bosque, the Non-Government Way

Fri, 2015-04-10 14:08

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal bureaucracy that supports “the American culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility,” nearly 26 percent of New Mexicans volunteered in 2013, contributing 49.7 million hours of service.

The Rio Grande Bosque in the Albuquerque region is a big beneficiary of volunteerism. Two weeks ago, the Metro Rotary Club collected more than 50 bags of trash from a one-acre site near the I-40 overpass.

A few days ago, the Rio Rancho Observer profiled the 100-strong group of volunteers who patrol the bosque in Corrales. Fire Chief Anthony Martinez called the watchers “our eyes and ears.” The volunteers keep their eyes peeled for fires, monitor compliance with the dog-leash rule, watch for illegal hunting, and look for orphaned/injured animals.

For politicians and bureaucrats, all too often, it’s “got a problem, get a program.” But there is much private citizens can do to stand in the shoes of government. From mentoring at-risk youths to patrolling neighborhoods as part of a crime watch to protecting the bosque, New Mexico’s volunteers respond to community challenges — and save taxpayers money.

New Mexico Governor Signs Historic Property Rights Protections into Law

Fri, 2015-04-10 12:32

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS:

Micah McCoy, (505) 266-5915 x1003 or mmccoy@aclu-nm.org
Paul Gessing, (505) 264-6090, pgessing@riograndefoundation.org
Emily Kaltenbach, (505) 920-5259 or ekaltenbach@drugpolicy.org

SANTA FE, NM—Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 560 into law, ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as “policing for profit,” allows law enforcement officers to seize personal property without ever charging—much less convicting—a person with a crime. Property seized through this process often finds its way into the department’s own coffers. HB 560, introduced by NM Rep. Zachary Cook and passed unanimously in the legislature, replaces civil asset forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, which requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to a crime. The new law means that New Mexico now has the strongest protections against wrongful asset seizures in the country.

“This is a good day for the Bill of Rights,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “For years police could seize people’s cash, cars, and houses without even accusing anyone of a crime. Today, we have ended this unfair practice in New Mexico and replaced it with a model that is just and constitutional.”

“With this law, New Mexico leads the nation in protecting the property rights of innocent Americans,” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “Convicted criminals will still see the fruits of their crime confiscated by the state, but innocent New Mexicans can now rest easy knowing that their property will never be seized by police without proper due process.”

“New Mexico has succeeded today in reigning in one of the worst excesses of the drug war,” said Emily Kaltenbach, State Director for Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico office “Like other drug war programs, civil asset forfeiture is disproportionately used against poor people of color who cannot afford to hire lawyers to get their property back. This law is an important step towards repairing some of the damage the drug war has inflicted upon our society and system of justice.”

“New Mexico has shown that ending policing for profit is a true bipartisan issue with broad public support,” said Lee McGrath, Legislative Counsel for the Institute of Justice. “America is ready to end civil asset forfeiture, a practice which is not in line with our values or constitution. This law shows that we can be tough on crime without stripping property away from innocent Americans.”

Bipartisan legislation has already been introduced in both houses of Congress that would dramatically reform federal civil asset forfeiture laws. The Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). In the House, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an identical version of the FAIR Act.

James Taylor presentation: Affordable Energy Threatened in New Mexico

Fri, 2015-04-10 09:49

On April 8, 2015, James Taylor of the Heartland Institute visited Albuquerque to discuss policies that are negatively impacting New Mexicans’ access to affordable, reliable energy (especially electricity). You can watch his full presentation below and access his powerpoint slides here:

The latest update on civil asset forfeiture reform in New Mexico

Thu, 2015-04-09 14:48

This morning on the KUNM call-in show, listeners were treated to a most informative discussion of civil asset forfeiture including problems with it, a defense from law enforcement, and an explanation of what the law actually does. You can listen to the show here.

Also, our friends at the Institute for Justice had a great article in today’s Las Cruces Sun-News which they urged Gov. Martinez to sign the bill. Institute for Justice is a libertarian public-interest law firm, that, among other things argued the Kelo property rights case before the US Supreme Court.

Martinez has until noon on Friday, April 10 to sign the bill.

School choice sweeping the American Southwest…except New Mexico

Wed, 2015-04-08 13:51

As Cato Institute education analyst Jason Bedrick writes in a new blog post, 2015 is shaping up as a banner year for school choice. Just yesterday, significant school choice victories were achieved in both Arizona and Nevada.

If that weren’t enough, the Texas Legislature is now considering legislation legislation allowing 60 percent of education dollars – about $5,200 – to follow a child when parents elect utilizing private over public schools. The remaining funds – about $3,000 – remain in state coffers. The bill was discussed at length in the Wall Street Journal recently.

According to an article by the Texas Watchdog:

Art Laffer, noted economist and author of The Texas Economy and School Choice, maintains that besides reducing dropout rates, closing educational achievement gaps, and enhancing educational innovation, statewide school choice is a mechanism to stimulate economic growth by creating new jobs and incentivizing in-migration to Texas.

Laffer views successful implementation of statewide school choice as “an opportunity to make a difference.” Using examples like decreased crime rates, increased wages and enhanced business opportunity, he further holds that not a single socio-economic measure goes unimproved with the implementation of school choice.

Unfortunately, despite passing the Republican-controlled New Mexico House, school choice tax credits (HB 333) were killed for 2015 in New Mexico by the Democrat-controlled Senate. School choice is yet another way that New Mexico is falling further behind its neighbors.

The Great Recession Lives On in New Mexico

Wed, 2015-04-08 13:01

The news that cybersecurity startup Portal Locks probably won’t be bringing hundreds of new jobs to Questa is another bitter reminder that New Mexico is facing a severe employment crisis.

Looking back to the start of the Great Recession, though, the picture appears far worse. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that four out of New Mexico’s five neighbors has recovered, and grown past, their pre-downturn job peaks:

TX: 10.6 percent

UT: 8.2 percent

CO: 6.3 percent

OK: 3.1 percent

Both New Mexico (-2.0 percent) and Arizona (-2.3 percent) have yet to climb their way back to their pre-recession employment levels.

New Mexico towards top of places where people don’t work

Tue, 2015-04-07 17:44

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for February 2015, New Mexico’s unemployment rate is 6.0%. That puts us at 35th in the nation, significantly higher than the 5.5 percent rate nationwide. That doesn’t seem too terrible considering all the bad economic news facing our state, but it is also not the full story.

When it comes to adults in the workforce, New Mexico definitely lags behind most states. As seen in the chart below from The Fiscal Times, New Mexico only outperforms such perpetual laggards as West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama. Interestingly, the states of the upper-Midwest, regardless of political party, dominate the top slots both in terms of low unemployment rates and high work force participation:

Perhaps our policy reforms also need a healthy dose of cultural change?

Session highlights gulf between political parties: 2015 NM Legislature in review

Mon, 2015-04-06 09:37

Observers knew in the wake of November’s elections that the 2015 legislative session would be unlike any they’d seen in their lifetimes. For the first time in 62 years, the House of Representatives would be under Republican control.

Despite this shift to the right, New Mexico’s Senate remained under control of Democrats. This is because the entire Senate is up every four years in presidential election years like 2016. The House on the other hand is up for election every two years.

These are not your run-of-the-mill Democrats. Their Majority Leader, Michael Sanchez, is both a trial lawyer and one of the most partisan legislators in the Senate. There are a handful of moderates sprinkled throughout the body, but they rarely vote as a cohesive group or provide a counter-weight to their powerful Leader.

Before the session, Sanchez professed a desire that the Senate and House be able to work together despite their political differences, saying the Legislature will not “end up like Washington, D.C.” This promise was transparently false as Sanchez immediately opposed adoption of one of Gov. Martinez’s top priorities, a “Right to Work” law and then falsely claimed that Martinez “cynically commissioned a study to ‘prove’ that ‘Right to Work’ creates jobs, economic growth, and more businesses locating in New Mexico, even if this were not true.”

This column is not meant to defend “Right to Work” laws, but it is worth pointing out that 65 percent of Democrats support such laws according to national polling by Gallup from August, 2014. Other, New Mexico-specific polling, showed support for “Right to Work” running at least 2-1.

So, the question heading into the session was whether the Senate would yield some of its liberalism in the interest of compromise or whether it would remain a bastion of liberalism and a stumbling block to conservative and free market ideas. “Right to Work” would serve as the flagship for those ideas.

Would Republicans seize the mantle of reform with a small group of moderate Democrats crossing the aisle in support of popular economic and education reforms?

With the 2015 legislative session now in the books, the answer is a resounding “no.”

The following initiatives which passed the House all foundered on the rocks of Senate intransigence:

• “Right to work” as discussed above;

• Reduced worker’s compensation benefits for workers who injure themselves while drunk or stoned on job (passed the House 64-2 halfway through the session, but never saw a vote in the Senate despite being sponsored in that body by a Democrat);

• Increased penalties for fraudulent dealing of food stamps which passed the House 59-4 but never moved in the Senate;

• A system of tax credits for school choice;

• The enablement of additional methods of teacher certification and advancement.

As noted, “Right to Work” was the most controversial and significant legislation dealing with New Mexico’s poor economic performance. The bill passed through the House early in the session after being paired with a modest, .50 cent/hour increase in the minimum wage in hopes of attracting support from moderate Democrats in the Senate. Despite this compromise, Democrats voted along party lines not to hear the bill before the full senate and instead killed it on a partisan-line vote in its first committee.

Though the 2015 session highlighted the wide gulf between the Republican House and the Democratic Senate in terms of economic policy, one bright spot involved the Legislature’s unanimous adoption of far-reaching reforms to New Mexico’s civil asset forfeiture laws. Civil asset forfeiture has been abused by policing agencies nationwide to the detriment of individual rights.

A unique, left-right coalition including the Rio Grande Foundation and the ACLU of New Mexico argued for needed reforms that subsequently achieved universal support. This occurred despite the effort being ground-breaking in depth and scope.

This legislation was a bright spot in a session that otherwise saw little economic or education reforms in one of America’s most impoverished states which will continue to hemorrhage its youngest, most highly educated people until it becomes economically-competitive with neighbors like Texas, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

Gas-Tax Hike Dodged — for How Long?

Tue, 2015-03-31 18:49

New Mexico’s motorists are surely delighted that the 2015 legislative session failed to increase the gasoline tax. Several bills were drafted to hike the levy, by as much as 59 percent. (The current rate is 17¢ per gallon.)

New Mexico’s economy is struggling to get traction — for every positive indicator reported, a discouraging statistic seems to appear — and thus the dollars flowing into the state’s highway fund remain weak. So pressure will remain intense for “revenue enhancement.”

To our east, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Lone Star State’s free-market think tank, recently issued “The Road Forward,” a study outlining non-tax methods for affordable and effective transportation. Suggestions include the “design-build” method of contracting, more involvement by the private sector, and tough scrutiny of inefficient transit projects. (Rail Runner and Albuquerque Bus Rapid Transit, we’re talking about you.)

“The Road Forward” should be required reading for all New Mexico elected officials who support a higher gas tax.

More great coverage of NM’s civil asset forfeiture reforms (now awaiting the Gov.’s signature)

Tue, 2015-03-31 08:56

Richard Rahn wrote an excellent article on New Mexico’s reforms in the Washington Times.

That paper also editorialized on behalf of the bi-partisan reforms.

There was an excellent column in the Deming Headlight on the issue.

And both the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican have endorsed the proposed reforms.

As if all that were not enough, former Gov. Gary Johnson spoke out in favor of the proposed reforms.

If you haven’t already sent a note to Gov. Martinez asking her to sign the bill, you can check out coverage of the reform effort from the national group FreedomWorks where you can drop her a line.

Texas Booms, New Mexico … Doesn’t

Fri, 2015-03-27 14:41

For the first time, “two of the five largest cities in the nation are in Texas.”

Meanwhile, the “recent trend of New Mexico losing population continued between 2013 and 2014.”

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.