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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
Updated: 32 min 12 sec ago

In September, RTW States Score Another Win

Fri, 2015-10-02 13:25

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.”

Last month, of 17,908 projected jobs, 12,274 — 71.9 percent — were slated for right-to-work (RTW) states:

Twelve domestic companies based in non-RTW states announced investments in RTW states. Just two announcements went the other way.

Foreign direct investment was also highly skewed. Eighteen projects are headed to RTW states, but only four are to to occur in non-RTW states.

Marquee RTW wins included the decision by Mercedes-Benz to spend $1.3 billion on a “major expansion” of its factory in Alabama, Boeing’s announcement of 200 new employees to “produce 747 fuselage panels” in Georgia, and Blue Origin’s pick of Florida for “launch, manufacturing and support facilities for its Orbital Launch Vehicle program.” (Ouch — another loss for “Spaceport America.”)

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.

KRQE Investigates Albuquerque’s ‘Public Servants’

Thu, 2015-10-01 16:45

Michael Dukakis famously claimed that the 1988 election “isn’t about ideology; it’s about competence.”

Taxpayers in Albuquerque might want to remember that line, as they vote in this year’s election. In the last few days, KRQE has reported that:

* The city, which “declined to go on camera but admits [it] messed up,” aligned an iron fence enclosing Sierra Sunset Park improperly. Since then, neighboring property owner Liz Alvarez built a brick wall to “separate me from the city park and the sidewalk.” Earlier this week, workers returned to fix their mistake, leaving “a piece of Alvarez’s wall … on city property.”

* “[D]ozens of blue … lights have gone dark” on the Bear Canyon Arroyo pedestrian bridge, necessitating replacements that will cost $210,000.

* “[A]nywhere from 100 to 200 bottles” of urine, covered with old newspapers, are littering an alley near I-25 and Coal. “I called a couple times with the city,” resident Richard Reycraft told KRQE’s Lysee Mitri. “They kept saying they’d get at it and get at it, but nothing.”

* The city has used “its own employees rather than use a professional construction company” for maintenance projects at the Biopark. “Building the elephant barn, for example, took three years and cost $4.4 million. [The mayor’s chief of staff Gilbert] Montano said estimates show private crews could have done the work in a year for almost a million less.”

When the EPA Attacks (Again)

Wed, 2015-09-30 13:02

The Albuquerque Journal has a solid editorial today on the EPA’s impending decision on tightening the standard for ozone. Writing for CNBC earlier this year, Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and John Thune (R-SD) averred that the regulatory ratcheting “could be the most expensive regulation in history and place undue burden on counties still working to comply with existing obligations, as well as impose costly regulations on new communities.” The Journal notes that “the state’s high elevation, where increased interaction of sunlight, heat and pollutants create excellent conditions for producing smog,” is sure to push many New Mexico counties into noncompliance.

The National Association of Manufacturers predicts that the tighter standard will hammer New Mexico’s gross state product, kill jobs, and cause a big drop in average annual household consumption. The benefits? Not much. In June, the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives pointed out that the EPA’s own data show that “ozone concentrations have declined over 30 percent since 1980 and will continue to do so under the 2008 standard.”

New Mexico’s Vulnerability to Washington’s Fiscal Follies

Tue, 2015-09-29 16:00

The new federal fiscal year starts October 1, and without a budget in place, D.C. “will officially run out of the legal authority to spend money.”

With an egregiously underdeveloped private sector, the Land of Enchantment is at particular risk when Congress and the president can’t agree on a spending plan. As the Tax Foundation documented earlier this year, 36.6 percent of the state’s revenue comes from Washington:

The feds are $18.2 trillion in debt, but that hasn’t kept the moolah flowing. In the last few weeks:

* The U.S. Justice Department awarded the New Mexico Department of Public Safety a $561,000 grant “to combat methamphetamine trafficking and related violence.”

* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the New Mexico Department of Health $850,000 to “stop prescription drug overdoses.”

* The U.S. Department of Commerce handed $1.4 million to the Siete del Norte Community Development Corporation.

* The National Institute of General Medical Sciences wrote a $11.6 million check to UNM “to find new ways to help people recover from strokes and traumatic brain injuries.”

Without an aggressive economic-development strategy, implemented yesterday, New Mexico will remain dangerously exposed to federal budget shenanigans. Isn’t it time to break free from D.C. dependence?

Solar in New Mexico: The Dream and the Reality

Mon, 2015-09-28 15:43

Didn’t make it to the the New Mexico Solar Energy Association’s 2015 “Solar Fiesta”? No worries, the Foundation was on hand for all the silliness.

Keynote presenter John Perlin, the author of Let the Sunshine In: The 6,000 Year History of Solar Energy, offered plenty of predictable bromides. The self-proclaimed “Indiana Jones of solar energy” argued that “a lot of ‘progress’ has been regress,” “the sun wants to cooperate with us,” and “the sun belongs to everyone.” His look at the use of passive solar in China, the American Southwest, and Europe was interesting, but he stumbled badly when describing modern times. For example, if photovoltaic technology goes back to the 1950s, why does it make such a paltry contribution to electricity generation today?

Tom Solomon, representing the New Mexico chapter of “,” gave a glowing overview of a preposterous proposal by “The Solutions Project.” The scheme is to “transition to 100% clean, renewable energy” by 2050 — hey, it’s got to be feasible, because it’s backed by Mark Ruffalo! What’s standing in the way of the death of “fossil” fuels? One of Solomon’s slides was a picture of the Titanic, which he said was under the command of “Captain David Koch.” (Memo to Solomon: Describing the wonders of your Tesla is not the best way to appeal to the rather hefty portion of the population that cannot afford a vehicle with a $100,000 price tag.)

Other speakers toed the eco-left line. A local “futurist and philosopher,” warned of “catastrophic global warming” unless per capita energy use was restricted. He recommended “local products for local consumption,” public transit, and “permaculture.” An employee of Sandia National Laboratories swooned about federal loan guarantees for solar projects, particularly molten-salt power plants. A lobbyist with the Sierra Club boasted of the group’s “climate action teams” in New Mexico, and described a trip she took with other activists to the EPA’s recent methane hearing in Denver. A representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists bashed Governor Martinez’s state energy plan because of its reliance on natural gas.

It was same old, same old. Lots of conspiracy theories (most involved “Big Oil”) and apocalyptic ravings about “climate change.” But little about how paltry a role solar plays in New Mexico’s energy demand. Despite the federal and state subsidies speakers extolled, and our status as the fourth-sunniest state, just 1.1 percent of the Land of Enchantment’s electricity comes from the sun. And need we revisit the state’s disastrous “investments” in solar companies?

Time to Toss the Wish Lists?

Fri, 2015-09-25 12:40

The 2016 legislative session is four months away, but it’s not too early for New Mexico’s solons to think seriously about fiscal restraint.

Field production of crude in New Mexico more than doubled between 2007 and 2014. But the boom, at least for now, is over. ConocoPhillips is laying off workers, and in August alone, the state lost 1,000 jobs in the mining sector, which includes oil and gas. Goldman Sachs thinks oil may drop to as low as $20 per barrel. And as the U.S. Energy Information Administration noted this week, “upstream investment is highly sensitive to changes in oil prices”:

But wait, it gets worse. The state’s Medicaid bill keeps rising. Yesterday the Albuquerque Journal reported that “226,783 of … newly eligible adults have enrolled in the program” since Governor Martinez expanded it in 2013.

Legislators from both parties never tire of floating big-spending initiatives, from “infrastructure” projects to economic-development schemes to “universal preschool.” But it’s looking more and more like revenue declines and runaway Medicaid expenditures will enforce budget discipline during next year’s session.

Santa Ana Star’s issues not unique

Thu, 2015-09-24 14:55

Recently, an article appeared in the Rio West section of the ABQ Journal stating that the troubled Santa Ana Star Center’s finances were “looking up.” Having followed the Center and its financial issues over the years, I felt it imperative to set the record straight, so I submitted a letter to the editor to clarify that while the Center’s finances are not quite as bad as they once were, the Center was and remains an extraordinarily bad “investment” of taxpayer dollars. My letter appeared in the Rio West section of the paper on the 19th of September.

Letters to the Editor

Rio West – ABQ Journal

Your story about the finances of the Santa Ana Star Center “looking up” couldn’t have been further off the mark. It may be true that the annual operating subsidy for the Center has dropped from $874,000 to $769,000, but with Rio Rancho taxpayers on the hook for an additional $2.2 million annually through 2032, the Center’s finances will continue to be a major burden on City taxpayers.

It is true that a vast majority of arenas and events centers are money losers. That’s hardly a justification. Rather, it is an indicator that cities like Rio Rancho are overinvesting in such facilities relative to the market’s willingness to pay for them. In basic economic terms, supply is outpacing demand.

For Rio Rancho, it is too late. City taxpayers are paying what currently amounts to 80 percent of their annual gross receipts tax collections for an arena. Yes, bond money is separate from the general fund budget, but when you put the City’s financial obligations in that light, you see why the Center was a major mistake.

The good news is that Rio Rancho’s experience can be a lesson to Albuquerque and other cities that might be considering such major and potentially burdensome spending projects.

Paul J. Gessing
Rio Grande Foundation

New Mexico’s Broken-Record Poverty Rate

Wed, 2015-09-23 11:14

It received very little media attention, but the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey figures on state-level poverty yielded ho-hum news for New Mexico.

From 2013 to 2014, the poverty rate in the Land of Enchantment fell slightly, from 21.9 percent to 21.3 percent. (Only Mississippi fared worse.)

A look at poverty in the era of the Great Recession/Weak Recovery shows how little progress has been made:

Centrally planned economic development, a too-generous welfare state, no right-to-work law, little innovation in government education, and a cumbersome and pervasive tax on gross receipts. Is it any wonder New Mexico can’t escape its poverty trap?

Subsidizing Hollywood: That’s a Wrap?

Mon, 2015-09-21 13:21

Bernardo Saracino should stick to acting.

Last week the New Mexico native, who has a role in the critically acclaimed film Sicario, told KRQE: “Albuquerque is definitely on the map. No matter whom I talk to, when they ask where I’m from, I’m like ‘Albuquerque’; they’re like ‘wow there’s a lot of work there.'”

Not exactly. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate that film-and-video employment in the state is declining:

Writing in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal, Chris Hudson and Donald Bryson noted that “Michigan and New Jersey ended their handouts earlier this summer, while Louisiana capped its subsidies — albeit after doling out more than $1 billion in the past five years. Arizona, Idaho, Indiana and Missouri have also either rolled back or shut down their programs in recent years.”

Isn’t it time for New Mexico’s elected officials to admit that subsidizing film and television productions has been an expensive failure? Isn’t it time to follow the wisdom of the states that have ended welfare for Hollywood?

Right to Work Boosts Job Creation — Missouri trying to beat NM to be the 26th RTW state

Mon, 2015-09-21 10:59

The following op-ed was written in anticipation of an attempt by Missouri’s Legislature to override a gubernatorial veto of “right to work” in the Show-Me State. Rio Grande Foundation was one of 80+ organizations nationally that signed a letter in support of Missouri becoming the 26th “right to work” state. Unfortunately for Missourians,  the Legislature did not succeed, but Missouri is now competing with New Mexico to become the state that tips the balance to a majority of US states being “right to work.”


One notable policy shift that is picking up steam is the adoption of “right to work” laws. In the past few years, the idea that workers should be able to choose to associate with and/or pay dues to labor unions has spread to the traditionally heavily-unionized “Rust Belt” states of the Midwest. Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin have all adopted such laws while serious “right to work” efforts have been put forth in Missouri, West Virginia, and my home state of New Mexico.

With 25 states currently in the “right to work” column and 25 states still practicing forced unionism, we at the Rio Grande Foundation decided to track in real time where jobs were actually moving across America. “Right to work” laws have traditionally been associated with greater job growth, but how did this process work in real time?

So, we looked to the experts at Area Development for information. 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.

While not “all-inclusive,” the jobs tracked on the site will tend toward being high-paying “economic base jobs,” not fast food and retail.


Every month this year, we at the Rio Grande Foundation have tracked job announcements from Area Development at our blog [3]. When it comes to job creation in 2015, “right to work” states are America’s job creation powerhouses. Despite somewhat smaller populations overall, Area Development notes 105,229 jobs created or added in the 25 “right to work” states. During the exact same time period, forced-unionism states created or added a mere 25,311 jobs.

In other words, during 2015, using real-world jobs data from Area Development, “right to work” states have created or added more than 80 percent of jobs.

This is not a new trend. Over virtually any time period, “right to work” states have dominated American job growth. Between 1993 and 2009, for example, “right to work” states saw 37.9 percent job growth while forced unionism states grew by just 19.6 percent.

Americans have been moving in search of greater economic freedom since before the country was founded. The original settlers left Europe in search of economic opportunity and then spread from coast to coast for the same reason. Blacks fled the South before and for more than a century after the Civil War and are now returning in part due to the economic freedom to be found there.

Given this history and “right to work’s” success in terms of job creation, it is no surprise that Americans overwhelmingly support such laws. When Gallup polled Americans on a variety of labor issues in August, 2014, 77 percent of independents, 74 percent of Republicans, and even 65 percent of Democrats said they supported “right to work” laws. Americans said they support “right to work” even as they say they expressed strong support for unions 53-38 percent.

The freedom to choose is one of the unique features of America. For decades, Americans have “voted with their feet” by moving themselves and their jobs from forced unionism to worker freedom. Other states can and will soon benefit from this form of worker freedom.

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Not the time to raise taxes for Biopark

Fri, 2015-09-18 14:12

D. Dowd Muska, New Mexico Rio Grande Foundation

Albuquerque has fewer jobs today than it did in 2007. In July, Bloomberg put it on a list of large cities that “lost the greatest share of local people to other parts of the country between July 2013 and July 2014.” And when scholar Joel Kotkin examined the best metropolitan statistical areas for jobs in 2015, Albuquerque ranked 86th among 93 mid-sized cities.

Is now the time for Albuquerque to hike its gross receipts tax?

The New Mexico BioPark Society thinks so. It’s leading the charge for a GRT increase of one-eighth of 1 percent. The projected revenue from the “temporary” tax, estimated to be $17 million annually for a decade and a half, would be used to fund “capital needs, including design, construction, acquisition, improvement, renovation, rehabilitation and equipping or furnishing of the ABQ BioPark.” On Oct. 6, voters will decide the GRT hike’s fate.

There’s no question that the BioPark, which includes the zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, and Tingley Beach, is valued by both locals and tourists. In June, it offered a day of free admission, to celebrate record-setting attendance. The following month, a ranking issued by the Travel Channel found the botanical garden to be one of the best in the country.

But there are compelling reasons for Albuquerque voters to leave the GRT rate where it is. First, while the hike sounds small, a look backward reveals just how heavy the city’s tax burden has become. At the start of the 2000s, Albuquerque’s GRT rate stood at 5.8125 percent. Currently, it’s 7.1875 percent — an increase of 23.7 percent. Any benefits of better BioPark infrastructure would likely be offset by the deterrent value of a higher tax. Second, there are alternate means for the BioPark to boost its coffers. Raising the admission fee for adults is an option, given that it “is $3 less than El Paso charges, $8 less than Denver and $11 less than Phoenix,” according to news reports.

Raising revenue directly would dodge the threat of city diversions. Earlier this year, political activist Joe Monahan recalled that in 1999, the city’s GRT was hiked for transportation spending. But in 2005, an “audit found not all the money was being spent as originally billed,” and today, “the city’s financial condition … is much more precarious.” It’s far from certain that the BioPark will receive all the revenue the proposed GRT hike will generate.

Finally, a strong case can be made for freeing the BioPark from government management — and possibly even ownership. The day-to-day operations of many American zoos are overseen by contractors, not municipal employees. The New Mexico BioPark Society is “dedicated to the development of, procurement for and capital improvement of the ABQ BioPark … and to providing a quality facility through the support of related conservation, education and recreation programs.” As researchers at the Reason Foundation noted, the society is a prime candidate for outsourcing, since it is “already fulfilling … duties such as fundraising, coordinating volunteer efforts, organizing special events and providing educational programming.”

Rather than seeking to tie the BioPark even more tightly to the political process, the facility’s supporters should recognize that the best path forward is a transition away from city ownership/operation. Presently, the New Mexico BioPark Society needs the permission of city councilors and the mayor to do something as simple as raise the fee for riding the zoo’s train.

Albuquerque is struggling. Job growth remains sluggish. Business expansion is disappointing. And airport traffic has fallen for seven years in a row. The ugly reality of the city’s economic condition offers more than enough justification for voters to be skeptical of a BioPark tax hike with a price tag of a quarter of a billion dollars. Besides, there are better options to preserve and enhance one of the city’s most popular attractions.

D. Dowd Muska is research director of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization.

From the Albuquerque Business First:


Randal O’Toole Deconstructs Bus Rapid Transit and Outlines Future of Transportation

Thu, 2015-09-17 11:15

Randal O’Toole spoke earlier this week on the issue of Albuquerque’s transportation future. In particular he focused on the City’s proposed bus rapid transit system, the Rail Runner, and the future of transportation. The entire presentation is below (slides here). Below that are some of the most important slides from O’Toole’s presentation. If you want to get active against bus rapid transit, there is a grassroots activism organization called “Save Route 66.”

The proposed bus rapid transit system will increase congestion in the Central corridor, just ask the consultants tasked by the City with looking at the proposal:

Portland, OR, is often touted as a “model” for mass transit, but after spending billions of dollars, transit carries fewer passengers than it did in 1980:

Transit is a trivial portion of the transportation mix in Albuquerque:

Transit appeals to those who make almost nothing and those who have very high incomes and can choose to locate next to it. For working/middle class Americans, transit is far less useful:

Albuquerque’s bus system is not especially “green” when it comes to energy use. It’s hard to believe a new bus system will be a dramatic improvement:

Discussing Amtrak’s Southwest Chief w/ NPR’s Morning Edition

Thu, 2015-09-17 09:12

There has been a decent amount of discussion in New Mexico over the future of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. The train runs on the tracks that were purchased by the State for the Rail Runner and run from Raton in the north through Albuquerque. The train then runs West through Gallup and Grants, but New Mexico doesn’t own those tracks.

Amtrak is demanding improvements to the tracks or they won’t run the trains anymore. As noted in the story, Gov. Martinez put up $1 million of our tax dollars as a “down payment” on the $4 million annually that Amtrak is asking for states through which the Southwest Chief runs.

The interview is below. My interview starts around the halfway mark. One interesting note is that the reporter who did the story is based out of Los Angeles. Even though the Southwest Chief travels between New Mexico and Los Angeles, as he notes, he flew home.

Your guide to the City of Albuquerque election ballot

Wed, 2015-09-16 16:20

Early voting for the City’s October 6 elections is under way. Early voting locations can be found here. Control of City Council hangs in the balance with liberals eager to pick up a 6th seat on the Council to create a veto-proof majority. From the more conservative side, there is hope of adding a more moderate voice to the Council in the form of Hessito Yntema.

Interestingly enough, Albuquerque’s elections require a photo ID when you go to the polls, a tool that generates little in the way of concern come election time, but that the Obama Administration and many liberals claim is “racist.”

Of course, along with the Council races, there are a number of questions on the ballot for voters to decide on. I have listed them below in order of importance:

1) Tax Hike for ABQ BioPark would seem hard to justify: As the Rio Grande Foundation has noted elsewhere, Albuquerque’s gross receipts tax rate has risen by more than 20% since 2000. The gross receipts tax is incredibly harmful and regressive. We also believe there are other ways including privatization which is in use at 75% of zoos that could save money and improve the quality of our zoo without raising taxes in a time of great economic difficulty.

2) Question 1 would change the signature requirement for initiatives to 20% of the last mayoral election and would require that such elections be held only alongside other municipal elections. The latter in particular would save the expense of holding special elections. These changes make sense.

3) Bonds: There are several bonds on the ballot. As we have pointed out in the past, bonds are paid for with your tax dollars. While we all enjoy the government services paid for by these bonds, not all community center and park projects are essential, particularly in economically-challenging times.

My unpublished response to the NY Times: article missed real scandal harming our state

Wed, 2015-09-16 10:24

The New York Times recently saw fit to publish an article noting that New Mexico Democrats are looking to capitalize on recent scandals (both the Dianna Duran and APS scandals) in an effort to reduce Gov. Martinez’s popularity. The idea that a popular governor’s political opponents would attempt to bring them down no matter how tangentially they are tied to a given scandal is nothing new and it hardly seems worthy of a paper that touts itself as publishing “all the news that’s fit to print.”

But the Times has long been a mouthpiece for the liberal establishment. So, despite a terrible (non-existent) track record of having letters published in the Times, I penned the following and submitted it. Since I talk about economic freedom and question the very premise of the article in question, I had no illusions of publication, but I figured it was worth putting words to paper:

Political scandals are nothing new in New Mexico. The fact that some in the State’s Democratic Party are attempting to tie some recent scandals to Gov. Susana Martinez is no surprise given her popularity and her success in shifting political control of State government toward Republicans.

Unfortunately, the real “scandal” in New Mexico is its high poverty and poor economic performance. Both have been driven by the State’s relative lack of economic freedom and a strong private sector economy. Instead, the state has historically relied on a massive federal presence and extractive industries, most notably oil and natural gas.

This year several serious economic and education reforms passed the Republican House only to be killed, often without a vote, in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Examples include “right to work,” school choice, a reduction in worker’s compensation for workers who injure themselves while drunk or stoned on the job, simplified paths for alternative teacher certification, and a regulatory structure to make the state attractive to ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

Political scandals will come and go, but Gov. Martinez’s efforts to undo decades of bad government policies in the Land of Enchantment should be applauded.

ObamaCare destroys another health care choice in New Mexico

Tue, 2015-09-15 16:51

In a free market, choice is the order of the day. Quality and low prices also predominate when personal choice and the freedom to compete dominate. In fact, Socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who obviously is not a fan of free markets famously said, “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.”

Unfortunately, the health care marketplace was heavily regulated before Obama became President and his “ObamaCare” health law has further restricted choices. As today’s Albuquerque Journal explains, New Mexico Health Connections will now offer only health maintenance organization plans, or HMOs, which restrict participants to a contracted provider network.

According to the article, Health Connection’s decision, coupled with an earlier decision by Blue Cross Blue Shield to largely pull out of the individual market, means about 23,900 people with PPO plans on and off the exchange will have to find new coverage for 2016.

Again, the promise of ObamaCare is far from reality, an issue that led the liberal-leading Politifact to call Obama’s promise “lie of the year.”

Rio Grande Foundation Signs Amicus Brief in US Supreme Court Friedrichs Case on Worker Freedom

Mon, 2015-09-14 15:28

The next big case coming to the US Supreme Court is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. At issue is whether the current practice in non-“right to work,” forced-union states of requiring workers to pay union agency fees for the privilege of being a public employee violates the First Amendment rights of workers. This case has the potential to guarantee the right to work for public employees in all 50 states. In other words, it would free government workers who don’t want to be associated with a union from having to pay dues in support of that union.

The full text of the amicus brief can be found here.

Interestingly enough, some New Mexico “first responders” took the opportunity presented by the marking of the 14th anniversary of 9/11 to inveigh against the concept of “right to work.”

As the article noted, “Albuquerque firefighter and former state representative Emily Kane spoke about how the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center provided opportunities to better serve those in such an attack. She said after the first attack, union officials provided an ‘ability to communicate’ with building officials and first responders and subsequently implement more fire drills and better radio communication.”

So, “right to work” is bad because…9/11. Aside from the fact that New Mexico is not New York City and is far less likely to be attacked by terrorists, I simply can’t fathom how forcing all public employees to pay union dues really makes them or us safer. We’ll see what the US Supreme Court has to say when it hears the case.

Left and Right Should Agree to Reform Occupational Licensing

Mon, 2015-09-14 09:41

The Rio Grande Foundation is an unabashedly free market organization, often labeled “conservative.” That doesn’t mean that we don’t agree with the political left on various policy issues, but it does mean that opportunities for such agreement require an honest assessment of reform opportunities and principles.

An ever-growing area on which left and right might agree is occupational licensing and the ever-increasing thicket of regulations facing workers as they attempt to make an honest living. This has been an issue of interest to free market advocates going back to the 1970s and economist Milton Friedman.

In a sign that at least some liberals are starting to see Friedman’s point of view, President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors recently released a report called “Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers.”

The report detailed some of the very real problems with occupational licensing. As the paper concluded:

There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across State lines. Too often, policymakers do not carefully weigh these costs and benefits when making decisions about whether or how to regulate a profession through licensing.

Furthermore, as the report noted, there has been an explosion in the area of professional licensing. More than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, with most of these workers licensed by the states. The share of workers licensed at the State level has risen five-fold since the 1950s. About two-thirds of this increase stems from an increase in the number of professions that require a license.

Given New Mexico’s historical lack of economic freedom, it is no surprise that the Land of Enchantment has onerous regulations on workers. A 2012 report by the libertarian Institute for Justice, New Mexico is the ninth most broadly and onerously licensed state with the 12th most burdensome licensing laws.

According to the report, New Mexico has higher barriers for more occupations than most states. Fifty two of the 102 low- to moderate-income occupations studied are licensed in New Mexico.

The state also has above-average education or experience requirements for other occupations. For example, aspiring pest control applicators and vegetation pesticide handlers lose two years to experience before receiving a license. Thirty two states have no experience requirement for pest control applicators, and 39 states have none for vegetation pesticide handlers. Fire and security alarm installers lose two years to experience, compared to averages of less than a year-and-a half among the 34 states that require licenses.

New Mexico’s mania for licensing doesn’t just harm consumers; it harms those trying to turn their lives around after a brush with the law. Under the New Mexico Criminal Offender Employment Act, even convictions not directly related to the occupation are grounds for ineligibility for obtaining an employment license.

One solution is to allow ex-offenders to obtain provisional licenses that are valid for a shorter period of time and subject to immediate revocation if they commit a new offense, violate a term of probation or parole, or violate a rule of the occupation. Such provisional licenses provide a positive incentive for success while still holding the ex-offender accountable. A few years ago Texas lawmakers specified in law that a provisional license becomes a permanent license after six months if the license holder is in full compliance.

Given the negative impact professional licensing has on middle and lower-income workers and those convicted of crimes, we would love to see a left-right coalition both among policy organizations and legislators coalesce on this issue in New Mexico.

An added benefit of a cross-partisan regulatory reform effort is that it could boost New Mexico’s lagging economy.

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

An interesting listen: labor unions and the downfall of the American auto industry

Fri, 2015-09-11 15:32

This American Life is a radio show that appears on NPR. In other words, it is hardly right-wing, but in July of this year there was an interesting show on the American auto industry (click to listen) which included some very candid statements about unions (including many from former union members).

If you’d rather read than listen, the transcript can be found here. I have included some of the most stunning statements below:

• Compared to Japan, where auto workers and management worked together, labor relations in America were more like war.

• A former running back from the University of Arkansas named Bruce Lee ran the western region for the United Auto Workers, and was in charge of the Fremont Union Local 1364. Now, normally, somebody like Bruce Lee is supposed to defend his union members no matter what, but even he says they were awful.

Bruce Lee (speaking)
“It was considered the worst workforce in the automobile industry in the United States. And it was a reputation that was well-earned. Everything was a fight.

They spent more time on grievances and on things like that than they did on producing cars. They had strikes all the time. It was just chaos constantly.”

One of the expressions was, you can buy anything you want in the GM plant in Fremont. If you want sex, if you want drugs, if you want alcohol, it’s there. During breaks, during lunchtime, if you want to gamble illegally– any illegal activity was available for the asking within that plant.

Frank Langfitt (speaking)
Sounds like prison.

Jeffrey Liker (speaking)
Actually, the analogy to prison is a good analogy, because the workers were stuck there because they could not find anything close to that level of job and pay and benefits at their level of education and skill. So they were trapped there.

And they also felt like we have a job for life, and the union will always protect us. So we’re stuck here, and it’s long term. And then all these illegal things crop up, so we can entertain ourselves while we’re stuck here.

Rick Madrid (speaking)
A lot of booze on the line. I mean, it was just amazing. And as long as you did your job, they really didn’t care.

• If you’re wondering how people kept their jobs, well, back then, the UAW was still quite powerful. Under the union contract, it was almost impossible to fire anybody. And if management ticked off the union, workers could just shut the plant down in minutes.
With that sort of leverage, absenteeism became absurd. On a normal day, one out of five workers just didn’t show up. It was even worse on Mondays. Billy Haggerty worked in hood and fender assembly. He says so few workers showed up some mornings, management couldn’t start the line.

Makes “right to work” sound a lot more pro-labor and pro-business and the unions a lot less sympathetic.

Talking the Tea Party, and Transportation

Fri, 2015-09-11 13:48

The Foundation’s biweekly radio program, the New Mexico Freedom Hour, airs tomorrow at noon on KKOB.

Guests in the first half hour will be Will Summers and Rick Harbaugh of the Albuquerque Tea Party. The group is holding its annual fundraiser later this month, with Mark Meckler, co-founder of the the Convention of States Project, as speaker.

The Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole, soon to appear in Albuquerque, will call in for the second half hour. The transportation and land-use scholar will discuss the city’s proposed bus rapid transit project, as well as the Rail Runner, and other issues related to how New Mexico moves both people and cargo.

The New Mexico Freedom Hour can be streamed online here.