Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings

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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
Updated: 1 min 35 sec ago

A Vaccine for Gas-Tax Mania

Wed, 2015-03-11 18:20

Does New Mexico “need” to raise taxes on gasoline and diesel? Proponents of hiking the levies have gotten plenty of support on editorial pages lately. But their case isn’t as strong as they think.

* What about excessive spending?

There are two components of fiscal policy: revenue and expenditures. Politicians usually focus on problems with the former, while ignoring issues with the latter.

Let’s leave aside the the Rail Runner, on which New Mexico has squandered hundreds of millions of transportation dollars in the last dozen years.

A major driver of highway costs in New Mexico is the prevailing-wage mandate. According to Roxanne Rivera-Wiest, the president of Associated Builders and Contractors of New Mexico, prevailing-wage rates are “determined by the director of the Labor Relations Division of the Department of Workforce Solutions, at the same wage rates and fringe benefit rates used in collective bargaining agreements as supported by the unions.” But the vast majority of the construction industry in The Land of Enchantment is not unionized. Thus, highway projects in the state are unnecessarily expensive.

* Is revenue from the taxes inadequate?

There’s no question that highway spending is not growing in New Mexico. Here, in billions of inflation-adjusted dollars, is combined local and state spending on highways for the latest years available:

2008: 1.275
2009: 1.508
2010: 1.299
2011: 1.211
2012: 1.035

But the prime reason for stagnant highway spending is a poor economy. New Mexico was one of only six states to lose population between 2013 and 2104. Its unemployment rate is above the national average, and its labor-participation rate is disturbingly low. Less working means less driving. Less driving means less fuel-tax revenue. It also means that roads and highways are not sustaining the wear and tear imposed when the economy is strong. According to independent analysts, New Mexico’s highways are doing rather well. The Reason Foundation’s most recent ranking placed the state’s system at “4th in the nation in overall … performance and efficiency.” (New Mexico landed in the top slot for both “urban interstate pavement condition” and “rural interstate condition.”)

* “Pump prices for gasoline are low and projected to stay so for the near future.”

This claim, by Sen. Mary Kay Papen and Sen. Bill Soules, both of Las Cruces, is offered to support the claim that a gas-tax hike is affordable. It’s pure speculation. In the last month alone, the price of gasoline has risen by 10.6 percent. The cost of petroleum products can skyrocket overnight, given violence in the Middle East or a natural disaster in any oil-producing region. If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that the price at the pump can rise just as quickly as it can fall.

In the rush to hike taxes on gasoline and diesel, important facts are being ignored. New Mexico’s taxpayers deserve a broader debate on highway spending.

More disinformation about Right to Work (from Sen. Heinrich and another former US Senator)

Tue, 2015-03-10 09:32

Senator Heinrich addressed the New Mexico Legislature (from the looks of things, many legislators “boycotted” his presentation). Interestingly, Heinrich noted that New Mexico is losing jobs to Arizona and Texas. These are both Right to Work states, but Heinrich of course would never argue that such a law would be a big reason that those states are surpassing New Mexico.

And Heinrich obliquely attacked Right to Work saying that “we aren’t going to turn our economy around by passing laws that lower the wages of hard-working New Mexicans.” I agree with him, but in reading the speech I totally missed that as a reference to Right to Work. Thanks to the Journal’s Dan Boyd for catching that, but Heinrich’s facts are simply wrong. States that have such laws on the books are seeing income growth far faster than non-Right to Work states.

The article from former US Senator Fred Harris that appeared in the Journal over the weekend suffered from many of the same problems as Heinrich’s talk. Harris was clearly a far-left wing US Senator. His claim that Right to Work laws is completely unsubstantiated. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, 5 of the 10 most unequal states are Right to Work and 5 of the least unequal states are Right to Work. There is no pattern.

Oh, and if Mr. Harris wants to find a real-world example of the positive impact Right to Work can have on wealth generation in a state, he need look no further than his home state of Oklahoma where personal income growth far outpaced the region in the wake of the law’s adoption in 2001.

Comedian Louis CK is probably the latest convert to Right to Work

Fri, 2015-03-06 14:46

I saw this story today and was flabbergasted.

Because of the industry he’s in (at least part time) as a video editor, CK who is better known as a comedian, must pay into various union pension and health care funds whether he wants to or not. The comedian also doesn’t do a whole lot of video editing as a fraction of his overall work activity, but according to the article, the judge ignored that in favor of the unions who said that without the rules, those employees could report they had worked the minimum hours necessary to qualify for a pension, and get the maximum benefit for the minimum required contribution.

Shouldn’t people be able to pay these fees if they choose to rather than being forced to do so simply by holding a particular job?

Of course the unions will likely argue that CK is a known member of the 1% and that he can afford to pay the fees for the benefit of his “brothers.” I’m sure that is true, but I’m sure CK is already paying some pretty high taxes living in New York (12.7% top state and local rate if you live in the City), isn’t that more than enough?

And while CK may be the latest individual convert to Right to Work, the latest state to do so is Wisconsin.

The GRT Goes in Only One Direction

Thu, 2015-03-05 18:42

The residents of New Mexico’s most populated county are scheduled to be hit with a hike in the gross receipts tax. On July 1, Bernalillo County’s GRT will rise by three-sixteenths of a percent.

What’s been the general trend in the GRT for New Mexico’s most populated municipalities? The Foundation accessed state data on the 25 largest, and found that from the start of 2000 to the start of 2015, the GRT has increased by an average of 22.0 percent. Española saw the heaviest rise in burden (38.4 percent), Roswell the lightest (9.6 percent).

GRT burdens in the Albuquerque metroplex rose by an average of 25.3 percent:

GRT burdens in the southwest part of the state rose by an average of 20.6 percent:

GRT burdens in the southeast part of the state rose by an average of 19.4 percent:

GRT burdens in the northwest part of the state rose by an average of 23.0 percent:

Note: Anthony is one of the state’s 25 most populated municipalities, but since it was not incorporated in 2000, it was excluded from this analysis.

Payday loans v. the Lottery

Thu, 2015-03-05 12:13

Good old UNM can always be relied upon to employ the most radical professors. Now, behold one Nathalie Martin who is apparently on a jihad to end “payday” loans.

Now, I would not choose to take out a high interest rate loan, but these loans are made to low income people who are struggling to pay their bills. In other words, loans to them are a risky proposition. And lets not forget that no one is forcing anyone to take out these loans. They are choosing them as their best option given the circumstances and this well-paid government bureaucrat is saying to poor people: this financial option you are choosing for yourself should be taken away because I know better than you do.

Talk about the very definition of modern “liberal” thought!

On the flip side, there is no doubt that lotteries are, from a mathematical perspective, at least as bad as payday loans. And the customer base of lotteries tends to be the same low-income demographic that takes out payday loans. But the State not only sponsors lotteries, but under a new bill that just passed the Senate, debit cards will now be accepted for lottery tickets.

I’m not sure under which circumstances wealthy liberals who know what is best for the poor should be able to write their preferences into law, but some consistency would be appreciated.

Rio Grande Foundation Releases Upgraded “Freedom Index” Legislative Tracking Tool for 2015 Session Are your legislators voting for or against freedom?

Tue, 2015-03-03 14:34

(Albuquerque) As the New Mexico Legislature moves into its final weeks and several important floor votes have been taken, the Rio Grande Foundation is launching an updated and easier-to-use “Freedom Index” legislative tracking tool. The goal of this tool is to review legislation impacting freedom in our state.

Lawmakers and the interested public can use the “Freedom Index” to get an independent, free market view of pending legislation. Moreover, voters can see whether their legislators are voting for free markets or for bigger government. Votes tallied are “floor” votes.

Users can see:

  • The relative voting performance of legislators according to the Freedom Index;
  • The relative voting performance of each party according to the Freedom Index;
  • The analysis criteria behind the legislation ranking;
  • Links to legislation detail;
  • Links to legislator Information, including contact information;
  • And selections of legislation by relevant categories.

Our analysis will be available before final votes on those bills that are analyzed and can be used by both legislators, legislative staff and interested voters to debate the merits of a bill.

In short, the Index provides an excellent analysis of bills that will come before committees or a vote on the floor as well as tracking a legislator’s Freedom Index score. The public will find our Freedom Index to be a tool to hold elected officials accountable for their vote and to gain a better understanding of the legislation being proposed by the House or Senate members.

Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing said of his organization’s new legislative tracking web site, “We are thrilled to add the freedom perspective to the legislative process in Santa Fe. For too long, the special interests have run wild with the voice of taxpayers and those who pay the bills too often pushed to the side.”

What’s the rush on Albuquerque’s bus rapid transit system?

Tue, 2015-03-03 11:40

Now that the City of Albuquerque has successfully defended its construction of a river trail in the Bosque, it appears that Mayor Berry’s Administration is planning to begin construction on a far more ambitious and costly project. According to news reports, the City of Albuquerque is looking to begin construction of the $100 million bus rapid transit system down Central. This despite the fact that the City “hasn’t secured most of the estimated $100 million needed to building the project” according to the report. An astonishing 80% of that money is supposed to come from the federal government, but $20 million is no small potatoes and there are operating costs to be concerned with as well.

I attended an open house on this issue last summer, but have heard virtually nothing from City Council in terms of votes or allocations of funding.

And then there is this from Moody’s, the bond rating agency which came out earlier this month (Feb. 9, 2015):

Moody’s revised the negative outlook on its Aa1 rating of Albuquerque to stable in April 2014. We are skeptical that the city will retain its high-grade credit ratings over the intermediate term absent corrective action. Our greatest area of concern is the city’s pension liability. In its April report, Moody’s estimated Albuquerque’s adjusted net pension liability (ANPL) at USD 1.86bn, or 3.53x operating revenues, and noted that the average for the sector was below 1x.

Furthermore, according to Moody’s:

We expect Albuquerque’s unfunded pension liability to trigger more anxiety among credit analysts in the years ahead. In August 2014, Moody’s Analytics described the city as an economic “laggard” within New Mexico and in the west generally. Weak employment trends are the principal culprit. The government sector is a leading component of the economy (key employers include Sandia National Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, University of New Mexico and the US Forest Service) but is not growing measurably. Any further cutbacks in military spending could represent a downside risk.”

In other words, Albuquerque’s economy stinks and it is too reliant on Washington (tell me something I don’t know). The City needs to reform its pension system and improve the local economy or see its credit rating decline, thus driving up the cost of borrowing and further increasing taxes.

Instead of tackling these nasty problems, our City is contemplating spending $20 million or more on a new bus system that will have a dubious impact on overall mobility and could negatively impact (both temporarily and in the long-term) businesses along Central.

HT: Dave Bruner

Michigan’s Right to Work Success Story: Join RGF for a reception with Mackinac Center Labor Expert

Mon, 2015-03-02 17:13
Right-to-Work in Michigan:

How the Birthplace of the UAW Gave

Workers Freedom and Improved its Economy!

The Rio Grande Foundation is hosting a reception with Vincent Vernuccio of, Director of Labor Policy with the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy Research.

The reception will be held from 6:00 to 7:30pm on Monday, March 9th in a private room at Scalo Italian Grill.

Entrance to the reception is $15 per person which includes light appetizers and a cash bar. Scalo is located in Albuquerque at 3500 Central Avenue SE in Nob Hill.

Click here for registration form!

Reserve you spot now. Space is limited. Reservations can be made online for this exciting event.

The Mackinac Center is Michigan’s free market state think tank. Some 20 years before Michigan adopted a Right to Work law the Mackinac Center was plowing the way for such a law and researching what it might mean for Michigan to have such a law in place. Michigan adopted a Right to Work law in 2012.

The Mackinac Center’s research and publicity for the idea were considered both visionary and integral to the ultimate passage of Michigan’s Right to Work law.

Vernuccio has published articles and op-eds in such newspapers and magazines as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Investor’s Business Daily, The Washington Times, National Review, Forbes and The American Spectator. He has been cited in several books, and he is a frequent contributor on national television and radio shows, such as “Your World” with Neil Cavuto and Varney and Company.

Vernuccio is a sought-after voice on labor panels nationally and in Washington, D.C. A regular guest on Fox News channels, Vernuccio has been described by Stuart Varney as a “top union watchdog.”

He has advised senators and congressmen on a multitude of labor-related issues. He testified before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and Labor Policy.

Click here for registration form!

Trever cartoon gets NM Legislature dynamic

Mon, 2015-03-02 13:24

In case you missed the following cartoon from the Albuquerque Journal this weekend, it is worth a look:

For a more detailed understanding of how the Senate is holding up progress in New Mexico, check out our new website which tracks all bills that have passed the House and have not been acted upon in the Senate via Michael Sanchez Bill Kill.

Of course, I predicted this state of affairs prior to the legislative session.

It’s time to fix a flawed tax shift

Sun, 2015-03-01 13:08

This op-ed ran in The (Farmington) Daily Times on March 1, 2015. 

On January 1, 2005, food bought at New Mexico’s grocery stores was excluded from the gross receipts tax, or GRT. In exchange for the break, the GRT was hiked on all other purchases.

A decade later, it’s clear that the tax shift was a mistake.

With several proposals before the legislature to reinstate the GRT on food, it’s time for an honest examination of how and why the well-meaning exemption failed.

Many of the state’s liberal activists and organizations opposed ending the food tax. In 2003, New Mexico Voices for Children argued that the “very poorest people will not receive the benefits,” because most “use food stamps, which are not subject to gross receipts taxes.” (A staggering 21.5 percent of our citizens participate in the federal program.) In addition, many household essentials such as soap, paper products, and toothpaste remained taxable. Utility and motor-fuels taxes were not touched, either.

Centrist organizations, too, doubted the wisdom of the switch. The Association of Commerce and Industry of New Mexico warned of “administrative and compliance burdens for … retailers and the Taxation and Revenue Department.” And the New Mexico Tax Research Institute predicted that “exempting food from gross receipts tax will narrow (the) base and may lead to higher gross receipts tax rates on other goods and services in the future.”

In 2013, Dick Minzner, a former secretary of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, and Brian McDonald, a former director of UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, concluded that the effect of the food-tax exemption “has been the opposite of that intended.” Why? By providing “only limited benefit to the poorest … of our households, combined with a tax increase on all other purchases, (it) probably made our tax system more regressive by most measures.”

Since the GRT reorganization did not include any requirements to cut public expenditures, rates continued to rise. As mentioned, in 2005, the non-GRT rate at the state level rose to 5 percent. Five years later, it jumped to 5.125 percent. Two years ago, local governments were allowed to hike their GRTs, and many did. Others, facing a stagnant economy and soaring healthcare and education costs, soon will.

A regularly-rising GRT is particularly pernicious to economic development. As William F. Fulginiti, executive director of the New Mexico Municipal League, put it, “A higher rate on business-to-business purchases of supplies, raw materials and equipment at every stage of production — known as tax pyramiding — has resulted in exponential tax increases that have made New Mexico uncompetitive.”

The best antipoverty program is expanding employment, and the low-income families proponents of the food-tax exemption seek to boost aren’t aided by an economy that does not provide plentiful, good-paying, jobs. The legislature is considering several bills to cut the state GRT, in exchange for restoration of the food tax. For example, SB274, sponsored by State Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, would return the state’s GRT to 5 percent, while allowing local government to once again apply their GRTs to food. It’s a small, but important step toward widening the GRT, which is riddled with well over 300 exemptions.

Ultimately, New Mexico must adopt a thorough tax-reform package — one that lowers the overall burden, reduces complexity, and lightens compliance costs for consumers and businesses alike. Until then, measures to broaden the GRT’s base make sense. Taxing food is a good place to start.

D. Dowd Muska ( is research director of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

This Week on the Rio Grande Foundation Bi-Weekly “New Mexico Freedom Hour” Radio Show on 770 KKOB AM Radio!

Fri, 2015-02-27 15:09


This Week on the Rio Grande Foundation
Bi-Weekly “New Mexico Freedom Hour”
Radio Show on 770 KKOB AM Radio! This Saturday From Noon to 1:00PM!

The “New Mexico Freedom Hour” is presented by the Rio Grande Foundation. It next airs on Saturday, February 28, 2015 from noon to 1:00pm on 770 KKOB AM.

On this week’s show, Gessing will be interviewing Dennis Roch on the recent activities of the New Mexico House of Representatives. Roch is from Logan, NM and represents several counties in Eastern New Mexico.

Roch is the lead sponsor of HB 75, the Right to Work bill which passed the House 37-30.

Roch, an educator, has also proposed important reforms to teacher licensure as well as worker’s compensation and licensure of dental therapists during the 2015 legislative session.

Paul Gessing
Dennis Roch

Listeners are encouraged not only to tune in and listen, but to call in with questions: 505-243-3333. The show is also available streamed online at

Thanks for your interest and support.




New study makes case for state control of federal lands

Fri, 2015-02-27 13:51

The Property and Environment Research Center is a national and even international leader on applying free market principles to pressing environmental issues. With the growing controversy over federal land management issues throughout the American West, PERC took a closer look at the different ways in which federal and state lands are managed. Their new paper is called “Divided Lands.”

* The federal government loses money managing valuable natural resources on federal lands, while states generate significant financial returns from state trust lands.

* The states examined in this study earn an average of $14.51 for every dollar spent on state trust land management. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management generate only 73 cents in return for every dollar spent on federal land management.

* On average, states generate more revenue per dollar spent than the federal government on a variety of land management activities, including timber, grazing, minerals, and recreation management.

* These outcomes are the result of the different statutory, regulatory, and administrative frameworks that govern state and federal lands. States have a fiduciary responsibility to generate revenues from state trust lands, while federal land agencies face overlapping and conflicting regulations and often lack a clear mandate.

* If federal lands were transferred, states could likely earn much greater revenues than the federal government. However, transfer proponents must consider how land management would have to change in order to generate those revenues under state control.

Legislation has been introduced in the New Mexico Legislature to study federal lands management in New Mexico. The Rio Grande Foundation also has a paper available which details just how much better New Mexico could manage its federal lands than Washington from a financial perspective.

Should NM’s congressional delegation have a say on “right to work? (UPDATED)

Fri, 2015-02-27 12:12

As the “right to work” legislation continues to stir up debate and discussion, there has been input from members of Congress of both parties. The four liberal Democrats weighed in against it in a published opinion piece and Udall went so far as to decry “right to work” in an ill-advised and inappropriate speech to the entire Legislature.

Democrats were not the only ones weighing in, however. According to former Republican state senator and blogger Rod Adair, Republican Steve Pearce may or may not have had direct input in the recent vote on “right to work,” but to his credit (unlike his Democrat colleagues), he has not published op-eds on the issue.

Whatever one’s feelings are on “right to work,” I would like to see New Mexico’s Congressional delegation (or Congressmen and women in general) to stay out of the issue as best as possible and not weigh in strongly and publicly on what amounts to an exclusively state level issue over which they have no say. We elect the Governor and legislators to make decisions on issues like “right to work.” Congress is supposed to represent New Mexico’s interests (or the interests of their respective districts) in Washington, DC, not attempt to persuade New Mexicans of their views on state issues, no matter how strong those feelings may be.

Congress has enough to deal with in Washington (like reining in an imperial presidency and overreaching, unelected bureaucrats).

*UPDATE: A representative with Congressman Pearce’s office contacted us to clarify that Rep. Pearce did not weigh in with Republicans in the New Mexico House to influence floor votes on the “right to work” bill and this was confirmed by two Republican House members. Kudos to Pearce for his understanding the separation of federal and state powers.

Right to Work and Purchasing Power: Just the Facts Real-World Data Debunk ‘The Right to Work for Less’

Wed, 2015-02-25 18:02

(Albuquerque, NM) – New research by New Mexico’s free-market think tank finds that a dollar goes much further in right-to-work (RTW) states.

Legislators in Santa Fe are debating whether to adopt a RTW law for New Mexico. Opponents of the measure charge that residents of right-to-work states are poorer, and that if enacted in The Land of Enchantment, there will be “greater expenditures for subsidized food, housing and health care for newly hired workers who will never make a living wage.”

The Rio Grande Foundation’s research debunks such claims.

The issue brief “Purchasing Power and the Right to Work” finds that once adjusted for the the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s estimate of the cost of living, disposable income, per capita, is equal in the two types of states. Using an alternate calculation developed by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, income in RTW states is 8.5 percent higher.

Many ways that life’s basic necessities are costlier in non-RTW states, including:

  • The list price of a single-family home is 26.5 percent lower in RTW states.
  • Energy is more affordable in RTW states – for example, electricity is a whopping 27.7 percent cheaper.
  • Healthcare is more affordable in RTW states, as are eldercare expenses such as home-healthcare aides and assisted living.
  • RTW is associated with lighter local-and-state tax burdens and residents of non-RTW states labor more than 10 days longer to pay their annual local, state, and federal tax bill.

“These statistics show that union bosses’ favorite argument against RTW is hollow,” said Dowd Muska, research director with the Rio Grande Foundation and author of the new report. “When adjusted for purchasing power, RTW states are at least as wealthy as their compulsory-unionism competitors – and in all likelihood, wealthier.”

“Contrary to the allegations of Big Labor’s well-funded lobbyists and activists,” concluded Muska, “RTW is not a ticket to impoverishment. Life is good where unions must earn their members’ financial support. Little wonder why so many RTW states have strong economies and growing populations.”

Crunch time on Right to Work

Wed, 2015-02-25 12:03

Sen. Phil Griego is one of the key Senate votes on the issue of “right to work.” While I regularly appear on Harvey Twite’s radio show on KEDU FM in Ruidoso (Fridays from about 8:30 to 9am), I asked Harvey if I could come on this morning to discuss the impending vote in the House on “right to work” and what Sen. Griego and others in the Senate can do to make sure that “right to work” receives a fair hearing and a vote in that body. Listen to a podcast of the discussion here.

Sen. Griego wound up calling in and we had a good, direct discussion of the issue. Clearly, Griego is in a difficult position on the “right to work” bill. On one hand he knows that “right to work” is extremely popular (60%-26% according to the ABQ Journal) and 70%-19% according to polling commissioned by Rio Grande Foundation. On the other hand, Griego is understandably wary about standing up to the unions and Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.

Ultimately, Griego changed the subject from “right to work” to tax reform which RGF does indeed support, but which is nothing more than a diversion from “right to work” at this point in terms of the legislative process. I did discuss the issue w/ bill sponsor Bill Sharer on the New Mexico Freedom Hour recently.

One way or another, the next 48 hours will truly represent a turning point for New Mexico’s economy. Are we going to continue down the same path of relative economic unfreedom (check out the following economic freedom ranking map below from our friends at the John Locke Foundation):

And, is New Mexico, despite its beautiful weather and great offerings, going to continue to lose population as it and 5 other non-“right to work states” did in 2014?

Act now against Bernalillo County tax hike!

Tue, 2015-02-24 18:29

The Bernalillo County tax-and-spend crowd is at it again. Due to steadily-increasing opposition among citizens like you the Bernalillo County Commission has scheduled a special Meeting on Thursday March 26 at 9:00 am. The planned tax hikes could raise tax rates by 1/4 of a cent per dollar and cost taxpayers up to $42 million a year.

As seen in the chart below, the County’s spending has grown dramatically in recent years:

Even more troubling is the fact that County employee benefits are eating up much of the budget. As pointed out recently by Dan Herrera of the Albuquerque Journal, benefits cost county taxpayers about 40 percent above the basic payroll cost.

So, if an average county employee earned $40,000 in salary, he or she also would be paid about $16,000 in benefits. Or, a total compensation of roughly $56,000.

Considering that the typical cost of employee benefits in the U.S. private sector is about “18% to 26% more than a worker’s base salary, it would seem that Bernalillo County’s over-spending on employee benefits is a serious part of their budget problems.

If you can attend the special GRT increase meeting on Thursday and let Bernalillo Coounty Commissioners know how you feel about a tax increase, that would be ideal.

If you cannot attend the meeting, click on the link below to send an email to each Bernalillo County Commissioner or use this email address: Thanks to those of you who took time to send a message to your County Commissioners. Unfortunately, on a party line 3-2 vote, the Commission voted to raise taxes by 3/16ths of a cent per dollar.

RGF comments on license plate proliferation/legislation

Tue, 2015-02-24 12:53

The various issue-oriented license plates offered were discussed recently on KRQE Channel 13 and Rio Grande Foundation was asked to weigh in. In the grand scheme of things, there are many more wasteful government programs, but it is hard to see how New Mexico taxpayers come out ahead on the license plate deal. Full story below:

Recent KNME Discussion of Obama “Free” Community College Proposal

Mon, 2015-02-23 14:38

I recently sat down with Gwyneth Doland at KNME and CNM President Katharine Winograd to discuss the Obama Administration’s proposal for “free” community college. Needless to say, we are not big fans of Obama’s proposal. Even Winograd doesn’t seem to be fully-convinced that the program is the best use of taxpayer dollars.

And, while RGF opposes the Obama proposal, we do value the educational value of community colleges and emphasized their importance in a 2014 paper outlining needed reforms for New Mexico’s lottery scholarship program. Community colleges (like CNM) are one way to get more “bang” for lottery scholarship bucks.

The full interview is below with a “web extra” below that.

Viewpoint: our right-to-work math is not ‘kindergarten’

Fri, 2015-02-20 18:03

It pleases me to no end that a report published by my organization back in July of 2012 has recently become an object of such criticism and outrage among left-wing critics of “right to work.” It shows that our efforts to put “right to work” at the top of the Legislature’s policy agenda have paid off and that New Mexico may finally be on the verge of adopting some long-overdue reforms that will shake our economy out of its torpor.

Both the union-funded, Washington-based Economic Policy Institute and University of New Mexico sociology professor Tamara Kay made news recently by giving the report an “F-grade” and calling it “kindergarden math.”

To be clear, truly conclusive data are hard to come by in the social sciences. The statistical tool known as regression is useful and it was used in our 2012 report, but the ideal method would be to have two or more experiments running with New Mexico moving forward with or without a “right to work” law in place. After a given period of time you compare notes and draw conclusions. That is impossible in the real world so “proof” is elusive and debates (and name calling, apparently) continue.

But what impact do “right to work” laws have in the real world? For starters, Michigan adopted such a law in March 2013. From that time through November 2014, Michigan saw 4% payroll manufacturing job growth, beating an average of 2.8% in right-to-work states and 0.9% in non-right-to-work states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Indiana joined the right-to-work ranks in 2012, and from March 2012 to November 2014 factory payroll employment grew 9.4% compared to 1.2% average growth for states without right-to-work laws. Data are admittedly limited due to the relatively recent adoption of these laws, but so far the results are promising.

Data out of Oklahoma which shares a border with New Mexico and adopted “right to work” back in 2001 are even more promising. In the five years preceding adoption of “right to work” (1996-2000) per-capita personal income in Oklahoma lagged the region (save New Mexico) and the national average.

In the decade following adoption of “right to work,” (2001-2010) Oklahoma led the region with per-capita personal income growth of 36% and beat the national average growth rate of 28% handily.

This does not “prove” that Oklahoma’s “right to work” effort “caused” personal income rates to jump, but our critics such as Professor Kay and EPI claim that “right to work” results in “slower job growth, lower wages, and greater income inequality.” Shouldn’t they be asked to at least make a coherent argument of their own using real-world examples and data?

And to her point on inequality, according to the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 2012 report “Pulling Apart,” New Mexico faced the greatest income inequality between top and bottom during the late 2000s. I’d like to see our critics blame New Mexico’s, as of yet non-existent, “right to work” law for that one.

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

Original article available here.

New Bill Would End Policing for Profit in New Mexico

Fri, 2015-02-20 13:32
(Albuquerque, NM) – Today, Republican Representative Zachary J. Cook introduced a bill designed 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.

“Even in cases where a person has not been convicted, or even accused of a crime, the police can seize personal property and keep it for their own gain,” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “This practice should outrage any American who values the property rights guaranteed to them by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”

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.


The bill to end civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico is supported by an ideologically diverse range of organizations including the Rio Grande Foundation, the Institute for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance.

No one acquitted of a crime in criminal court should lose property through forfeiture in civil court. This legislation ensures New Mexico remains tough on crime. Guilty people will lose the fruits of their crime. Equally important, innocent people will keep the fruits of their labor.

- Lee U. McGrath, Legislative Counsel, Institute for Justice

Policing for profit is very much alive and well in New Mexico. In 2011, the ACLU of New Mexico took legal action after police seized thousands of dollars from a vacationing father and son, even though they were never even accused of a crime. Innocent people in New Mexico should never fear that law enforcement officers will strip them of their property without due process.

- Peter Simonson, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico

For decades civil asset forfeiture practices have robbed innocent people, taking money right out of their wallets—or even taking their home and their car—without even charging them with a crime. 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.

-       Emily Kaltenbach, State Director, Drug Policy Alliance


Profiling for Profit? Cops Take $17K From Father, Son (ABQ Journal)

VIDEO: “Police Profiling for Profit in New Mexico” – An interview with civil asset forfeiture victim Stephen Skinner (YouTube)

Institute for Justice report on Policing for Profit in New Mexico

In depth investigation into civil asset forfeiture (Washington Post)