Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings

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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
Updated: 32 min 22 sec ago

No Better Time to Kill the Fail Runner

Tue, 2016-04-05 13:35

Local governments in the Albuquerque region, like their counterparts in the state’s hinterlands, are facing mounting fiscal pressures. New Mexico’s “recovery” is one of the worst in the nation, while the costs of welfare, public-employee compensation, and subsidized healthcare remain on autopilot.

In metro Albuquerque, shortfalls are exacerbated by the cruel reality of the Rail Runner’s ravenous appetite for revenue. Yes, ten years after it launched — the formal anniversary is in July — the nation’s most disastrous commuter-rail line is still around.

Here’s the projected revenue breakdown for fiscal 2017, courtesy the Mid-Region Council of Governments:

As for “demand,” the Rail Runner continues to attract fewer and fewer “customers,” with ridership dropping by 12.7 percent between 2010 and 2014:

Killing the Rail Runner won’t free taxpayers from the debt the state incurred to cover infrastructure costs. Bondholders must be paid, no matter what, and astronomical balloon payments are due in the 2020s. But shutting the boondoggle down will save the $15.4 million in operating subsidies provided by gross-receipts taxes. And selling the rolling stock and other assets to anyone willing to make an offer will at least recoup some of taxpayers’ “investment.”

There’s no time like the present to admit that the Rail Runner has been a disaster. It should be euthanized, immediately.

Is Consultant Inflating Economic Impact of NM Tourism?

Tue, 2016-04-05 11:19

A new report from our friends at the Michigan-based Mackinac Center raises some interesting questions about the numbers being provided by a consultant “Longwoods International” that provides reports to various states, including New Mexico, on the impact of tourism on the economy.

As the Mackinac report notes, “These reports have a stunning lack of transparency that makes the uses to which they are put inappropriate and even patronizing to legislators and the people they represent…Longwoods generated a report that claimed the “Pure Michigan” advertising campaign has increased state tax collections by $6.87 for every $1 spent, for a 587 percent return on investment. The Legislature agreed to spend $33 million on the ads this year.

Such claims should come with a high burden of proof, yet the company refuses to disclose the calculations behind this extraordinary claim.”

When it comes to New Mexico, Longwoods International “touts a 2012 headline from the Albuquerque Business News article out of New Mexico: ‘Tourism Department Cites Success as Reason to Double Budget.’ One of Longwoods’ reports, the article says, claims that a $1.2 million campaign called ‘New Mexico True’ generated $3 for every $1 spent.”

“In 2015 – Longwoods reported on the ‘New Mexico True’ campaign’s performance from September 2013 through April 2015. The company claimed that the $2.5 million ad campaign generated $7 for every $1 spent. (The 2015 report was a follow-on to the 2012 report mentioned above.)”

New Mexico is not alone. Every state tourism program the company has studied in recent years found very positive results. But this is the way economic development consultants tend to work as we saw a few years ago with Ernst & Young’s inflated findings relating to New Mexico’s film subsidies.

In an article called “Economic Impact Studies: Instruments for Political Shenanigans?,” tourism scholar John L. Crompton writes:

Ostensibly, the people hired to conduct economic impact studies appear to be both expert and neutral. However, “they are in truth the exact equivalent of an expert witness in a lawsuit who comes to testify in support of the side that is paying the expert’s bill. An expert whose testimony harms his employer’s case doesn’t get much repeat business”

In other words, when it comes to providing a better understanding of New Mexico’s economy and transparency in terms of economic incentives, one cannot rely on businesses that are trying to win repeat business by pleasing their customers.

Marching Forward to a RTW Future

Mon, 2016-04-04 15:28

The 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 March, of 16,740 projected jobs, 14,475 — 86.5 percent — were slated for right-to-work (RTW) states:

Eighteen domestic companies based in non-RTW states announced investments in RTW states. Just one announcement went the other way.

RTW prevailed in foreign direct investment, too. Fifteen projects are headed to RTW states, with zero to occur in non-RTW states.

Marquee RTW wins included a “global operations center” for California-based PayPal in North Carolina (400 jobs), the decision by Orbital ATK to expand its factory that builds “cutting-edge satellites for a variety of customers both domestic and international” in Arizona (155 jobs), and Amazon’s choice of Kansas for a “state-of-the-art fulfillment center” (1,000 jobs).

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 from additional sources.

* 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.

What’s the latest on ObamaCare: Medicaid Woes/Poor Performance/Infringing on Religious Freedom

Mon, 2016-04-04 11:10
 There is still plenty going on relating to the health care law known as ObamaCare. Of course New Mexicans are dealing with the budgetary implications of Medicaid expansion under the law.  Expansion of Medicaid, by the way, “had no statistically significant effect on several measures of physical health” in the gold-standard study of the issue. And, while Obama is touting his law’s “success,” the reality as detailed in Forbes is that the law is performing poorly: Obamacare is not only failing to cover 9 million Americans who were promised coverage, but those who are getting coverage now cost 18% more than had been expected just 12 months ago. But if those being covered are sicker, then it is pretty clear that insurers will have to raise premiums to  cover this higher cost, which in turn is going to discourage at least some current enrollees from sticking with Obamacare in the future.  But those most likely to drop coverage will be those in the best health, so with each passing year, we can expect this tilt towards an unhealthy population to simply get amplified. Lastly, the Little Sisters of the Poor were recently before the US Supreme Court. The absurd nature of ObamaCare is illustrated in the cartoon below, but this article details their religious liberty case and why there is cause for optimism.  More information including links to to view and share the following cartoon/chart is available from the Becket Fund.

Two new Studies Buttress Pro-Right to Work Arguments

Fri, 2016-04-01 16:10

“Right to Work for less.” That’s the mantra of labor unions and their supporters who wish to continue forcing workers to pay union dues even if they want nothing to do with the union.

Fortunately, according to recent research from James Sherk at the Heritage Foundation, using sophisticated data analysis, we know that “‘Right to Work’ laws are associated with 0.5 percent higher private-sector wages, a result that is not statistically significant. Fully controlling for living costs and including everything that private-sector workers earn shows that RTW laws have little effect on their wages.”

Private sector workers are the ones we should care about because they reflect the health of the private sector economy. Government wages are politically-set and thus unrelated to overall economic health.

A second new report from the American Enterprise Institute examines another anti-RTW claim, that being that they increase economic inequality. According to the authors, “adoption of RTW laws in Louisiana, Idaho, Texas and Oklahoma – states that enacted their RTW laws between the 1960s and the 2000s – did not contribute to the worsening of their state’s income inequality. We use a wide range of inequality measures. Our results are consistent across all measures. The finding is also robust across different specifications and choice of the control groups.”

Lastly, check out the following “2016 Indicator of Labor Liberty” from Daily Signal.

It looks beyond “right to work”/forced-unionism to show nuance. Neighboring Colorado, for example, according to the report “has a bizarre, hybrid system where only some of the private sector is free.” In Wisconsin, however, “anyone who works for a police or fire department must help fund a union even if the employee is not a member of the union.” So, these laws are not completely “black and white” as the map below shows.

Watch Video of Sunshine Week Panel Discussion

Fri, 2016-04-01 09:33

I recently appeared on a panel discussion in Las Cruces to discuss the influence of “outside money” in local campaigns. Aside from myself, panelists included Sen. Joe Cervantes, Daniel Chand, PhD, Viki Harrison of Common Causes, and Las Cruces City Counselor Gill Sorg.

You can read my detailed comments on Sunshine Week itself and the appropriateness of the topic here. Video below:

The high cost of over-regulation — the problem is way bigger than UNM!

Thu, 2016-03-31 10:44

You know the regulatory state has gotten too big and lacking in common sense when the State’s flagship university complains about its regulatory burdens. I do applaud the Albuquerque Journal for covering the issue and UNM for being willing to speak out, but UNM has teams of attorneys and they are ultimately not trying to make a profit, nor are they spending their own money. Imagine what small businesses must deal with when it comes to regulations.

Our friends at the American Action Forum track regulations pretty closely and have put together the following map illustrating how the federal government’s regulatory burden increased during just the Obama Administration (from 2009-2015). Federal regulations increased by $998 for each and every New Mexican over that time frame.

And then there are state regulations. Unfortunately (as the chart below from the Mercatus Center shows), but not surprisingly, New Mexico performs rather poorly in terms of the regulations it imposes on businesses and individuals. Thankfully, a few years ago the Rio Grande Foundation put together some specific ideas for regulatory reform at the state level:

Wait a Second — We Are the Worst!

Wed, 2016-03-30 12:15

Yesterday’s post about 2015 personal-income growth in New Mexico noted that the Land of Enchantment posted the second-worst result in our region, and fell below the national figure.

But unpacking the data, as the Albuquerque Free Press did, exposes an even scarier reality: Nearly half of New Mexico’s income growth came from government programs.

The Free Press didn’t examine our neighbors, so the Foundation took a look. Predictably, New Mexico’s income from “transfer receipts” landed at the top, and was more than double the share for the nation as a whole.

The governor’s profoundly unwise expansion of Medicaid surely played a role in this disturbing finding. And a judge’s recent ruling that that work/training/volunteer requirements cannot be imposed on able-bodied recipients of food stamps won’t help things in 2016.

Question for our friends on the left: Still think “public investment” is the source of prosperity?

Income Growth: Not the Worst, But Close

Tue, 2016-03-29 17:53

Last week the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released data on state personal income — “the sum of net earnings by place of residence, property income, and personal current transfer receipts” — in 2015.

For the U.S. as a whole, personal income grew 4.4 percent between 2014 and 2015. Not surprisingly, New Mexico, at 3.7 percent, lagged the national figure. Looking at our region, four of the Land of Enchantment’s five neighbors fared better. Only Oklahoma, at 2.3 percent, performed worse.

With budget deficits inducing calls for tax hikes at the state and local levels, incomes are under the gun, again, in New Mexico. Stay vigilant!

University of Cincinnati: Fracking safe, study won’t be released because results are not “scary”

Tue, 2016-03-29 09:23

The University of Cincinnati Department of Geology recently completed a three-year study of fracking. The results further buttress the pro-fracking view that it is a safe process. But the political wrangling over the study show “anti-fracking” forces, including those in government, aren’t nearly as interested in science as they’d like us to believe.

First, the conclusions: as the lead researcher, Dr. Amy Townsend-Small noted, “We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking.” More details on the study and its findings can be seen in this video.

That was apparently not the right answer for the University or some of the study’s funders because when asked if the University planned to publicize the results, Dr. Amy Townsend-Small, said there were no plans to do so.

I am really sad to say this, but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping this data could to a reason to ban it,” she said. Those funders include state funding in the form of an $85,714 grant from the Ohio Board or Regents and federal funding from the national Science Foundation.

Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marrietta, whose district includes the area studied in the report said, “It is unacceptable that taxpayers have funded this important groundwater study and the findings are being kept from the public.”



Higher Taxes — Yeah, That’s the Ticket!

Mon, 2016-03-28 13:37

Does Winthrop Quigley ever get tired of being wrong?

On Sunday, the Albuquerque Journal columnist explored the state’s worsening fiscal picture, and pondered if it was “time to ask if some tax increases are in order.

Quigley claims that the “Legislature hasn’t been exactly profligate,” citing the fact that it “appropriated only a half-percent more to run the state this fiscal year than it did last year, well under the rate of inflation.” Thus, the “problem is on the revenue side.”

Clever trick. But looking at a single year is inadequate, if not bizarre. A perspective far broader than Quigley’s facile comparison is needed. Fortunately, the Foundation has the data.

The state has spent the 21st century growing its expenditures as if the Great Recession — and the last few years of falling population in the Land of Enchantment — didn’t happen. Between 2002 and 2014, New Mexico’s spending, per capita and adjusted for inflation, rose by 17.1 percent, from $7,021 to $8,219:

These are all-in figures, as disclosed by the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports — not the dishonest “general fund” sum reflexively referred to by clueless politicians and lazy reporters. The expenditures include prisons, roads, schools, debt service, “economic development,” and quasi-government entities.

Quigley couldn’t be bothered to the research, but it’s clear that state government is stubbornly resistant to spending restraint. Faddish (and failed) education expenditures, disastrous corporate-welfare schemes, a refusal to bring employee compensation in line with that of the private sector — again and again, governors and lawmakers have preferred fiscal irresponsibility to limited, affordable government. The bill for such recklessness is now coming due. So look for Quigley and his ideological allies to keep pushing for higher taxes in the Land of Enchantment. But hey, the state with arguably the worst economy in the nation can handle it, right?

New Mexico’s latest shot of corporate welfare

Mon, 2016-03-28 11:11

Yes, the term is a harsh one, but RGF has long been a critic of New Mexico’s LEDA program. And, how else do you describe giving $325,000 in LEDA funding (on top of another $100,000 in waived fees and other incentives from the City of Santa Fe) to a distillery to expand its operations, thus hiring 14 new employees.

New Mexico obviously needs the jobs, but it will take up to 10 years for the 14 employees (expected to make $45-$50K annually) to pay enough income taxes to the State to pay back the LEDA money alone. These subsidies are an awfully-expensive way to generate a few jobs. Rather than hitching its star to a particular company, New Mexico’s economic policies should be focused on reducing taxes and regulations that hinder the creation of jobs organically throughout our economy.

Just in the area of alcohol, this could include addressing the outrageous price of liquor licenses, reducing high taxes on spirits and beer (although this rate has been lowered for micro-breweries thus spurring a boom in that niche), and reducing onerous regulations and criminal penalties placed upon New Mexico wait-staff and servers when it comes to alcohol.

Unfortunately, New Mexico remains dedicated to taxing and regulating some to the point of being unable to operate while generously subsidizing others.

Las Cruces Sunshine Week Panel Recap

Fri, 2016-03-25 12:00

As noted in a recent article, I recently traveled to Las Cruces to discuss campaign finance issues as part of a “Sunshine Week” panel. See a brief recap from Walt Rubel of the Sun-News.

I knew going in that I would be in the minority in terms of my perspective supporting free speech, but I was pleased that Dr. Daniel Chand whose work includes studying non-profits, joined me in saying that the Citizens United decision was “correct.” Chand, no less “progressive” than the other panelists, also cited the ACLU’s support for the Supreme Court’s decision. I don’t think Senator Tom Udall much cares about this, however.

This position was at odds with the other panelists and a vast majority of the 100 attendees (as polled at the beginning of the evening). Hopefully, I made some inroads on this and other issues.

Obviously, it was a good turnout. Hopefully, next year we’ll discuss transparency government. I’m thinking the Legislature, the state budget, economic development incentives, the lottery scholarship program, or local government transparency might be good topics.

Behavioral-Health Reform or Political Theater?

Fri, 2016-03-25 11:55

This week’s “#NMspeaksCrisis Town Hall” could have provided a valuable exploration of the most promising ways to fix the Land of Enchantment’s behavioral-health system.

But it didn’t.

Sponsored by “Generation Justice,” which trains “teens to approach journalism and broadcasting from a social justice framework,” the event was held at the KiMo Theater in downtown Albuquerque. New Mexico PBS lent a hand, and a plethora of far-left organizations — e.g., the Southwest Organizing Project, New Mexico Voices for Children — were “partners and collaborators.”

The low point of the event was a recorded poem by Hakim Bellamy, the “inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque.” Rest assured, income inequality and “climate change” got mentions.

But the town hall’s main purpose was to bash the Martinez administration’s 2013 decision to suspend Medicaid payments to 15 behavioral-health providers it accused of overbilling errors, and possibly fraud. Time has not been kind to the move. Three years later, no one’s gone to jail, and as the Albuquerque Journal recently reported, “13 of the 15 providers shut down by the Human Services Department in 2013 — many of them since forced out of business — have been exonerated of fraud.”

But rather than focus on where to go from here, the “#NMspeaksCrisis Town Hall” went for political points. Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins was on hand, as was State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino and State Rep. Deborah Armstrong. All three are Democrats. Also appearing were staffers from the offices of U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham — again, all Democrats. Lujan Grisham herself appeared via a video message, and charged that the suspension of Medicaid payments was “the most egregious abuse of power I have seen in my decades of government service.” There was lots of love for the legislation being pushed by Democrats in the congressional delegation to “require consideration of the impact on beneficiary access to care and to enhance due process protections in procedures for suspending payments to Medicaid providers.” The Bernalillo County Commission’s 2015 vote to hike the county’s gross receipts to generate more revenue for behavioral health received thunderous applause.

The “#NMspeaksCrisis Town Hall” was a silly, politicized disgrace, and did a great disservice to the many New Mexicans who suffer from mental problems. Fortunately, some rationality and nonpartisanship is coming to behavioral health in New Mexico. The Rio Grande Foundation has launched an initiative to investigate ways to make the system more efficient and accountable. In the months to come, look for our research, analysis, and suggestions for reforms. We won’t be carrying water for professional politicians, and we won’t be advocating even higher taxes as a “solution.” There are promising policy options — some are making progress in Texas — and the Foundation looks forward to exploring how to tailor them to our state.

Sunshine Week focus must be on government transparency

Wed, 2016-03-23 09:40

Sunshine Week has technically come and gone, but in order to accommodate Spring Break at NMSU, this year’s celebration is being held this Wednesday, March 23rd, at 5:30 p.m. on the 3rd floor of the Zuhl Library.

Panelists include Senator Joseph Cervantes, City Councilor Gill Sorg, Viki Harrison from Common Cause, Dr. Daniel Chand from the NMSU Government Department, and myself. As is typically the case, I expect that my views and those of the Rio Grande Foundation will be in the minority, so I want to share them here and encourage people in Southern New Mexico to turn out for the event.Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. You will find few bigger supporters of government transparency than us at the Rio Grande Foundation. My organization has done significant work on the creation of New Mexico’s Sunshine Portal as well as requesting and posting public information from local governments and school districts online. Lastly, we’ve pushed for video recording of legislative floor proceedings and committee hearings.

Significant progress has been made in each of these areas. There is still plenty to be done to improve government transparency in New Mexico including, but not limited to: placing local public payrolls, vendor, and union contracts, and thorough economic analyses of tax and economic incentives, online.

Unfortunately, the topic of this year’s Sunshine Week panel revolves around “outside” money in local elections. Campaign finance reform and government transparency are two different and largely unrelated issues.

The discussion was spurred by GOAL WestPAC’s efforts in the Las Cruces municipal elections, which involved some tactics that generated controversy. Say what you will about GOAL, as a PAC, their donors’ information is public under the law. That’s how we know that much of the money spent in the campaign came from residents of Southern New Mexico who reside outside of Las Cruces.

So, let’s first dispense with the idea that this spending was somehow lacking in transparency. It was abundantly transparent. If that is not the issue, then what is? Ultimately it would seem that efforts will be undertaken to constrain political involvement based on geographic boundaries.

It would also seem that environmental groups, pro/anti abortion groups, and unions should all be able to engage in municipal legislative efforts and campaigns regardless of where they are headquartered or where their funders live.

Efforts to eliminate or constrain outside involvement in elections are futile and will ultimately prove to be unconstitutional. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, period. There is no geographical loophole. The left should stop attacking the First Amendment when it comes to political speech.

That’s not me speaking, that’s the head of the ACLU. In the wake of the controversial Citizens United opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court, Laura Murphy, director of the organization’s Washington, D.C. office, argued that “’Fixing’ Citizens United Will Break the Constitution.”

A constitutional amendment — specifically an amendment limiting the right to political speech — would fundamentally “break” the Constitution and endanger civil rights and civil liberties for generations. Murphy also noted that, “Individuals have always been allowed to spend their own money on political speech. Further, Citizens United has nothing to do with direct contributions to candidates, which are still totally verboten for corporations and unions and strictly limited for individuals.”

In other words, it is time to stop complaining about money in politics and to recognize that Americans who wish to engage in political speech are expressly protected by the Constitution to do so. If you want to counteract someone with whom you have a strong disagreement, the solution is more speech, not speech constraints or a curtailment of those speech rights.

And, while money is often touted as being the deciding factor in elections, the reality is that money can only get a candidate or issue so far. Jeb Bush easily won the PAC fundraising race and yet it didn’t get him anywhere near the presidency. Meg Whitman, Linda McMahon, and Steve Forbes are just a few of the many other candidates to have won the fundraising battle but to have lost the election.

Government should be transparent. PAC giving is transparent. Efforts to limit political giving based on geography are transparently unconstitutional.

Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, 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.

‘A Huge Economic-Development Advantage’

Tue, 2016-03-22 14:55

Think right-to-work laws don’t encourage investment? Ask Mobile Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Sisson, who told The Seattle Times last week that RTW status was “a huge economic-development advantage.”

The Times profiled Airbus’s factory in Alabama, where it is assembling A321s. According to Barry Eccleston, president of the firm’s U.S. operations: “We told all the people we recruited that we were planning to create an environment where employees have a direct relationship with management.”

Translation: Thanks but no thanks, International Association of Machinists.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, the attempt to make the state an “aviation hub” continues to fizzle. Between the third quarters of 2012 and 2015, employment in the sector actually dropped (average of the three months in each quarter):

With few exceptions, it’s only dead-enders in “organized labor” and taxpayer-funded “higher education” who deny the value of RTW as an economic-development tool. Right to work is no panacea for New Mexico’s many economic woes, but it’s a strong step in the right direction. Ask Airbus.

A Dubious Bet on College and Economic Development

Mon, 2016-03-21 13:08

This op-ed ran in The Santa Fe New Mexican on March 20th.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of New Mexico’s Legislative Lottery Scholarship Program.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to celebrate.

A well-intentioned attempt to boost access to higher learning in the Land of Enchantment, the program was crafted by a Democratic legislature and Republican governor. But it suffers from a serious, if seldom-discussed, flaw.

Lottery scholarships certainly don’t have a popularity problem. A report by the New Mexico Higher Education Department found that between 2000 and 2014, the number of program recipients doubled. Expenditures, of course, ballooned as well, rising to $66.8 million in the 2014 fiscal year.

By law, the New Mexico Lottery Authority is required to set aside 30 percent of monthly gross revenue for scholarships. But solvency has been an issue for years — in 2014, gamblers supplied just 61 percent of the program’s funding. A slumping economy and a decline in “scratcher” sales sent legislators and the authority scrambling for cost savings and new monies. Eligibility was tightened, and the number of semesters covered for a four-year degree fell from eight to seven. Tobacco-settlement revenue has been transferred to the tuition fund, and special appropriations have been made. In 2014, legislators began to divert a portion of the revenue stream from New Mexico’s excise tax on liquor. In the just-completed session, lawmakers required the lottery authority to devote unclaimed-prize cash to scholarships. (Governor Martinez vetoed the bill.)

A program that once relied on the voluntary contributions of gamblers — no one is forced to play the lottery — is now grabbing dollars any way it can. Lottery scholarships have been allowed to proceed on this unsustainable path because no state-subsidization policy enjoys greater bipartisan support. The bill to use forfeited-prized revenue passed the Senate 35-4 and House of Representatives 66-0. Praise from the program’s administrators is effusive. Bob Frank, the president of the University of New Mexico, called lottery scholarships “critical to helping New Mexico students graduate so they can contribute to our state’s knowledge-based economy.” Dan Salzwedel, chairman of the lottery authority’s board, concurs: “Helping young people acquire more knowledge and greater employment opportunities through a college education enriches all of us.”

Nice rhetoric. Here are the facts. New Mexico has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation — and joblessnesses is typically lowest for the college-educated. The Land of Enchantment is stubbornly hostile to real economic-development policies, such as a right-to-work law, tax simplification/relief, and deregulation. With few jobs available, it’s hardly surprising that the Millennial generation sees no future for itself in the Land of Enchantment.

“New data from The University of New Mexico,” The New Mexican reported last year, “shows for the first time that the largest percentage of those leaving the state are educated professionals with a bachelor’s degree.” The paper’s Bruce Krasnow made the inconvenient observation that many Millennials “have gone to a state university tuition-free with a lottery scholarship and then left the state as they saw more opportunity elsewhere.”

How many? We don’t know. In an email interview, Harrison Rommel, the Higher Education Department’s Financial Aid Director, wrote that his agency “has not done any long-term longitudinal studies regarding retention in New Mexico after graduation. This would require data agreements with the Department of Workforce Solutions and/or other agencies, and we are not capable of performing that type of analysis at this time.”

One would think that after 20 years, the lottery scholarship’s overseers would have requested, and funded, a look at “retention in New Mexico after graduation.” Apparently, pleasing voters and rewarding higher-education personnel matter more than performing a cost-benefit review of a subsidy that spends tens of millions of dollars annually.

Sending more of New Mexico’s high-school graduates off to college, while providing insufficient employment opportunities for them after graduation, is profoundly unwise policy. It’s time to provide taxpayers an independent, honest evaluation of the lottery-scholarship program.

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.

RGF President Paul Gessing to Talk Transparency at “Sunshine Week” Event in Las Cruces

Mon, 2016-03-21 08:29

Okay, technically Sunshine Week was last week, but it was also Spring Break at NMSU. So, 2016’s Sunshine Week celebration will be held this Wednesday, March 23rd at 5:30 p.m. at Zuhl Library on the New Mexico State University Campus. Aside from Gessing, panelists will include: Sen. Joseph Cervantes, Daniel Chand of the NMSU Government Department, Viki Harrison of Common Cause and City Councilor Gill Sorg.

The primary topic of discussion will be the influence of “outside groups” in the 2015 Las Cruces municipal election. There are some in Las Cruces who would like to see local election laws changed to prohibit “outsiders” from engaging in Las Cruces area municipal elections. I’m not sure how this topic is even tangentially related to shining light on GOVERNMENT, but it is the topic and you can bet that the Rio Grande Foundation will defend the 1st Amendment right of individuals to engage in the political process no matter where they reside.

You can also bet that this will (sadly) be a minority position on the panel.

The event is free and open to the public.

New Mexico/Albuquerque Latest Economic Data

Fri, 2016-03-18 13:11

The latest unemployment rate data are out and there is some good news. New Mexico’s rate in January of 2016 dropped to 6.5%, that’s down from 6.8% just in November.

New Mexico’s rate is now 48th-best in the nation beating out Alaska and Mississippi. Sadly, our rate is more than double the rate of neighboring Colorado. Ouch!

In terms of the Albuquerque economy, which is likely to outperform the New Mexico economy as a whole due to its relative insulation from oil and gas prices, the Albuquerque Biz First economic dashboard can be viewed below. Remember, this index is based on previous highs, so in the case of the drop in flights in and out of the Sunport, we are at 71% of where we were more than a decade ago. Obviously, New Mexico’s economy remains anything but healthy with the full impact of lower energy prices still to be fully felt.

We’re No. 3! We’re No. 3!

Fri, 2016-03-18 13:00

Economic-development crisis solved? Maybe that’s what New Mexico’s politicians and bureaucrats are thinking, with the state losing its worst-in-the-nation unemployment rate. Joblessness is now worse in both Alaska and Mississippi.

But as the Foundation has argued many times, unemployment is just one way of gauging a state’s economic health. The Pew Research Center recently updated its analysis of the employment-to-population ratio, “which measures the share of people in their prime working years who have jobs.”

Between 2007 and 2015, New Mexico’s unemployment-to-population ratio plunged from 79.1 percent to 71.9 percent. The Land of Enchantment’s drop was, by far, the largest in the nation.

As even the Albuquerque Journal‘s Winthrop Quigley admitted this week, “the state lost 1,800 jobs in the 12 months that ended in January.” Viewed from the broadest perspective, New Mexico continues to be the most employment-challenged state. Aggressive, immediate implementation of proven economic-development strategies remains as imperative as ever. Is anyone in Santa Fe listening?