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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
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Television interview: 2015 New Mexico Legislature special session recap

Fri, 2015-07-10 15:25

Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing recently sat down with KNAT TV to discuss the results of the 2015 special legislative session and its passage of a capital outlay bill and a small tax cut package.

New Mexico’s Fiscal Fitness: Not Impressive

Fri, 2015-07-10 11:43

“Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition,” just issued by George Mason University’s Meractus Center, offers a valuable survey of revenue and expenditures in New Mexico. As one might expect, the news isn’t pretty. The state isn’t in the company of such perennial deadbeats as New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Author Eileen Norcross analyzed five “dimensions of solvency” in order to determine overall fiscal condition:

* Cash solvency looks at whether a state can “pay bills that are due over a 30-to-60-day horizon.” New Mexico fares well in this category, ranking 19th.

* Budget solvency examines “whether the state can meet its fiscal year obligations.” The Land of Enchantment performs quite poorly here, landing in 46th place.

* Long-run solvency is determined by three metrics: net asset ratio, long-term liability ratio, and long-term liabilities per capita. New Mexico achieves it best score in this category: 14th.

* Service-level solvency “attempts to capture how much ‘fiscal slack’ states have by measuring the size of taxes, expenses, and revenues relative to state personal income.” The results for New Mexico are abysmal — only two states fare worse.

* Trust fund solvency is an estimate of “total indebtedness in the form of bonded debt, risk-adjusted pension liabilities, and [other post-employment benefits]. Ditto here, with a downright scary rank of 48th.

Overall, New Mexico ranks 36th in fiscal condition. Not surprisingly, each of our neighbors posted a superior score: Arizona (32nd), Colorado (22nd), Texas (19th), Utah (11th), and Oklahoma (9th).

In June, RTW Scores Another Victory

Wed, 2015-07-08 18:05

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 18,316 projected jobs, 13,275 — 72.5 percent — were slated for right-to-work (RTW) states:

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

There were three domestic relocations from compulsory-union to RTW states. Zero RTW-to-non-RTW moves.

It was another big month for foreign direct investment. Here again, the disparity was wide. Twenty-eight investments were made in RTW states, but only nine in non-RTW states.

Marquee RTW wins included Sealed Air’s relocation from New Jersey to Georgia (1,200 jobs), a big expansion for Switzerland-based UBS in Tennessee, and California-based Google’s decision to build a data center in Alabama.

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.

Sandoval Co. Treasurer using taxpayer dollars for office trinkets, pamphlets

Wed, 2015-07-08 10:43

Public officials should use taxpayer dollars for the benefit of the citizens they serve, not for self-aggrandizement. I spoke to Chris Ramirez at Channel 4, KOB TV on what certainly seem to be some issues in the Sandoval County Treasurer’s office.

Further thoughts on “free trade” and the recent debate over “Trade Promotion Authority”

Tue, 2015-07-07 16:49

I recently wrote this article in which I made the case for free trade (broadly-speaking) as well as the export of crude oil and liquefied natural gas. The case for crude exports is relatively simple and I should have mentioned that New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce has been an outspoken advocate for ending the decades’-old ban on exporting American crude. President Obama could, with the use of his pen, end the ban on crude exports.

The recent votes on behalf of “Trade Promotion Authority” was quite a bit more nuanced. As I noted, Congressman Pearce voted against it, but that does not make him hostile to free trade. Rather, Pearce and 53 of the most conservative Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the bill which passed the House narrowly. Final vote here. The split was significant among conservative policy organizations with Americans for Tax Reform and National Taxpayers Union supporting TPA and the respected Heritage Foundation and some “Tea Party” groups opposed giving President Obama such negotiating authority.

Trade Promotion Authority is a tool that Congress has granted presidents dating back to 1975 for the purpose of negotiating trade agreements with Congress having an “up or down” vote on the issue (as opposed to individual members of Congress “negotiating” the agreement by tacking special interest provisions onto each agreement, thus killing them. Of course, the Obama Administration has been less-than forthcoming about a wide variety of uses of executive power and conservative opponents of TPA including Pearce expressed concern over Obama’s “near reckless disregard for the rule of law.”

So, to be clear, Congressman Pearce had a significant portion of the conservative community with him in opposing TPA. It is a close call. We at the Rio Grande Foundation certainly appreciate the fact that conservatives don’t have a lot of faith in President Obama negotiating an agreement that benefits American businesses and consumers, especially when he has sat on the crude export issue for so long. We applaud Congressman Pearce for his principled stand regardless.

Fearing Another BRAC Attack

Tue, 2015-07-07 13:28

New Mexico’s heavy — and unsustainable — reliance on federal largesse was well illustrated by Curry County Commissioner Tim Ashley’s recent trip to D.C. for “At a Crossroads: The Future of Defense Communities and Installations.”

The three-day conference was sponsored by the Association of Defense Communities, a taxpayer-subsidized organization that “unites the diverse interests of communities, state governments, the private sector and the military on issues of base closure and realignment, community-military partnerships, defense real estate, mission growth, mission sustainment, military privatization, military families/veteran support and base redevelopment.”

Before leaving for Washington, Ashley told the Clovis News Journal that the association was “instrumental” in helping Cannon Air Force Base escape the last round of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The Pentagon wants another dose of BRAC, but eternally vigilant about preserving their fiefdoms, politicians in the Senate and House of Representatives have been able to block the proposal.

As government expenses go, Ashley’s trip wasn’t large. It cost taxpayers $2,673.03 in total, including $1,127 for airfare and $1,325.91 for three nights of lodging. But it did reveal that a reflexive desire to preserve — if not expand — federal facilities continues to infect New Mexico’s elected officials.

Fighting the military’s desire to unload surplus and/or duplicative installations is useful for securing votes and boosting the image of economic-development bureaucracies. But it’s a disappointing distraction from the need to pursue policies that foster a vibrant, growing private sector in the Land of Enchantment.

More Gloom for the Boondoggle-in-the-Desert

Mon, 2015-07-06 16:03

If it weren’t for bad news, Spaceport America wouldn’t have any news at all.

June brought a number of dismal developments for the taxpayer-funded facility:

1) A KRQE report found that New Mexico’s boondoggle-in-the-desert has “a serious competitor chomping at [its] heels from a private spaceport in far West Texas.” After years of secrecy, Jeff Bezos, the Amazon billionaire, is promoting “his personal rocket company, Blue Origin.”

2) Alabama’s governor announced “a series of preliminary studies to assess the feasibility of landing Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft at Huntsville International Airport.”

3) Houston Spaceport earned licensing approval from the FAA, and the city’s airport bureaucracy “now turns its attention toward securing partnership opportunities with leading companies operating within the aerospace industry.”

4) Diana Alba Soular of the Las Cruces Sun-News reported that the yet-to-be-completed southern road to Spaceport America “will be delayed because surveying work … didn’t align with the corridor studied in a key environmental review.”

Isn’t it time for New Mexico’s politicians to admit that Spaceport America is a failure, and hire a liquidator to get taxpayers back some of their “investment”?

Americans Are Moving — Just Not to New Mexico

Thu, 2015-07-02 10:41

Last week the Pew Research Center’s “Stateline” website noted some good news for U-Haul: “Americans are picking up and moving again as the recession fades, personal finances improve and housing markets recover. Counties in Nevada, Arizona, eastern California and Tennessee also saw some of the nation’s biggest growth in movers last year.”

We already knew that New Mexico was one of only six states to lose population between 2013 and 2014. But Pew’s granular analysis reveals the extent of the problem. Twenty-four of the state’s 33 counties lost population. Doña Ana County neither gained nor lost residents, so just eight counties saw positive migration. Growth in Bernalillo County, where about a third of New Mexicans live, was a dismal 0.1 percent.

Of Groceries, Ray Guns, and the Gross Receipts Tax

Wed, 2015-07-01 13:21

Happy New Fiscal Year. Ready for higher taxes?

Starting July 1, furniture, haircuts, toys, shoes, lawn care, and milkshakes will be more expensive for most New Mexicans. The gross receipts tax (GRT), the dominant source of local-government revenue, will rise in many communities, including Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Las Cruces, Roswell, Las Vegas, Deming, and Silver City.

In Santa Fe, the rate is slated to increase from 8.1875 percent to 8.3125 percent. But not if the city has its way. A few weeks ago, the City Different filed a taxpayer-friendly lawsuit to block the GRT hike the county adopted in March. Citing state statutes, Santa Fe — as well as Española and several local businesses — allege that “within the boundaries” of incorporated Santa Fe County municipalities, the tax should not apply.

It’s up to the courts to decide the validity of the lawsuit. What’s not in dispute is that the the city-county faceoff would not exist were it not for governors’ and legislators’ never-ending tinkering with the GRT. When Santa Fe’s commissioners adopted the one-eight-of-a-cent tax increase three months ago, it was justified as a way to raise money to compensate for funds the state would no longer provide. The soon-to-be-ended subsidy was created to ease the fiscal pain of the 2005 removal of groceries from the GRT.

A bit confused? It’s understandable. The GRT is less a revenue-raising system than a political plaything, a mechanism for elected officials to perpetually penalize and reward behaviors, purchases, and investments in the Land of Enchantment. Boosting jobs, growing incomes, luring entrepreneurs, providing tax relief for the poor — it’s all achievable, we’re told, if visionary politicians make the proper adjustments to GRT rates, deductions, and exemptions.

Every New Mexican buys groceries, but very few of us acquire ray guns. The Pentagon does, and with growing interest in directed-energy weapons, the recently completed special legislative session produced a GRT deduction for receipts earned from producing armaments that use “the frequency spectrum, including radio waves, light and x-rays.” The perk will benefit defense contractors, and presumably, “attract new projects and employers to New Mexico and increase high-technology employment opportunities” — boilerplate language for the economic-development schemes frequently embraced by both political parties in New Mexico.

Directed-energy devices might be the future of defense. But perhaps they’ll prove to be of limited value to warfighters. Are state legislators qualified to make the right call? If history is any guide, the answer is no. Unintended consequences are inevitable when politicians fiddle with the tax code.

That brings us back to the GRT and groceries. 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,” because “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.”

The rates for New Mexico’s GRT are far too high. And the levy’s broadness induces pyramiding, which legislative analysts noted “occurs when the GRT is applied to business-to-business purchases of supplies, raw materials, equipment, creating an extra layer of taxation at each stage of production.” But as a policy brief written by the left-wing organization New Mexico Voices for Children advised more than a decade ago, “Piecemeal tax policy doesn’t work because tax systems are more than the sum of their parts.” Exactly. The GRT has been meddled with enough. It’s time for a simpler, more affordable, and pro-growth gross receipts tax.

D. Dowd Muska (dmuska@riograndefoundation.org) 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.

Freer trade would be good for New Mexico’s economy, oil and gas industries

Mon, 2015-06-29 16:15

No matter what one thinks about recent battles over Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans Pacific Partnership, freer trade would be good for New Mexico’s main private sector industry (oil and gas). In this case, as I argue below, freer trade would impact the industries from different angles.

When it comes to New Mexico’s economy, there are no bigger players than the oil and gas industries which, combined, contribute 31 percent of the general fund. Natural gas prices remain at historically-depressed levels. Since spiking during the winter of 2014 when the East Coast of the United States saw a series of cold snaps, the Henry Hub price has been on a steady decline. Throughout 2015, prices have been below the historically-low $3/mmbtu line.

Oil prices on the other hand, were elevated until July of 2014 when prices began a steep slide from $100/barrel to less than half that price by January of 2015.

Unfortunately for the industry and contrary to the beliefs of many Americans (at least when prices are elevated), oil and gas producers have little control over the price point at which they sell their product. Collectively, the oil and gas industries can (and have) cut production, but this is a painful and unappetizing process.

The best solution for the oil and gas industries (and New Mexico’s economy) is the opening of new markets for these products through freer trade. Expanded trade could add stability and economic health to the oil and gas industries in New Mexico.

The best long-term opportunity for natural gas producers involves a trade agreement with eleven other countries with ties to the Pacific Rim: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Interestingly, given what the TPP could mean for New Mexico’s economy, especially natural gas producers, New Mexico’s Congressional delegation did not support trade promotion authority (TPA) which allows presidents to negotiate an agreement with an up-or-down vote in Congress on approval. After being rejected once by the House, was narrowly approved. This approval came despite the fact that Republican Steve Pearce joined New Mexico’s liberal Democrats in the House in voting “no.”

TPP could have a significant, positive impact on American natural gas producers. Japan, for example, which is party to the TPP, is a huge potential market for producers. Natural gas prices are triple or more those in the United States.

“The TPP,” as the Sierra Club which is hostile to exporting liquefied natural gas notes, “would mean automatic approval of LNG export permits—without any review or analysis—to TPP countries. And many TPP countries would likely be quite interested in importing LNG from the United States…”

There are some philosophical arguments to be made even by staunch free market advocates against regional trade agreements, but when it comes to the long-term future of New Mexico’s natural gas producers, there are few better opportunities on the horizon than Japan. TPP is the best near-term entrée into that market.

New Mexico’s oil producers could gain access to lucrative new markets with nothing more than a stroke of President Obama’s pen.

As American oil production has skyrocketed in recent years, the prohibition on US exports of crude oil adopted in 1975 has become an anachronism. While the US oil market is complex, the new, “tight” oil being produced is lighter and sweeter [3] than what has previously been refined in American refineries. Those refiners now can’t find enough refiners to process it. Exports would allow the appropriate oil to reach the international market where it could be processed and sold.

According to the group Producers for American Crude Exports (PACE), allowing oil exports would generate nearly 1,000 new industry jobs in New Mexico by 2018 adding an additional $46 million annually to the State’s economy. Of course, while New Mexico is a significant oil producer, the US as a whole could see many times that amount in terms of economic benefits.

The arguments against exporting crude simply do not hold up under scrutiny. Even radical environmentalists should desire that scarce oil resources be put to their most efficient use. And, because of the disconnect between the grades of oil that are refined in the US relative to what is now being produced, the impact on American motorists in terms of higher prices would be minimal or non-existent.

Free trade is a good thing for America. The oil and gas industries are no exceptions.

Gessing is president of the Albuquerque-based Rio Grande Foundation

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Steve McKee’s talk: How New Mexico Can Beat Texas for Real

Fri, 2015-06-26 09:10

New Mexico businessman and entrepreneur Steve McKee was the keynote speaker at a recent Rio Grande Foundation luncheon. He gave an optimistic and detailed talk about the ways in which New Mexico policymakers can turn our state around and even beat Texas in the process. Check out the informative and even inspirational talk below:

In Vino Taxitas

Thu, 2015-06-25 09:50

The invaluable Tax Foundation has released a map that exposes another disturbing policy reality about New Mexico.

The Land of Enchantment imposes a higher wine tax than four of its neighbors: Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado. (Utah, along with four other states, controls alcohol sales within its borders.)

But the full story is a bit more complex. New Mexico’s economic-development bureaucracy touts the “preferential tax rate” the state offers to winemakers. Converting from liters, New Mexico imposes a tax of 38¢ per gallon for its smallest vintners. Mid-range winemakers pay a tax of 76¢ per gallon. The largest enterprises — more than than 2.1 million gallons of crushed grapes produced annually — pay the full tax of $1.70.

The lesson: Vintners in the Land of Enchantment are welcome to be successful — just not too successful.

Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare based on Congressional “intent”

Thu, 2015-06-25 09:20

The Supreme Court today announced a 6-3 decision upholding the King v. Burwell case which revolved around whether Congress did or did not intend to give subsidies to residents of states that did not set up exchanges under the law.

The Rio Grande Foundation had previously outlined potential scenarios assuming a reversal by the Court. This was based on both the clear language of the law and statements like those from ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber:

In terms of the decision’s impact on American health care and our society in general, here are some initial reactions

Cons: The ObamaCare law remains largely intact with future dire consequences for American health care; the Supreme Court clearly ruled (again) on political expediency rather than the law as written driving another stake in the heart of the rule of law.

Pros: Obama and the Democrats truly “own” this law and all of its impacts now. They passed a poorly-written and ill-conceived law. It now stands largely intact. When/if the law is considered a failure, there will be a strong impetus for reforms in the opposite, hopefully free market direction.

Dr. Tom G. Palmer Luncheon: State Control vs. Self Control – Albuquerque

Wed, 2015-06-24 15:42
Rio Grande Foundation Speaker Series Event:

State Control vs. Self Control

Click here for registration form.

Fresh off his presentation at FreedomFest (described as the World’s Largest Gathering of Free Minds) in Las Vegas, Tom Palmer, the executive vice president for international programs at Atlas Network will be visiting Albuquerque to discuss the important differences between state control and self control at a Rio Grande Foundation-sponsored luncheon.

State Control or Self-Control?

When governments usurp our freedom they diminish personal responsibility for making good choices at the same time. And when they remove from us responsibility for our choices, they not only generate more bad choices, but they under-mine our freedom. Whether we call it the Nanny State or the Welfare State or the Prohibitionist State, big government is assaulting our freedom and undermining our responsibility. Dr. Palmer will show why freedom and responsibility go hand in hand at every level, from the theoretical to the legal to the very practical, with examples ranging from modern day prohibition of drugs and alcohol to the growing numbers of people on long-term welfare and disability support.

  • Location:  Marriott Pyramid 5151 San Francisco Rd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109
  • When:  Monday, July 13, 2015, 12:00 noon to 1:00pm
  • Cost:  Seating is limited and can be purchased at the discounted price of $30 until Saturday, July 6, 2015; $40 after the 6th.

Dr. Tom G. Palmer is responsible for establishing operating programs in 14 languages and managing programs for a worldwide network of think tanks at Atlas Network. He is also a senior fellow at Cato Institute and director of Cato University. He frequently lectures in North America, Europe, Eurasia, Africa, Latin America, India, China and throughout Asia, as well as the Middle East on political science, public choice, civil society, and the moral, legal, and historical foundations of individual rights. He has published articles on politics and morality in scholarly journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Ethics, Critical Review, and Constitutional Political Economy, as well as in publications such as Slate, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Die Welt, Al Hayat, and the Washington Post. He is the author of Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice (expanded edition 2014), and the editor of the Morality of Capitalism (2011), After the Welfare State (2012), Why Liberty (2013), and Peace, Love & Liberty (2014). Palmer received his B.A. in liberal arts from St. Johns College in Annapolis, Maryland, his M.A. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and his doctorate in politics from Oxford University.

Click here for registration form.

New Mexico Underachieves in Manufacturing & Logistics

Tue, 2015-06-23 18:12

Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research has more bad news for the Land of Enchantment.

The center’s “2015 Manufacturing & Logistics Report Card” analyzes “how each state ranks among its peers in several areas of the economy that underlie the success of manufacturing and logistics. These specific measures include the health of the manufacturing and logistics industries, the state of human capital, the cost of worker benefits, diversification of the industries, state-level productivity and innovation, expected fiscal liability, the state tax climate, and global reach.”

The report card’s metrics “were chosen as those most likely to be considered by site selection experts for manufacturing and logistics firms, and by the prevailing research on economic growth.” New Mexico flunked five of the nine categories:

Manufacturing Industry Health: F
Logistics Industry Health: F
Human Capital: F
Worker Benefit Costs: C
Tax Climate: C
Expected Liability Gap: D
Global Reach: F
Sector Diversification: F
Productivity and Innovation: D

Job-training “incentives,” increased spending on government schools, GRT deductions, and committing more severance-tax revenue to “critical community infrastructure”? The strategy isn’t working. It’s time for something different.

Slight problem with solar panels exposed by recent Albuquerque fire

Tue, 2015-06-23 11:34

Solar ranks right up there with mom and apple pie among many who believe that it is the power source of our future. Unfortunately, a recent incident right here in Albuquerque, highlighted an under-appreciated problem with solar panels: fire. In fact, the Taylor Ranch Community Center which is not far from my house had a fire on Friday that seems to have been caused by the panels on the building’s roof (per KOB TV below).

Although an exact understanding of the scope of solar panel fires was difficult to find, it is a relatively common problem caused by manufacturing flaws. Solar panel fires can be particularly challenging for first-responders because the panels may remain electrified even as they (or the building burns).

Thankfully, in the case of the Taylor Ranch fire, there is a fire house literally across the street and apparently the fire fighters were on the spot quickly, but the gym floor is likely ruined. I wonder how a fire like this impacts the net carbon situation when it comes to these solar panels?

Medicaid will boost the economy: Really Winthrop?

Mon, 2015-06-22 11:31

The ABQ Journal’s Winthrop Quigley has been on a real roll recently. After successive articles in support of bus rapid transit, he claims in his latest column that “Medicaid Could Boost New Mexico’s Economy.” Of course, rather than concerning himself with the additional burden that paying 10% of the program expansion’s costs ($120 million annually) starting in 2017, he simply concludes that Medicaid will make our work force healthier and economic growth will more than make up for the added expense. Really?

Apparently, Quigley hasn’t heard of the single most important study of Medicaid’s impact on health outcomes from Oregon. The study “represents the first use of a randomized controlled design to evaluate the impact of Medicaid in the United States.” According to the study’s authors:

1) Medicaid has no statistically significant effect on employment or earnings (there goes Quigley’s economoic argument right there);
Of course, Medicaid expansion did result in even more spending on other government programs:
2) Medicaid increases receipt of food stamps (SNAP);
3) Medicaid coverage increased use of the emergency department across a broad range of types of visits and subgroups.

These are all quotes taken directly from the “findings page.” There is healthy debate over what, if any health and mental wellness benefits Medicaid provides and whether those are worth the vast costs. What is not debatable (according to Oregon’s “gold standard” study) is the thesis that expanding Medicaid will not “boost the economy.” That thesis which Quigley never once mentions in his defense of Medicaid is completely unsubstantiated by real-world evidence to date.

Of course, basic logic would also call into question the idea that putting more people on government welfare will be a good thing for the economy. After all, those dollars aren’t created out of thin air, they are taxed and borrowed by government. That would be a whole different level of critical thinking about the Keynesian consensus.

Albuquerque to Job Growth: Drop Dead

Mon, 2015-06-22 11:27

Two Albuquerque city councilors have drafted the “Fair Workweek Act,” which would mandate that businesses offer nonsupervisory employees paid sick leave. It would also require the posting of schedules “three weeks in advance,” “modest compensation for last-minute schedule changes,” and “adequate rest time between shifts.”

Really? Are more regulations the answer to Albuquerque’s ailing economy?

The city has 17,100 fewer jobs today than when it reached its pre-Great Recession employment peak in March 2007. That’s not a misprint — it’s been more than eight years, and Albuquerque has yet to climb back to the number of jobs it had nearly two years before Barack Obama assumed the presidency.

Film Subsidies: Alaska and Michigan Opt Out

Fri, 2015-06-19 12:59

New Mexico’s political establishment continues to cling to entertainment-industry tax credits as critical “economic development.” (The evidence strongly suggests that subsidizing Hollywood doesn’t boost the state’s economy, but let’s leave that trifling fact aside for now.)

This week, two states decided that movie-and-television corporatism isn’t for them.

Alaska’s governor, staring down a state fiscal crisis, signed legislation that repealed the Last Frontier’s program. State Sen. Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak) noted that the tax credits had “done some good things to different communities around Alaska,” but “had a pretty heavy cost to our treasury.”

On Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reported that “the state Senate voted … to end incentives for the film industry and phase out funding for the state’s film office and the House quickly concurred in the action.” In comments that surely enraged noted economist and public-policy analyst Mitch Albom, Rep. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway Twp.) declared that it was time to “time to drop the curtain on this failed experiment,” in favor of “funding our transportation system.” It’s now up to the Wolverine State’s governor to decide whether to follow legislators’ lead.

New Mexico water: is there really a correlation with climate change?

Fri, 2015-06-19 10:59

Nothing symbolizes water in New Mexico like Elephant Butte lake. With a relatively wet May and June, I got to thinking both about the Butte and whether its water levels had rebounded much and I also was contemplating the supposed connection between climate change and the recent drought we experienced in New Mexico.

This is the kind of thing I think about sometimes when I’m out walking by the Rio Grande and see it so full and running as strong as it was recently.

So, I went online to find out how much Elephant Butte Lake had rebounded with the recent, relatively wet spring and early summer. The answer is available at this website, but is summed up in the chart below and the answer is that the lake has rebounded a little, but not much:

The really fascinating thing is to look back at historical Lake levels which have fluctuated dramatically over the years. As seen below, the Lake was quite full all the way from about 1980-2004. It is currently at a far lower level (18.6% full to be exact), but this is by no means a historically-low level even going back to the early 1920s.

What does this all mean? To me it seems to indicate that while droughts will happen — we live in a desert after all — using Elephant Butte Lake as a proxy for water supplies in New Mexico, it would seem that there is not a great correlation between climate change/global warming and water. I am not a scientist. If Elephant Butte Lake (which is of course managed) is not a reasonable proxy for water supplies in New Mexico, I’d be happy to know. The lake does receive water from a majority of New Mexico’s land area as seen below: