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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
Updated: 7 min 50 sec ago

Ouch: more bad jobs data for New Mexico

Fri, 2014-05-16 16:17

Check this report out from New Mexico Biz First.

The job data from April 2013 to April 2014 for New Mexico and its neighbors are as follows:

Arizona: +40,600
Colorado: +70,800
Nevada: +44,700
New Mexico: -5,900
Oklahoma: +25,600
Texas: +348,000
Utah: +38,500

The silver lining is that job losses were led by the government sector, which shed 3,700 jobs during the year. Of course, I discussed the serious problem with New Mexico’s federal over-reliance in the now-defunct Albuquerque Tribune way back in 2007. Long-term less reliance on Washington will be helpful to New Mexico’s economy and our economic prosperity, but we need policies like our neighbors have (zero income tax, right to work, or constitutional tax and spending controls) that cause businesses and employers to locate elsewhere. The potential for those reforms doesn’t make the transition any less wrenching.

Everyone loved the Energy Bill, but was it really worth passing?

Fri, 2014-05-16 10:44

Finger-pointing on a massive scale is going on in Washington right now over the bi-partisan Energy Bill which was recently killed. Our own Sen. Martin Heinrich recently blasted the bill’s death. The Bill was killed because Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to hold votes on amendments on the Keystone XL Pipeline and speed the export of liquefied natural gas.

Interestingly, while the US aims to isolate Russia for its aggressive behavior, China is on the verge of signing a deal to import Russian gas. Perhaps less obstructionism by the Obama Administration on behalf of LNG exports could have headed off this agreement? We’ll never know.

So, what about the content of the dead energy bill which managed to avoid the two major energy issues of the day (Keystone and LNG exports)? It’s mostly a bunch of special-interest tax breaks and subsidies ostensibly in support of “energy efficiency.” Ultimately, it would have had a negligible impact on US energy policy.

So, rather than passing a vanilla “do nothing” bill, Heinrich should have been pushing hard for a vote on LNG exports which would be a boon for New Mexico’s economy and Keystone XL which would have broader, positive implications for energy and economic growth.

How good/bad are NM’s government services for the dollar?

Thu, 2014-05-15 10:22

I ran across this interesting report today. It purports to show which states make the best and worse use of the taxpayer dollars they generate and receive from Washington. I don’t think it quite does that (the issues is too complex for a simple analysis), but I did find the following chart which ranks the states on the provision of certain government services to be interesting. New Mexico is bottom-five in both education and violent crime. Our best score is on infrastructure (8th) with respectable scores on health (18) and pollution (16). Anyway, check out the link above for the full report and the info-graphic below:

Chief Executive Magazine Ranks Best States for Business = Red States w/ Free Market Policies

Wed, 2014-05-14 10:27

Chief Executive Magazine has just come out with its annual survey of the best states for business. The results are not terrible for New Mexico considering our usual status at the absolute bottom of many of these lists (we’re 30th). But the results are striking for other reasons. Here they are:

Here are the top 10 states on the list:

Texas
Florida
Tennessee
North Carolina
South Carolina
Indiana
Arizona
Nevada
Louisiana
Georgia

Every one of theses sates except Florida and Nevada are red states, and those two are swing states (Democrats and Republicans have split the last four presidential elections there).

Now, for the bottom 10 (10 worst overall states to do business)

Maryland
Pennsylvania
Hawaii
Connecticut
Michigan
Massachusetts
New Jersey
Illinois
New York
California

As the blog Federalist Papers points out:

Every single one of these states (the bottom 10) is run by Democrats.

6 out of 10 of these states are among the 10 people want to leave most. Shocking, people don’t want to live somewhere that punishes people people pursuing the American dream.

Notably, all of the top 13 states are Right to Work while none of the bottom 13 are. Four of the top 10 states have zero income tax rates while many of the bottom 10 have the highest marginal income tax rates.

New Mexico’s left-wing policy leaders love to demonize job creators, but these are the business leaders that start businesses and create the jobs our state so desperately needs.

HT: Dennis Schlessinger

Smart people wasting big money on government schools

Tue, 2014-05-13 14:20

We expect really smart people to be smarter than they are and for them to use their smarts to make good decisions across multiple subject areas. Two of the richest men in the world, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates) have been spending a lot of money and time on education. Unfortunately, both men, while having developed innovative and money-making products in the technology sphere, don’t seem to “get” education.

Take Zuckerberg who spent $100 million to improve Newark’s public schools. At the time, I know I thought this was a total waste of money and that if Zuckerberg wanted to do something useful with $100 million in education, he should have funded tuition scholarships to get kids OUT of failing government schools or he should have supported reform organizations like Rio Grande Foundation or the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Well, the results are in and it now seems that Zuckerberg’s millions have been wasted. No surprise there. As I wrote just last week, the problem with our education is not principals or teachers, rather it is systemic in nature. Zuckerberg is a billionaire and he’ll get over the loss of $100 million, but a lot of good could have been done with that money, just not in the government schools.

Bill Gates has been dabbling in education for some time and has especially been active in funding and promoting “Common Core” standards. Unfortunately, Common Core doesn’t even pretend to enhance competition in choice in public education and, as George Will notes in the following, short video, Common Core actually takes education policy in the wrong direction (towards more centralization and federal control).

FreedomWorks President and CEO’s Remarks at Rio Grande Foundation luncheon

Tue, 2014-05-13 12:54

The Rio Grande Foundation hosted a luncheon on May 13, 2014 with Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of the grassroots/Tea Party group FreedomWorks. Kibbe is the author of “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff” and he discussed the book and its message at the event.

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe Discusses “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff” from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Kibbe also sat down with Rob Nikolewski for a one-on-one interview that can be found here.

Applaud and expand transparency in Aztec

Mon, 2014-05-12 09:39

The City of Aztec is to be applauded for posting a variety of budget and bid information online in an effort to expand transparency and openness in local government. My organization, the Rio Grande Foundation, has been a leader in actually requesting and publishing such data online in an effort to encourage citizens and activists to be more informed and more active citizens.

A few major cities, counties, and school districts around New Mexico have taken steps towards additional transparency, but Aztec is one of the smaller cities in the state to do so. Hopefully, other governing bodies in the Four Corners (and around New Mexico) including the Cities of Farmington and Bloomfield, San Juan County, and San Juan Community College (to name just a few of the big ones) will follow Aztec’s example by publishing similar information.

One small area of improvement that we’d recommend for Aztec is to publish the actual pay for government workers (this is already public information) rather than the employee pay bands that are currently available. Employee names are not essential, but actual real-world numbers would be helpful.

The Rio Grande Foundation is currently in the process of collecting and posting information for counties, cities, school districts, and institutes of higher learning. As the information is received, we will post it on our website www.riograndefoundation.org. We’d love to have the relevant local governments do this themselves, but will continue to do so in the meantime.

A few years ago, Gov. Richardson signed legislation that created New Mexico’s Sunshine Portal. In recent years, that site has been expanded and improved. Of course, there is still a great deal of room for improvement even at the state level. The Rio Grande Foundation recently published a report encouraging the Legislature to post committee votes and hearing footage on a public website.

We the taxpayers ultimately pay the bills for our government. From employee pay to committee votes in the Legislature, this is ultimately our information and it is already public, just not necessarily in a user-friendly format. Kudos to the City of Aztec for opening up its books; it is time to encourage other Four Corners governments and New Mexico’s Legislature to become more transparent as well.

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

Most Principals and Teachers DO work hard for schools, but that doesn’t ensure success

Fri, 2014-05-09 14:58

Recently, a representative of the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals wrote an opinion piece in the Albuquerque Journal defending his profession.

The most interesting part of the article comes toward the end where the author makes a clear grammatical error when he states, “Let’s not listen anymore to rhetoric that is being promoted by special interest groups that want us to believe that are schools are failing.” (emphasis added to the faulty wording which should be “our). I’ve certainly mis-typed and even mis-spelled words in my writing before, but having such a blatant error in an article written on behalf of school principals is not comforting.

More important is the sentence itself. “Special interests” want us to believe that schools are failing. I’m sure that as an educator, one gets tired of hearing about the failures of the system they are a part of, but that’s the issue, the system. As Capitol Report New Mexico reported just this week, New Mexico spends 20th most per pupil in the nation, but has some of the worst results when it comes to student achievement. Clearly something is failing.

And, yes, poverty is higher here and we have more minority students than most states, but Louisiana which has many of the same problems as New Mexicoincluding poor performance — has adopted the most robust school choice in the nation and an astonishing 91 percent of parents approve. If New Mexico’s principals really cared about their “customers” and wanted to improve the failing system they are a part of, wouldn’t they consider emulating Louisiana?

Is leftist billionaire Tom Steyer about to take on natural gas?

Thu, 2014-05-08 15:37

Left wingers from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid down, rail against the Koch brothers. For some reason, they give left-wing billionaire Tom Steyer a free pass.

Steyer was recently criticized by the head of the Laborers’ International Union of North America for his vehement opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline. But now, Steyer may be picking a fight with the Obama Administration on natural gas. While Obama has been slow to approve LNG terminals to export gas, his Administration has been willing to see natural gas replace coal as a source of electricity.

But that may not be radical enough for Steyer who, as this article points out, “Tom Steyer is ready to bankroll groups opposed to all fossil fuel development – including natural gas.” The article goes on to note that “Opposition to natural gas will pit him against President Obama and his administration, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.”

All of this would be just an interesting slow motion train wreck among two factions of the Democratic Party were natural gas not such an important part of New Mexico’s economy.

On the flip side, legislation introduced partially in response to Russian activities in the Ukraine in support of exporting natural gas to America’s allies recently passed a House Subcommittee on a bi-partisan vote. Unfortunately, as reported by the left-wing Daily Kos Majority Leader Reid has blocked the effort to speed LNG exports in the Senate.

As bad as the Obama economy has been and continues to be, the ironic thing is that the fracking boom has salvaged any semblance of economic recovery (and cut carbon emissions, by the way). Now, the billionaire-funded hard-left is moving against even that!

Is Sagebrush Rebellion 2 Moving to Otero County, NM?

Wed, 2014-05-07 14:55

Rather than describing the story at length on my own, this article from the Alamogordo Daily News really explains the situation.

The key is that a conflict between the Federal Government’s US Forest Service/Department of Agriculture and Otero County, NM. The Sheriff of Otero County, Benny House has been instructed to unlock/open four fences that are limiting access to water by cattle on Forest Service lands in the County. Again, the specific issues and jurisdictions are complex, but it is another disagreement over who should manage resources in the West, the federal government in Washington or state and local governments.

Ultimately, we at the Rio Grande Foundation have endorsed state control as per the 9th and 10th amendments to the US Constitution, but it will take the intervention and activism of local government officials to spur the discussion and ultimately drive the shift in land management away from a far-off bureaucracy to the states.

It will be interesting to see if Sheriff House unlocks those gates and how the Forest Service responds.

Tom Udall: the anti-first amendment Senator from New Mexico

Wed, 2014-05-07 09:25

What a badge of honor for New Mexico; Our senior senator, Tom Udall is the lead sponsor of legislation that would put Congress in control of our free speech rights. Remember, the First Amendment which used to be really popular on the political left. That First Amendment says

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

As Paul Jacob points out at his “Common Sense” commentary, Udall’s proposed Constitutional Amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 19, would rewrite the First Amendment to give powerful congressional incumbents “complete and total control over all money to be raised or spent by their competitors.”

These are the same incumbents that “already enjoy a tremendous name recognition advantage over their challengers.” As Jacob asks, “What happens when incumbents limit campaign spending too low for challengers to compete?”

Good questions. The sad thing is that Udall’s misguided amendment has the support of 35 of anti-speech Democrats including the junior Senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich.

To their credit, the ACLU which supports “campaign finance reform,” also supported free speech in the Citizens United case on campaign finance. I’ll be checking with the ACLU to get their views on Udall’s anti-First Amendment amendment.

Missouri and Oklahoma join push for lower income taxes

Tue, 2014-05-06 16:44

During the 2000s, Gov. Richardson and the New Mexico Legislature enacted the largest pro-growth tax cuts in the nation leading to some great years of economic growth in New Mexico.

Unfortunately, particularly since the economic crisis of 2008, New Mexico has struggled with job losses, especially in the form of federal job cuts as Washington moves from “doing stuff” to transferring money from workers to ever-growing entitlement programs. This has left New Mexico’s still-Washington-dependent economy in tatters.

While making the political case for further income tax cuts may be a challenge, other states are making the move. Missouri and Oklahoma have recently enacted modest tax cuts. And, while Missouri legislators are also pushing for a Right to Work law, the state’s liberal governor remains an obstacle.

The fact is states, not Washington, are leading the way when it comes to embracing economic reforms. States like Florida and Texas which are zero income tax and Right to Work are blowing California and Texas out of the water economically, but we’ll have even better data on this as time goes on. Other states that are serious about jobs and economic growth are working to catch up to Texas and Florida. So far, getting policies in place in those states has been impossible in New Mexico. It is up to us to change that.

Reform ideas: Ballot access, remote testimony, voter tax approval

Mon, 2014-05-05 16:30


New Mexico’s state legislature has been controlled by Democrats since 1953, but there are some reasons to think that Republicans could take it over in 2014. While the Rio Grande Foundation is a non-partisan organization willing to work with anyone who shares our ideas, even on a single issue, we have prepared a report on long-overdue reforms that a Republican-led state legislature could have an advantage in enacting. (Democrats are encouraged to read it too!) Not only are these reforms good ideas in their own right, but we believe they are also appealing to the electorate.

They’re both good policy and good politics and given the poor economic performance during the ongoing economic “recovery,” New Mexico needs some good public policy reforms.

First, there’s ballot access reform. Political competition is a good thing, and it’s hard to imagine that the benefits of increased competition stop with the second party. Current New Mexico ballot access law imposes much steeper signature collection requirements on third-party candidates than on Democrats and Republicans. At a minimum, equalizing the signature requirements would provide for a fairer and more truly representative electoral process. Ideally the Legislature could scrap the signature requirement entirely and let voters see the whole menu before making a choice. Voters will like this.

Second, the Legislature’s time management is unimpressive, to put it kindly, which decreases efficiency and transparency. It routinely wastes time during the session and committee meetings are rescheduled on the fly. This makes citizen engagement that much more difficult. There’s little guarantee that experts invited to testify before committees will get their chance, and monitoring what the legislature is up to is a full time job.

Allowing remote testimony is one small change with potentially large benefits. Our state is expansive and getting to hearings in Santa Fe is quite a commitment for most people in the state. Allowing remote testimony from community colleges, for example, would decrease the costs of participating in legislative hearings both for active participants and for citizen monitors. This is a small technical problem that was solved years ago that would also incentivize better scheduling and time management. This proposal, too, should be a winner with voters.

Third, there’s always the issue of taxes. Many states, including our neighbor to the north, require all tax hikes to be approved by the electorate at the relevant political level. We believe it’s sensible to adopt a constitutional amendment doing the same thing here. Asking voters to weigh the costs of a program against the promised benefits beforehand seems like a very politically defensible idea, especially in a state that is significantly poorer than the national average and can ill afford to spend tax money on wasteful programs. Forcing Santa Fe to ask permission from us citizens before spending our scarce tax dollars would incentivize cost-effectiveness and reduce government bloat. Again, it’s a good idea and a winning idea.

The fourth idea is more efficient infrastructure provision. Senate Bill 33 from the 2009 session requires state contracts to pay inflated union-level wages when there are plenty of qualified workers here who are willing to build roads, schools, and other public projects for less; in fact, only 8.7% of New Mexico’s private-sector construction workers have made the choice to join a union. (You can guess which special interest groups pushed for that bill.) Reining in the 15% overpayment on public projects would allow for more results at lower cost. Rather than raising the gas tax as was introduced during the recent legislative session, New Mexico policymakers should pay market rates for construction. This is a simply policy idea that should resonate the vast majority of voters.

None of these proposals is particularly radical. All of them are relatively simple, straightforward, cost-effective ways of furthering the public welfare. Political competition, transparency, efficiency, and wise use of public money are all worthwhile and politically sensible ideas. If the Republican Party does take the Legislature in 2014, we hope our report gives them some ideas. If they don’t, Democrats are free to take advantage of them as well.

McElroy is a Policy Analyst with 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

“Profiles in Courage: Raising Taxes”

Mon, 2014-05-05 10:43

I just love the political establishment in this country. It is hard for most of us to fathom the bi-partisan self-congratulatory nature of these people. Take this news story about the folks at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation giving former President George H. W. Bush it’s 2014 “Profile in Courage” award for breaking his “no new taxes pledge” to raise taxes.

Set aside the fact that presidential libraries are operated at taxpayers’ expense and the fact that JFK was one of America’s great tax-cutting presidents, are America’s political leaders really so devoid of leadership that raising taxes is the most courageous thing they do?

After all, the establishment and media can always be counted on to support tax hikes and oppose even modest fiscal restraint. Agriculture subsidies are just one of many spending programs that could have been cut and Bush didn’t do anything about entitlements (reforming Social Security or Medicare, now that would be courageous). Even Clinton’s welfare reform was far more courageous than raising taxes.

And thus it goes in a nation where true heroes who stand up for limited government and the Constitution are trashed while people who take the easy way out by stealing more of your hard-earned money are lauded as “heroes.” 1984 anyone?

In context, climate change not a big concern for most Americans

Fri, 2014-05-02 17:11

The Sierra Club made their (weak) case in today’s paper for “climate change” being an issue of extreme importance and one that should drive policymakers to embrace “renewables.” In the absence of context, sure, Americans are “concerned” with lots of things, but where does climate change really stack up?

Well, according to Gallup, “Americans Show Low Levels of Concern on Global Warming.” As Goldberg accurately noted in his original article, there ARE indeed environmental issues that are concerning to increasing numbers of Americans, but the abstract issue of “climate change” is nowhere near the top of that list (per Gallup’s own data).

It is also polls far below nearly all other major issues, especially the economy:

And, when discussing polling data, the issue of tradeoffs is important. Should we raise the minimum wage? Support for that is strong, but it goes down dramatically if job losses are discussed. The same is true for the environment. Everyone wants a cleaner environment, but at what cost? And that is assuming that “renewables” as implemented are really cleaner…

But, when it comes to wind, according to the latest U.S. Energy Information Administration data (as discussed by the Heartland Institute), “nine of the 11 largest wind power states are experiencing skyrocketing electricity prices, rising more than four times the national average. Moreover, prices in eight of the 11 states are rising more than twice as fast as in the 39 states with less than 7 percent wind power generation.” Fortunately, New Mexico is not on that list YET.

We soon could be, however. As we’ve reported in the past, New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard WILL cost utility customers billions of dollars once fully implemented and hundreds-of-millions annually after it is fully-implemented in 2020. Notably, the heaviest burden of increased electricity costs will be borne by the working poor who the left so often claims to support if only to expand government.

Will Republicans take control of the New Mexico House in 2014?

Fri, 2014-05-02 09:32

I don’t have a crystal ball and don’t know the answer to that question, but at least one media outlet, The Washington Examiner, has written a story discussing the possibility. West Virginia is also on the list of states seen as possibly “flipping.”

Interestingly, a national Democrat organization has thrown in the towel on the race for Gov. in NM while the New York Times claims that Sen. Udall is a “shoe-in” for reelection as well. The relative scarcity of competitive “up-ticket” races could certainly raise the profile of some of these legislative races.

As I wrote in our recent policy brief and discuss in the opinion piece below, New Mexico is in desperate need of conservative leadership in the Legislature. We’ve provided what we think are some politically-popular, free market ideas. Also, see the opinion piece outlining these ideas that ran in the Rio Rancho Observer. Please pass this information along to candidates in legislative races of either party. It is time for a change in the Land of Enchantment.

Loving the loony left letters in the Albuquerque Journal

Wed, 2014-04-30 15:26

Nothing makes me happier than to wake up in the morning and see another incoherent letter to the editor attacking me and the work of the Rio Grande Foundation. The latest such blast appeared on Tuesday of this week in the Albuquerque Journal and is copied below:

Free market not about roadblocks

FREE MARKET principles — a registered Republican trademark.

As a businessman and author, I am a real believer in the free market, but I have to put up with the constant barrage of “astroturf” groups proclaiming they are believers in the free market. Poppycock!

You believe in the values and talking points of the current Republican coalition. Grover Norquist is head of the no-tax-pledge group. I saw his head explode on TV when asked about marriage equality. He and his group are bigots. They have to be, they are Republicans.

The head of the Rio Grande Foundation (Paul J. Gessing) recently opines in the executive’s desk column (“Economic growth best cure for income inequality,” Feb. 17) and his first priority was to declare for school choice. School choice is code for guaranteeing people that their religious school, private school, or charter school continues to drain the public coffers.

New Mexico charters schools — technically public schools — continue to cost more than regular public education and don’t take people with disabilities! This is not free market principles; it is supporting the vested interests of people that currently have money. It is the ideology of Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that makes California have the highest income tax rate in American. Certainly not a free market principle.

Free market principles provide avenues for economic activity, not strengthening the current roadblocks. Said “astroturf” groups complain bitterly about the tax subsidies in alternative energy but won’t say out loud that a practicing physician cannot receive a tax credit for investing in solar energy; only available for gas/oil investments. A New Mexico cabinet secretary brags about the new copper rule and how it will help Grant County, my former home. The copper rule just requires that future taxpayers pay for the polluted water that is left decades after the mining company has spent the profits. Free market principles indeed!


Where do I start in deconstructing such loony garbage. For starters, Grover Norquist who I know personally and believe to be a brilliant guy, is on the board of GOP Proud, a pro-gay rights Republican organization. Hardly an anti-gay bigot as the author claims all Republicans to be.

But how about the Rio Grande Foundation and our dastardly work on behalf of school choice. Yes, we believe strongly that parents and students should make decisions about where to get an education, and, that if education is funded by tax dollars (not a given in our view) that the customers should be given a choice whether that be traditional, private, charter, religious, or home schooling. The woefully-misinformed letter-writer is demonstrably wrong when he claims that charters cost more than regular public education and that they don’t take students with disabilities.

School choice would improve our state’s and our nation’s educational attainment, but more importantly, it would restore some semblance of individual freedom and even a “free market” in education.

Letter writers like this one are the reason that I love the following Mark Twain quote so much: “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Talking Tesla on KNAT TV

Wed, 2014-04-30 14:10

Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation recently appeared on KNAT TV to discuss the prospects of the electric car company Tesla locating its “gigafactory” in New Mexico. Interview time is about 15 minutes. Check it out below:

Talking Tesla and the potential for the electric car company’s “gigafactory” in New Mexico from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Discussing the Rio Grande Foundation’s “2014 Freedom Index” on KNAT TV

Wed, 2014-04-30 13:31

Paul Gessing recently appeared on KNAT TV to discuss the Rio Grande Foundation’s “Freedom Index,” the results of the 2014 legislative session, what issues were dealt with, and which policy ideas need to be discussed in order to turn New Mexico’s struggling economy and education systems around. Interview lasts about 15 minutes.

Paul Gessing Discusses the 2014 Freedom Index legislative tracking tool from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Paul Gessing’s presentation on government employee pay to NM State Personnel Board: 4/28/14

Tue, 2014-04-29 13:50

I was asked to present to the State Personnel Board because we had some concerns about the way they calculate whether government employees in New Mexico are overpaid or underpaid. My remarks follow:

The Personnel Office’s Compensation Report discusses employment issues involving government employees in New Mexico. The general conclusion of the 2013 report was that New Mexico government employees are underpaid when their salaries and benefits are compared to government employees in neighboring states.

The Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s free market think tank, has reported on this issue as well. Our findings are generally contrary to those of the Personnel Office insofar as we found, based on an analysis done by economists David Macpherson of Trinity University and William Even of Miami University. that when workers with similar experience and skills are compared to each other, New Mexico’s government workers are paid about 8 percent more than equivalent workers in the private sector.

What gives and which is the more relevant comparison?

Without analyzing or critiquing the entirety of the Personnel Office report, we believe that comparing state workers across state lines is not a relevant statistic for several reasons:

1) Economic conditions vary dramatically from state to state. As seen in this chart which was taken straight from the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico’s job market was far weaker over the past year than the job market in neighboring states. We all know that New Mexico’s economy has been far weaker than that of most of its neighbors in recent years. It only makes sense that those working for the state in New Mexico (a relatively weak economy) would not make as much as those in relatively strong surrounding economies.

2) I don’t have data on how much movement there is by government employees from one state bureaucracy to another, but it seems unlikely that there is a great deal of direct competition for talent between Texas and New Mexico. This would certainly be worth studying and having data on;

3) Another thing worth studying is how state government turnover rates actually work and what turnover rates actually mean. Are workers leaving to join the private sector in New Mexico? Are they leaving for private sector jobs in other states? Or are they leaving to work in government in another state? How do pension changes impact turnover and how might New Mexico change its compensation system in ways that might be attractive to workers and taxpayers at the same time?

It might also be worth studying how external economic factors, both federal and state, impact turnover rates and workers’ desire to look for new opportunities.

4) Lastly, we believe that comparing categories of government employees across state lines is very difficult and may not be a relevant tool in comparing overall worker benefits.

In conclusion, it is our belief that the most relevant comparison when it comes to government pay is with similar private sector workers here in New Mexico. When that comparison is made, the packages available to government workers are more generous than those available in the private sector. Such analysis should at least supplement existing analyses.