Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings

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Why is New Mexico not realizing its potential?
Updated: 12 min 41 sec ago

RTW Prevails, for the Seventh Month in a Row

Tue, 2015-08-04 16:26

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 13,526 projected jobs, 9,381 — 69.4 percent — were slated for right-to-work (RTW) states:

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

There were two domestic relocations from compulsory-union to RTW states, and two RTW-to-non-RTW moves.

Foreign direct investment was highly skewed. Seventeen projects headed to RTW states, but only one is to occur in a non-RTW state.

With nearly 30 percent of jobs projected for non-RTW states, July yielded compulsory unionism’s best performance of the year. But the results were greatly biased, due to California-based ZenPayroll’s decision to hire 1,750 employees in Colorado. (The Denver Post reported that Governor John Hickenlooper hailed “the news as perhaps the largest single jobs announcement in state history.”)

Marquee RTW wins included the decision by Connecticut-based United Technologies to build its “Center for Intelligent Buildings” in Florida, the relocation of California-based LiveOps, a cloud-computing form, to Texas, and the selection of Arizona to build a research-and-development facility for a partnership between General Electric and Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

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.

Share your concerns about Albuquerque’s proposed Fair Workweek Act

Mon, 2015-08-03 14:09

Albuquerque City Council’s Finance and Government Operations committee is expected to take up the Fair Workweek Act on Monday, August 10 at 5 p.m.

The anti-business proposal would require employers to:

• Set work schedules three weeks in advance or pay compensation in the form of predictability pay;
• Provide paid sick leave;
• Allow employees to decide via secret ballot on “alternate schedule” (such as four-10 hour shifts or three 12 hour shifts);
• Force employers to offer additional hours of work to existing employees before hiring additional employees or subcontractors;
• Allow employees to trade shifts regardless of job descriptions or skill sets.

We encourage you to express your opposition to the bill with an email to all city councilors.

We have several sample email messages below to facilitate this request. If one aligns with your sentiments, please select it (or customize to your individual needs/preferences) and send to all city councilors starting Monday.

For your convenience, the email addresses for all of the city councilors is as;;;;;;;;

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at:

Dear Councilors,
I hope that you will reconsider your efforts to pass the Fair Workweek Act in its current or revised version. The Act is chock-full of terrible mandates for business and even as sponsoring councilors attempt to remedy the concerns of business, I don’t believe it’s enough to make this palatable for Albuquerque businesses. Please do what’s right for Albuquerque business people like me.

Dear Councilors,
Like many other small business owners, my family and I have sacrificed a lot for the dream of business ownership. We work long hours and have often gone without a paycheck so that our employees will have theirs. That’s part of the reason it’s so troubling to know that our city government would be so inconsiderate as to assume that small businesses like mine could integrate the mandates required by the Fair Workweek Act into their operations. Really? Do you truly realize the costs, not just financial, but managerial? This Act would take away much of my authority as a business owner and I ask you to vote against the adoption of this ordinance. Thank you.

Dear Councilors,
I’m writing to you today to express my opposition to the Fair Workweek Act. My industry requires that we have flexibility on our scheduling and if the Act is put into effect, a necessary piece of my business model will be compromised. This could effectively cause me to go out of business. I hope you will not adopt this ordinance.

Dear Councilors,
In a recent Albuquerque Business First article, Councilor Isaac Benton said, “I certainly agree with people who think it’s overly complicated,” when referring to the Fair Workweek Act. If Councilor Benton, the sponsor of the bill, agrees that the Act is overly complicated, how can you be sure that a few changes to the language in the bill can correct all concerns of business? You really can’t. The Act originally attempted to impose a set of one-size-fits-all mandates on business. Now that business has expressed concerns, there are efforts to mitigate those concerns. But the reality is that because the face of business reflects so many different sectors and an even greater diversity in business models, there is literally no way to make this bill palatable to business. I ask that you not modify it. I ask that you not study it. Simply stop it in its tracks. Thank you.

Dear Councilors,
The Fair Workweek Act isn’t fair at all! It’s harmful to business. Business is the economic engine of the community and if it passes, it will hurt Albuquerque businesses’ ability to be competitive. Please don’t pass it!

Dear Councilors,
I am writing in strong opposition against the Fair Workweek Act ordinance. This ordinance is not fair to Albuquerque businesses. This overreaching government regulation would do more harm than good. Please do not support this ordinance. Thank you.

Dear Councilors,
The Fair Workweek Act is an ordinance that has the ability to knock small businesses in Albuquerque to their knees. I am in strong opposition to this ordinance as a business owner, and I hope you are also against supporting this ordinance. Thank you.

Dear Councilors,
I am writing to express my concern over the Fair Workweek Act. This ordinance is not good for Albuquerque businesses. According to a study by Department of Numbers, Albuquerque has 17,100 fewer jobs today than when it reached its pre-Great Recession employment peak in 2007. We cannot afford another blow to businesses. Please do not support this ordinance.

Dear Councilors,
Please do not support the Fair Workweek Act. This ordinance only adds to the ongoing struggles for businesses in Albuquerque. It will only do more harm than good. Please vote against this ordinance.

Dear Councilors,
Businesses are already struggling to comply with many confusing and complex regulations. The city of Albuquerque should not create more problems like the mandates in the “Fair” Workweek Act. If businesses are forced into implementing all these new mandates, many employers will be forced to cut jobs and wages. Please do not put this burden on Albuquerque businesses.

Dear Councilors,
I am a business owner and I am strongly against the “Fair Workweek Act. With business costs on the rise, my business cannot afford additional costs and mandates. Please do not pass this ordinance.

Dear Councilors,
Councilor Isaac Benton said, “I agree. There were some things in there that were not reasonable,” when he was recently interviewed about the Fair Workweek Act that he and Councilor Klarissa Pena introduced to the City Council in June. If Councilor Benton believes that about his own bill, how can business owners be convinced that a few modifications will fix all that is unreasonable? We can’t. Please don’t entertain this Act in its original form or any attempt at a modified version. It’s not good for business owners or managers like me. There’s too much at risk for hasty bills and even hastier modifications. Thank you.

Rapid-transit plan would be too disruptive

Mon, 2015-08-03 10:22

Advocates of market-oriented public policy rarely have anything complimentary to say about transit systems.

Government-owned trains and buses are fiercely protected by politicians and powerful lobbying groups, despite  consistently unimpressive ridership numbers and runaway costs. But in Albuquerque, at least lately, transit is a different story.

In 2004, the city,s bus system began to add express routes along Central Avenue. “Rapid Ride” features “60-foot long, articulated buses that accommodate up to 86 passengers.” The service is “loaded with new technology,” including WiFi, automatic announcements, “a global positioning system to aid in the transit applications that help passengers locate their bus in real time,” and state-of-the art security cameras and microphones. In addition, most Rapid Ride stations have “a structure which allows passengers to wait in safety and comfort.”

Route 766, which runs from the Uptown Transit Center to the West Side, saw passenger growth of 25.8 percent since its introduction. Route 790, which links the University of New Mexico’s main campus to the Northwest Transit Center, experienced growth of 87.2 percent. Route 777, connecting Tramway Boulevard to downtown, saw growth of 135.6 percent.

In its “Futures 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan,” the Mid-Region Metropolitan Transportation Organization concluded that increased boardings on the Duke City’s overall bus system were “directly attributable” to the three “Rapid Ride” lines.

At least in terms of demand, express bus service appears to be working in Albuquerque. So why does the city want to scrap a good thing?

Transportation planners are seeking to replace Rapid Ride with “Albuquerque Rapid Transit” (ART), which combines “many features of rail transit with the flexibility of buses.” Next month, the city will request federal funding to cover 80 percent of the costs of Phase 1 of the project, which is slated to run between Louisiana and Coors.

ART would eliminate one lane, each way, in order to create a dedicated bus guideway. It’s a shift the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole believes is unwise: “Dedicating two entire traffic lanes on Central Avenue to buses and giving those buses priority at traffic signals will do far more to increase congestion than any relief provided by the few cars taken off the road by the bus. Why should a few hundred bus riders a day be given these privileges while tens of thousands of people in cars are forced to sit in traffic?”

Don Hancock, of the University Heights Neighborhood Association, believes ART’s plan to eliminate its route’s median strip will cause “bicycle/pedestrian safety problems … to increase dramatically.” Walkers and cyclists attempting to cross the guideway, Hancock said, are “continuous accidents just waiting to happen.”

Thus far, ART’s supporters have ignored questions about their project’s public-safety and congestion-creation issues, preferring to focus on transit’s alleged ability to attract professional Millennials. But polling data are beginning to show that young adults’ housing preferences resemble previous generations’ inclinations. Describing a recent survey, an economist for the National Association of Homebuilders wrote that two-thirds of Millennials “wanted to reside in a suburban neighborhood, compared to 10 percent wanting to own a home in a central city. Nearly a quarter of residents wanted to be outside large metropolitan areas entirely, preferring rural housing.” While recent college graduates continue to be drawn to places such as Washington, D.C., they are also flocking to “sprawling” metro areas such as Houston, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Nashville.

Will ART be affordable? Check the record. In the words of Veronique de Rugy, a researcher with the Mercatus Center, “Infrastructure spending tends to suffer from massive cost overruns, waste, fraud, and abuse.” And while ART is not a rail line, building it will nonetheless be a complex undertaking, involving ripping up median strips, improving sidewalks, constructing stations, and relocating utilities.

Citizens in Abilene, Anchorage, and Atlanta shouldn’t be taxed to support a project of dubious benefit to Albuquerque. The federal government should deny funding to ART.

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.

2015 New Mexico Friedman Day Celebration: Dr. Matt Ladner shares some scary demographic data & how educational choice can alleviate the problem

Fri, 2015-07-31 15:54

Dr. Matthew Ladner spoke at the Rio Grande Foundation’s “Milton Friedman Day” celebration on New Mexico’s Impending Demographic Challenges and How Policymakers Can Cope. His slides can be accessed here.  

Ladner, an optimist by nature, had some sobering words for the event attendees. As Ladner made clear, so many things in our society are improving and our economy is more productive than ever, but our education system has seen growth in employment without similar growth in productivity or improved outputs.

As Ladner notes, there are successful education reform models including the one implemented in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The entire public school system was turned into charter schools with some significant, positive results:

Reforming and improving the education system, notes Ladner, is all the more important with New Mexico’s elderly population set to explode in the years ahead according to new demographic research by Ladner. According to Ladner. In fact, as Ladner notes New Mexico’s working age will shrink as a percentage of the total population, with the Land of Enchantment projected to have the highest total age dependency ratio in the nation in 2030.

In New Mexico’s case the increase in the total age dependency ratio projects to be entirely due to a near doubling of the elderly population between 2010 and 2030.

Dr. Ladner is Senior Advisor of Policy and Research with the Foundation for Educational Choice. He previously worked with the Rio Grande Foundation to bring the “Florida Model” for education reform to New Mexico.

Dr. Ladner has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform. Most recently, Dr. Ladner authored the groundbreaking, original research Turn and Face the Strain: Age Demographic Change and the Near Future of American Education, outlining the future funding crisis facing America’s K-12 public education funding.

Obama’s Economic Advisers Agree with Milton Friedman on government licensing

Fri, 2015-07-31 12:42

Today would have been Milton Friedman’s 103rd birthday. The Rio Grande Foundation celebrated this morning (look for details on that shortly), but I thought this story from earlier in the week was interesting as it shows that the issues Friedman discussed — in this case professional licensing — remain important today.

As the article notes, Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers has published a new report critiquing professional licensing:

Burdensome occupational licensing requirements can create barriers for workers and add costs to consumers, a White House report released Tuesday found.

The state-issued licenses required to carry out certain jobs should be used only to address legitimate public health and safety concerns, the report recommended.

Friedman was a strong opponent of government licensing including of medical professionals. Needless to say, he would have opposed the myriad regulations imposed by governments like New Mexico which places the 9th most onerous professional licensing regulations among the 50 states according to the Institute for Justice.

A White Elephant Stalks the Motherland’s Taxpayers

Wed, 2015-07-29 18:52

Model of launch complex for Soyuz-2 rocket in Vostochny Cosmodrome. Credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin (

It turns out, “spaceport” and “boondoggle” go together beyond New Mexico’s borders.

The Vostochny Cosmodrome, under construction in Russia’s Far East, is in trouble. The project’s purpose, according to Anatoly Medetsky of the The Moscow Times, is “to ease the country’s dependence on the Soviet-era Baikonur launch site, located in the wind-swept steppe of neighboring Kazakhstan and which Russia is leasing through 2050.”

But the cosmodore is behind schedule — manned flights are now projected to take place three years later than originally planned — and corruption at the site is rampant.

In June, The Siberian Times reported that a senior director “suspected of embezzling funds … has been arrested after going on the run. The 45-year-old Georgian national, whose name has not been disclosed, had fled Russia after being accused of taking four million roubles ($75,000). … Police in the Amur region put the shamed director on the international wanted list and he was located in Minsk, where he drove a luxury Mercedes car decorated with Swarovski diamonds. According to local media, it cost $300,000 (16 million roubles) to have the vehicle covered.”

A few days ago, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika announced that his probe of 250 cosmodrome contractors had uncovered “theft that caused 7.5 billion rubles in damages.”

It’s all an unfortunate mess for Russia’s taxpayers. But unlike “Spaceport America,” the “public investment” made in the cosmodrome could eventually produce significant revenue. Relations with Kazakhstan have been testy lately. And Russia has a long history of lofting payloads — launch vehicles in the R-7 and Proton families alone have flown over 2,000 times.

ABQ City Council’s Fair Workweek Act is Extreme, will kill local business

Tue, 2015-07-28 15:54

The Fair Workweek Act will be heard before Albuquerque’s City Council on August 10. The legislation, sponsored by Councilors Benton and Peña was written by outside organizations but that is not what makes it a bad idea. The proposal has a number of extreme provisions that would have tremendous, negative impacts on local businesses, especially small ones.

As written, the proposal would require employers to:

  • Set work schedules three weeks in advance or pay compensation (predictability pay);
  • Provide paid sick leave;
  • Allow for a secret ballot to be held among employees to decide on “alternate schedule” (such as four-10 hour shifts or three 12 hour shifts);
  • An employer must offer additional hours of work to existing employees before hiring additional employees or subcontractors;
  • Employees will be able to trade shifts regardless of job descriptions or skill sets.

Like arbitrary mandated minimum wages, but far more radical, this proposal is yet another intrusion into the relationship between workers and employers. All of the regulations seem well-intended, but they all are based on the premise that a bunch of city councilors know what is better for a worker than they do. After all, if I don’t like the requirements of a particular job, I can always go elsewhere….of course that is assuming that there are other jobs out there.

The proposal’s negative impacts would most likely be felt in construction, retail, and restaurants as well as customer-service-oriented industries, especially those that have to deal with weather issues.

Ultimately, because it is so new and so radical, we don’t know exactly how this proposal will impact our local economy. We do know that it will further drive up the cost of doing business and make Albuquerque a less attractive destination for business expansion. That will harm the very workers you say you want to help.

The Fair Workweek Act is the most ambitious and comprehensive that we’ve seen, but several cities/states demand paid sick leave. A full description of those laws can be found here.

Details on Seattle’s experience can be found below:

In September 2012, Seattle became the fourth U.S. city to require employers to provide paid leave to their employees as a condition of doing business in the city. Of the 301 service-industry businesses surveyed, 191 of them—or nearly two-thirds—had started providing paid sick leave to comply with the law. Another 67 businesses already provided the benefit. (Note that the law in Seattle exempts businesses with fewer than five employees.)

Survey results suggest that issues of sickness are overstated by activists/supporters. Among businesses that started providing leave, 83 percent—or more than 8 in 10 businesses—said that sickness in the workplace was “not serious at all” prior to the law taking effect. Just 10 percent described it as a serious problem.

Two thirds of those who started providing paid leave said that they did not anticipate the law would reduce turnover in their workplace. One-third of surveyed Seattle businesses also anticipated that the law would increase unscheduled absences in the workplace that may not be connected to an illness.

Among those service-industry businesses that started providing leave to comply with the law, roughly 56 percent said it would increase their cost of doing business in Seattle. More than one in four said it would cause a big increase in their business costs.

15.7 percent of employers raised prices in response to the new law. • 18.3 percent of employers reduced hours and staff in response to the new law. • 17.3 percent of employers either increased the cost to employees of their current benefits, or eliminated the benefits they used to offer.

New Mexico and Albuquerque economies face serious problems

In fact, in March of 2007 we had 399,400. That’s down to 382,300 as of May 2015, a decline of 4.28 percent. If we want to improve pay and benefits for workers, let’s have more jobs for them to choose from and more competition for those workers. What follows is a historical listing of Albuquerque’s April non-farm employment (thousands):

2008 398.6
2009 380.4
2010 373.9
2011 373.6
2012 369.6
2013 374.9
2014 375.4
2015 382.9

* May, the most recent data available: 382.3 (even lower)

* Albuquerque has lost 16,300 since the April 2008 peak

* No jobs recovery for more than seven years

New Mexico also ranks poorly on many indices of economic competitiveness/growth:
Federation of Tax Administrators; 9th highest in tax burden as percent of personal income
American Economic Development Institute: 35th
Institute for Justice (Occupational Licensing): 39th
John Locke Foundation “First in Freedom”: 42nd
Fraser-NCPA “Economic Freedom of North America”: 52nd (of 60)
Kauffman Foundation/ Small Business Friendliness: D+

Working the Land in the Land of Enchantment

Tue, 2015-07-28 11:37

The New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau invited the Rio Grande Foundation to contribute to its summer conference, held in Taos last week. We participated in a panel discussion on how the agriculture community can more effectively communicate with state legislators.

It was clear, both during the panel and chatting with individuals afterward, that New Mexico’s agriculture community feels besieged. Radical environmentalists were a common complaint. Electricity costs, “renewable” fuels, and the EPA’s “Clean Water Rule” were specific concerns.

In 2013, cash receipts for New Mexico farms totaled $3.8 billion. Livestock products — primarily milk, cattle, and calves — represented the bulk of the sum. Contrary to common misconception, green chile isn’t the state’s biggest cash crop — that would be hay. Pecans landed in the second slot, with green chile in third and greenhouse/nursery products in fourth.

New Mexico desperately needs more manufacturing, IT, logistics, finance, energy, and biotech jobs. But agricultural operations remain an important part of the state’s economy. With the growth of the buy-local movement and the opening of foreign markets to U.S. farmers, the bureau’s members have new opportunities to expand their enterprises. In New Mexico, agriculture needs low taxes, reasonable regulations, and affordable energy as much as any industry.

Gessing and Rep. Bill McCamley discuss 2015 Legislative activities on KRWG TV

Tue, 2015-07-28 08:38

I was recently in Las Cruces and had a chance to sit down with Fred Martino of KRWG (the public television station in Las Cruces) to discuss what happened in the 2015 legislative session and special session. Las Cruces area state Representative Bill McCamley, a Democrat, was also on the air and, believe it or not, we found a few areas of agreement.

What makes a city attractive as a relocation destination?

Mon, 2015-07-27 09:35

As we have discussed on numerous occasions, New Mexico’s economy is struggling. That includes large numbers of people moving out of our state and our state’s largest city.

Some advocates for bus rapid transit believe that such a system will give Albuquerque the “cool factor” that makes at least New Mexico’s largest city attractive as a relocation destination for the young.

A Wall Street Journal article from Friday throws water on the concept that “amenities” (like transit or recreational activities) are what people look for when moving to a new place…and what is it people look for? No surprise: JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.

The article is full of some great quotes and charts.

“You don’t move just because some place is cool,” said Aaron Duke, a 39-year-old San Francisco transplant and CirrusMD employee. “You’ve also got to be able to earn a buck.”

Public improvements to lure millennials, such as building bike paths and revitalizing neighborhoods, can result in a nicer place to live, economists say, but for an economy to thrive, more fundamental investments are needed, including a well-connected airport, universities to train workers and a business base that attracts people from around the region, they note.

As the chart below taken directly from the WSJ piece shows, 9 of the top 10 cities to which Americans are flocking are in “Right to Work” states (only Denver is not). Also, none of the cities in the top 10 in growth are big on mass transit. Atlanta, the most transit-reliant, ranks 30th among US cities in transit usage. In fact, most of the fast-growing cities are, like Albuquerque, spread out auto-centric cities. Perhaps transit isn’t really high on the “cool-factor” list?

More Advocacy on Your Dime

Thu, 2015-07-23 11:13

Earlier this week, at the monthly meeting of the Albuquerque Tea Party, Johnny Luévano gave a presentation on how one left-wing group funds its activities with taxpayer subsidies.

The “Partnership for Community Action,” located in southwest Albuquerque, “focuses on critical community issues like education, economic sustainability, wellness and immigrant rights.” Founded it 1990, it raises “awareness” and pursues “advocacy opportunities.”

According to an IRS filing, in 2013, of the organization’s $1,144,450 revenue take, $1,055,053 — 92 percent — came from “government grants.”

Leaving Albuquerque

Wed, 2015-07-22 11:46

Once again, New Mexico ranks among the losers.

Bloomberg News analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data to determine “the 20 metropolitan areas that lost the greatest share of local people to other parts of the country between July 2013 and July 2014.”

You don’t have to sit down for this: Albuquerque was on the list. Ranking 19th, the region lost 0.38 percent of its residents during the period studied.

Nationally, losers were concentrated in the Rust Belt and Northeast, with Honolulu and Los Angeles also making the list. (Strangely, while most of Texas’s urban areas are booming, El Paso fared poorly, with a 1.02 percent decline.)

Great weather, friendly people, a rich history and culture — how can Albuquerque be losing population?

New Mexico needs aggressive and effective economic-development policies, implemented yesterday.

A third approach to the San Juan Generating Station for New Mexico policymakers

Tue, 2015-07-21 11:13

The discussion over the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant near Farmington in Northwest New Mexico, has been centered on whether to shut down half of the plant as PNM wants to do or all of the plant as the environmentalists want to do.

All of this is being forced upon New Mexico electric rate-payers not for health or real environmental benefits, but to comply with the Obama EPA’s new “regional haze” regulation that is supposed to improve visibility in National Parks here in the West.

There is a third way. Our friend William Yeatman, an energy expert at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has outlined such in the Albuquerque Journal. As Yeatman notes in his article, shutting down San Juan Generating Station will fail on its own merits because “Computer modeling demonstrates that the emissions reductions due to the regulation wouldn’t have a perceptible impact on visibility.”

Worse, argues Yeatman, “the proposed settlement would force PNM customers to pay $115 million for electricity generators they won’t use.”

So, rather than going along with either proposed solution, Yeatman argues that New Mexico’s elected officials should reject the proposed settlement and instead sue the Obama EPA’s outrageous Regional Haze regulation as the overreach that it is. A successful lawsuit would stop the EPA in their tracks and save New Mexicans at least $115 million on their utility bills.

Federal Government Should Take a Pass on Albuquerque’s Proposed Bus Rapid Transit System

Mon, 2015-07-20 10:03

(Albuquerque) The proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) line is a solution in search of a problem, and our bankrupt federal government should steer clear of providing 80 percent of the infrastructure costs for this unnecessary project. That’s the conclusion of a new Rio Grande Foundation report, “Throwing Taxpayers under the Bus,” which analyzes the case for bus rapid transit along Central Avenue in New Mexico’s largest city.

“Throwing Taxpayers under the Bus,” authored by Rio Grande Foundation Research Director Dowd Muska, argues that the current Rapid Ride bus system along Central has been quite successful in generating ridership. Muska wonders what benefits, in terms of mobility, the new system will provide that the current system does not.

In fact, as Muska argues, in addition to the temporary construction which would tie up traffic throughout the Central corridor, the BRT would limit motorists’ left turns onto Central while removing two traffic lanes to make way for buses. The loss of traffic lanes would result in the elimination of parking along some of Central’s busiest corridors.

The cost estimate being put forth by the city today is likely to rise once construction gets underway, argues Muska. “Throwing Taxpayers under the Bus” cites Willie Brown, a former California politician, who once said, “In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.”

Ultimately, as Muska notes, BRT advocates are less concerned about mobility within the Central Corridor than they are about “redevelopment” in the area. Advocates claim that so-called “Millennials” are avoiding Albuquerque in search of more densely packed urban areas.

This claim simply doesn’t hold water. As Muska points out, sprawling Western cities such as Oklahoma City, Phoenix, and Dallas are growing rapidly and attracting young people. Albuquerque’s poor job growth is the likeliest reason for the city’s ongoing struggles to draw and keep Millennials.

With Washington trillions of dollars in debt, “Throwing Taxpayers under the Bus” concludes that an Albuquerque transit project in need of a purpose is unworthy of federal taxpayer dollars.

When did “work” become a “four-letter-word” for liberals? (including Gessing testimony on Martinez food stamp proposal)

Fri, 2015-07-17 09:29

I spent July 16 driving down and back to Las Cruces to testify before the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee hearing on the Martinez Administration’s proposal to re-impose work, volunteer, or education attainment requirements for able-bodied adults without children and adults without small children.

Somehow, we have gotten to the point that asking able-bodied adults to improve their standing is simply beyond the pale because the liberal advocates that testified and all the Democrat legislators who attended spoke against the proposal.

An article from the Las Cruces Sun-News details the issue and Democrats’ opposition nicely.

Ironically, one of the main points the opponents of the work requirements repeatedly brought up was that New Mexico’s job growth is lagging its neighbors. While a true statement, one wonders if they realize that it is their policies that have put New Mexico in this sorry position. My testimony in support of the Administration’s work requirement is below:

Testimony on New Mexico’s Plan to Re-impose Work Requirement on Food Stamp (SNAP) Recipients
By Paul J. Gessing

Since 2009, New Mexico has waived federal work requirements tied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The Martinez Administration’s proposal is to reinstate the rules limiting able-bodied people to three months of SNAP benefits unless they work or attend job training classes at least 20 hours per week. The new requirements would be imposed on parents of children older than six-years to complete up to 80-hours a month of activities such as community work to continue to receive the SNAP benefits. It would also apply to teens who are not in school.

Over 21 percent of all New Mexicans receive food stamps, behind only Mississippi.
Somewhere between 26,000 and 80,000 people could be impacted by the proposal. According to a September 2014 report from the Pew Center, no fewer than 17 states were working to re-instate their work requirements.

Other states have seen dramatic effects in terms of reduced dependency from re-imposing food stamp work requirements. In 2014, for example, Maine re-imposed a three-month limit (out of every three-year period) on food stamps for a group often known as Abawds — able-bodied adults without minor dependents — unless they work 20 hours per week, take state job-training courses or volunteer for about six hours per week. The number of Abawds receiving food stamps in Maine has dropped nearly 80 percent since the rule kicked in, to 2,530 from about 12,000.

Maine’s requirement has been in effect for about a year now and I have heard no reports of even a single person starving as a result of this policy change.

The truth is that food stamps were meant to provide a bridge for people who are between jobs or have fallen on hard times. They are not a way of life. Completely removing oneself from the work or volunteer forces hurts the very people that SNAP is supposed to help. Sitting at home watching television or waiting for the phone to ring is no way to look for work.

Indeed, while unemployment rates in New Mexico remain somewhat higher than the national average at 6.2%, the rate in neighboring Texas is currently 4.2% which economists consider to be “full employment.” Even New Mexico’s largest cities have reasonably-low unemployment rates with Albuquerque at 4.9%, Santa Fe at 4.2% and Las Cruces at 5.2%.

It would seem that the only thing one truly needs to do to get a job in New Mexico is to move to one of her major cities. Absent that, there are opportunities aplenty in neighboring Texas.

The Martinez Administration’s proposal is eminently reasonable and encourages self-reliance rather than dependency which is very important. What doesn’t work is spending $80 billion a year on a rapidly-expanding program and imposing little or nothing in the way of requirements.

Lastly, food stamps are not an economic stimulus. The money has to come from somewhere and dollars that are taxed away and spent on food stamps can no longer be invested in our economy. Welfare programs do not stimulate the economy. Average New Mexicans working every day and honing their skills will make our state better and more prosperous.

Thank you for your time.

‘Celebrating’ Nine Years of Choo-Choo Craziness

Fri, 2015-07-17 08:59

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express threw itself a birthday party today. Riders in Albuquerque and Santa Fe enjoyed “snacks and giveaways,” as the rail line marked its ninth anniversary.

“Trax” was at the Downtown ABQ Station, distributing hugs.

“Free” luggage tags!

In a press release announcing the festivities, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District listed some “fun facts” about the Rail Runner, including the “number of bicycle lockers at NMRX stations” and “Veterans Annual Passes issued to VA veterans from November 11, 2014 to July 1, 2015.”

One number that went unmentioned: 9.9. That’s the percentage of the Rail Runner’s 2014 operating costs that were covered by fares.

Who paid for the rest of the expenditures? Look in the mirror.

It’s Not the Costs — So What Is It?

Tue, 2015-07-14 18:59

The Tax Foundation’s latest look at “the real value of $100 in each state” should generate more frustration for New Mexico’s economic-development establishment.

Costs in the Land of Enchantment are 21 percent cheaper than in New York, 18 percent cheaper than in California, and 8 percent cheaper than in Virginia. With the exception of Oklahoma, a hundred bucks goes further in New Mexico than it does in each of its neighbors.

Great weather, friendly folks, stunning scenery, a strategic location, and low costs — the Rio Grande Foundation has long maintained that New Mexico has the potential to be an economic powerhouse.

But excessive occupational licensing, an all-powerful PRC, no right-to-work law, a cumbersome tax on gross receipts, a work-ethic-sapping welfare complex, too much federal control over land and employment, and trendiness-driven corporate welfare as economic development? It all adds up to a spectacularly ineffective prescription for wealth creation and job growth.

Tom Palmer’s “Government Control v. Self Control” presentation in Albuquerque

Tue, 2015-07-14 16:16

The Rio Grande Foundation hosted Tom Palmer of the Atlas Network for a luncheon talk. Palmer was on his way back from giving a similar talk at FreedomFest in Las Vegas. Palmer travels the world assisting free market think tanks. His Albuquerque talk is below:

New Mexico County Payroll Listing 2014

Tue, 2015-07-14 10:48

(Albuquerque) In an effort to improve government transparency throughout New Mexico, the Rio Grande Foundation has requested and published payroll data for all New Mexico Counties.

Unfortunately, several counties were unable or unwilling to comply with the request. We hope that residents of those counties will put pressure on them to make information available to the public. New Mexico’s largest county, Bernalillo, is a leader in providing transparency.

To find the data for your county, just click on the link below:

Bernalillo County

Catron County

Chaves County

Cibola County

Colfax County (not available)

Curry County

De Baca County (not online)

Doña Ana County

Eddy County

Grant County

Guadalupe County

Harding County

Hidalgo County

Lea County

Los Alamos

Lincoln County

Luna County

McKinley County

Mora County

Otero County

Quay County

Rio Arriba County

Roosevelt County

Sandoval County

San Juan County

San Miguel County

Santa Fe County

Sierra County

Socorro County

Taos County

Torrance County

Union County

Valencia County


Friedman Legacy Day 2015 – New Mexico’s Demographic Dilemma

Mon, 2015-07-13 21:28

Rio Grande Foundation's Friedman Day 2015 Breakfast Discussion of New Mexico's
Impending Demographic Challenges
and How Policymakers Can Cope
Presentation by Matthew Ladner Free Registration Form

New Mexico's elderly population is set to explode in the years ahead according to new demographic research by Dr. Matthew Ladner. According to Ladner, New Mexico's working age will shrink as a percentage of the total population, with the Land of Enchantment projected to have the highest total age dependency ratio in the nation in 2030.

In New Mexico's case the increase in the total age dependency ratio projects to be entirely due to a near doubling of the elderly population between 2010 and 2030.

Unfortunately, despite reforms enacted under Gov. Susana Martinez and some modest improvements in students' educational performance, New Mexico's school age population continues to under-perform.

What does New Mexico's demographic situation – driven by an aging population – mean for the state in the years ahead? Is New Mexico's workforce adequately trained to support a growing group of dependents? What can realistically be done to eases this demographic transition?

Celebrate Dr. Milton Friedman's birthday with us at a special breakfast event on what would have been Dr. Friedman's birthday, Friday, July 31.

  • Where: Auditorium of the Albuquerque Museum which is located at 2000 Mountain Road NW.
  • When: 7:30am to 8:30am.
  • Cost: There is no charge for this event and we will have coffee and donuts. Please register online by clicking here. It's quick and it's free!
  • Who: Dr. Matthew Ladner is Senior Advisor of Policy and Research with the Foundation for Excellence in Education. He previously worked with the Rio Grande Foundation to bring the “Florida Model” for education reform to New Mexico.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is the Senior Adviser of Policy and Research for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. He previously served as Vice President of Research and Goldwater Institute. Prior to joining Goldwater, Dr. Ladner was director of state projects at the Alliance for School Choice.

Dr. Ladner has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform. Most recently, Dr. Ladner authored the groundbreaking, original research Turn and Face the Strain: Age Demographic Change and the Near Future of American Education, outlining the future funding crisis facing America's K-12 public education funding. He also coauthors the American Legislative Exchange Council's annual Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress and Reform.

Dr. Ladner has testified before Congress, the United States Commission of Civil Rights and numerous state legislative committees. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received both a Masters and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston. Dr. Ladner is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for Educational Choice. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Free Registration Form