Interesting story today from Daily Ticker via Yahoo on the fastest and slowest-growing cities in America. I’ve taken the liberty of posting the top and bottom 10 below:
Top 10 Fastest-growing
1. Midland, Texas 5.8%
2. Greeley, Colorado 4.8%
3. St. George, Utah 4.6%
4. Provo-Orem, Utah 4.6%
5. Naples-Marco Island, Florida 4.5%
6. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas 4.4%
7. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina 4.3%
8. Laredo, Texas 4.3%
9. Palm Coast, Florida 4.3%
10. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.-Mo. 4.2%
Top 10 Slowest-Growing
1. Binghampton, New York 1.0%
2. Utica-Rome, New York 1.0%
3. Pine Bluff, Arkansas 1.3%
4. Johnstown, Pennsylvania 1.3%
5. Atlantic City-Hammonton, New Jersey 1.4%
6. Danville, Virginia 1.4%
7. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas 1.4%
8. Kingston, New York 1.4%
9. Elmira, New York 1.5%
10. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York 1.5%
Notably, nine of the top 10 are cities in right to work states. Only Colorado is not (they have some other nifty pro-taxpayer protections). Seven of the bottom 10 cities are in forced-unionism states. Also, half of the top-10 cities are in states that both have no personal income tax and are right to work. Beaumont-Port Arthur is the only city in the bottom 10 located in such a state.
Correlation may not be causation, but eventually enough different data points should lead policymakers to wonder why states (and cities in states) that have adopted right to work and zero income tax consistently outperform their high-tax, forced-unionism peers.
Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government and I had a whirlwind tour of New Mexico to discuss federal lands issues in the West and New Mexico in particular. We discussed New Mexico’s economy and how it is impacted by federal lands as well as solutions like “Financial Ready” and “Transfer of Federal Lands” (TPLA) legislation.
Carl spoke at a well-attended public meeting in Albuquerque:
Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico covered the Albuquerque event and interviewed Graham here.
More information will certainly follow on this important issue.
"Liberty on the Rocks" is a no-host happy hour discussion and information-sharing session.
We are changing locations for this event. From now on, Liberty on the Rocks will be held at Scalo Northern Italian Grill which is located in Nob Hill at 3500 Central Avenue SE in Albuquerque. A private room has been reserved for this event.
Liberty on the Rocks is usually held on the third Wednesday of the month, but due to RGF president Paul Gessing's travel plans will take place on Wednesday, June 25th from 6:00 to 7:30PM.
There is no cost for this public event, but attendees are encouraged to have dinner or drinks. Registration is not required but is much appreciated. Click here to register online … it's fast and it's free!Come celebrate liberty with us!
The Rio Grande Foundation hosted a discussion in Albuquerque on June 17 with Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government in the West. Carl had an opinion piece in today’s Albuquerque Journal detailing the reasons and potential benefits were New Mexico to demand and receive lands currently owned and managed by Washington (BLM and Forest Service).
A second, equally important piece was written by my colleague on the Board of the virtual charter school, New Mexico Connections Academy, former New Mexico Sen. Mark Boitano. In his piece, Boitano outlined in detail why effective teachers are so important for improved educational results, how pay for performance can help improve the quality of teaching, and what Connections Academy is doing, within the limits of New Mexico law, to retain the best teachers.
Both initiatives have great potential to improve New Mexico economically and educationally (our federal lands can generate a far better return for schools and our education system needs to improve to build a 21st Century work force). Gov. Martinez has been supportive of both efforts (particularly the latter in approving Connections Academy over the objections of the PEC). It is time for the Legislature and the rest of New Mexico’s leaders to step up to do better.
Though many New Mexicans may not be aware of it, especially given our state’s ongoing economic struggles, New Mexico is in the midst of a boom in energy development. New Mexico has vast deposits of oil and gas that can help our state transcend its struggling economy, leading to better jobs and higher wages.
Just ask the people of North Dakota, whose oil and gas production has resulted in an unemployment rate of less than 3% and fast-food workers being hired at $15 per hour. How important is New Mexico’s energy development? Nearly one-third of all state funding to public schools, as well as to New Mexico’s higher-education institutions, comes from taxes, royalties and fees paid by oil-and-gas operations around the state.
The main threat to New Mexico reaping this huge windfall is an anti-oil and gas movement in our nation’s capital, the same one that has put the Keystone Pipeline project in limbo. Leading this charge is Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who wants hand-picked energy novice Norman Bay to lead the country’s premier energy agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). With Bay at the helm of FERC, New Mexico’s energy boom can be stopped,
FERC regulates natural-gas pricing and pipelines as well as natural-gas export terminals. New Mexico’s ability to stoke its economy through the exploration and production of clean, efficient natural gas hinges directly on decisions made by FERC.
The Commission’s current, acting chair, Cheryl LaFleur, is a seasoned veteran of the energy sector and a respected expert on energy regulation who is on record in favor of quickly processing new export terminals to sell natural gas from New Mexico and other states amid surging world demand.
The White House, however, has nominated energy novice Norman Bay to chair the commission and set the agenda on such crucial policies. Elevating the largely unknown Bay— Politico calls him a “man of mystery”—to the pivotal position of chair could have significant, negative impacts on our State’s thriving energy sector. The chair of FERC holds powerful sway over its agenda and staff in ways that average members do not.
Unfortunately, perhaps as a personal favor to a former colleague, Gov. Martinez has endorsed the appointment of Bay to the FERC although not specifically the powerful position of chair.
The Obama Administration has a dismal record on the development of America’s energy assets despite the obvious importance these strategic natural resources play to states like New Mexico. The Washington Post says, “If foot-dragging were a competitive sport, President Obama and his administration would be world champions for their performance in delaying the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.” Now the Obama White House—heavily lobbied on the issue by fringe activists—aims to do the same for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals. As it is, there are two dozen applications for new export terminals awaiting FERC approval.
The Rio Grande Foundation has previously estimated that New Mexico could see an immediate increase in economic output of $200 million and the addition of 2,000 jobs immediately if LNG exports were encouraged rather than discouraged by Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in an interview this week that he wants Norman Bay as Chairman of FERC, not Cheryl LaFleur. The last guy Reid picked for Chair, Ron Binz, could not get confirmed after calling natural gas “a dead end.”
An FERC chair who implements an anti-natural gas agenda—rather than serving as the neutral arbiter the FERC needs—could cut short our state’s strides in energy exploration.
To be sure, Bay’s appointment as chair over a commission on which he has never served, and has little background, makes little sense in terms of good government. Of even greater concern, though, are the troubling implications for New Mexico.
Ideally, Gov. Martinez should take a closer look at the views Mr. Bay holds as they relate to energy issues in general and LNG exports in particular. Absent a broader evaluation of Bay’s record, we hope that Martinez clarifies that her support for Bay is simply as a member of the FERC as opposed to its chair.
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
Today’s Albuquerque Journal contained the latest admission (this one by Republican legislator Jimmie Hall) that New Mexico’s economy stinks. The article made a bunch of points about our state’s poor economic performance, but almost willfully refused to come to conclusions (like blaming New Mexico’s lack of economic freedom).
Enter gubernatorial candidate Gary King and his first ad which can be seen below:
The good news is that King actually mentions two specific policy reforms that he’d support (I respect politicians that actually put specific ideas on the table): raising the minimum wage and mandating “equal pay” for women. The bad news is that not only are these policy ideas bad, but they are also exactly what one would expect from a “run-of-the-mill” liberal Democrat. At very best, raising the minimum wage will do little economic harm in terms of lost jobs while giving a small group of low-wage workers a small boost, but this is hardly a policy move that will turn New Mexico’s economy around.
The “equal pay” idea is even sillier. Passing a new regulatory regime to track the pay of men and women will do nothing for the economy.
Rather than burdening New Mexico’s struggling economy with even more regulations, I’d love to see King break free from the leftist “splitting up the fixed pie” mode of economic thinking and instead put forth some ideas that expand the pie by acknowledging that the private sector drives prosperity across all income levels and gender divides. Oh, and if you want to work at Wal Mart and make $17 an hour, you don’t need a higher minimum wage, you can do that right now in North Dakota.
There was Sen. Heinrich on the pages of the Albuquerque Journal this Sunday arguing for Congress to (again) intervene in the federal government’s student loan program. The idea of The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Act is to allow students to refinance their debts down to today’s market rates.
The bill before Congress merely rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic and the sinking ship is the student loan program which seems to do more harm than good. Rather than making college more affordable, the loan program has helped drive tuition higher:
The truth is that Washington should find the quickest exit it can from any involvement in student loans. After all, if government needs to be involved at all, the states which run most of America’s universities, would be more innovative and realistic about getting students to attend college (or not) and financing it than Uncle Sam. Instead, Washington, with its ability to go into debt and print money just throws more money at the “problem,” the solution for which is negatively impacts large numbers of college loan recipients who don’t understand the importance of studying in a field with viable career prospects or the power of compounding interest.
Recently, New Mexico saw the following bad jobs news. Specifically, New Mexico is losing jobs while its neighbors are gaining jobs.
But why is New Mexico economically-weaker than its neighbors? We have repeatedly made the case that New Mexico is less economically-free and is less friendly to business. This is not a view isolated to a few reports, rather it is a consistent finding of those who report on such issues. The Rio Grande Foundation recently looked at eight separate rankings of business friendliness and economic freedom (see them below with appropriate links). They measure different things, but consistently find New Mexico to perform worse than its neighbors.
Mercatus Center (personal freedom scores were eliminated from our state rankings): New Mexico’s score: 28; regional average: 16.
Fraser Institute Economic Freedom: New Mexico’s score: 50; regional average: 12.
Forbes: Best States for Business: New Mexico’s score: 45; regional average: 15.
CNBC: Best States for Business: New Mexico’s score: 36; regional average: 17.
Chief Executive Magazine: Best States for Business: New Mexico’s score: 30; regional average: 11.
Tax Foundation: Business Tax Climate: New Mexico’s score: 38; regional average: 17.
Federation of Tax Administrators (Taxes as Percent of Personal Income): (note, since FTA ranks heavier burdens with a lower number, we have inverted the ranking so as to make the lower number “good” or more friendly to business and work and the higher number “less-so”: New Mexico’s score: 36; regional average: 16.
ALEC Rich States, Poor States: New Mexico’s score: 37, regional average: 12.
We put together the following map which illustrates the average scores on these various reports below. Clearly, New Mexico trails its neighbors when it comes to business friendliness and economic freedom.
The Rio Grande Foundation recently proposed the idea of placing all new government workers into 401K-style “defined-contribution” retirement plans as a common-sense and relatively popular free market reform for New Mexico (number 9 on the list). After all, the concept is supported by 70 percent of workers nationwide with only 22 percent opposed, according to a recent poll. See graphic below for details:
Government workers have a bit more heartburn about the issue, but are still supportive by nearly 2:1.
The bad news is that a similar transition has not been floated by Gov. Martinez or any legislator/candidate that I’m aware of. The good news is that the idea is spreading and has spread to neighboring Oklahoma which recently adopted 401k-style pensions for new government hires. See the nifty graphic below which documents the spread of such “defined contribution” plans.
As I wrote in our recent issue brief on the topic, “A defined contribution system would allow those workers to save more or less based on their own needs at particular stages in their lives. Ultimately, while labor union leaders prefer to have their members’ interests tied to government and the political system (and the unions), a shift to individually-controlled accounts undermines the one-size-fits-all mentality perpetuated by unions while also empowering workers.” The other major winners are, of course, taxpayers, who no longer face the spiraling costs associated with “defined benefit” pension plans.
According to the New York Times, it looks like the Land of Enchantment is also the land of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles provided to local law enforcement units. See article here and graphic below:
According to the story, New Mexico has an astonishing 42 of these vehicles out of the 432 that have been distributed nationwide, and, while I’m a bit fuzzy at counting the squares, it looks like that gives us more of these vehicles than any other state in the nation. As if that weren’t enough, we have nearly 10% of these military vehicles for 0.6 percent of the US population.
From a taxpayer perspective, the use of this type of material is a questionable investment (especially in rural areas). From the perspective of police interaction with the public (an issue of some relevance here in Albuquerque), the use of such war machines also can’t be helpful. Where are New Mexico’s 42 MRAP’s? I don’t know for sure. There appears to be one in Hobbs and it looks like Clovis has one, but we’d be interested to know where they all are. Drop us a line in the comments section. Please provide a news link or some evidence if possible.
At tonight’s Bernalillo County Commission meeting, commissioners will be voting to put a $1.5 million property tax hike on the ballot. As the story below indicates, if approved, the tax hike will go to pay for “open space.”
There are several reasons to vote against a tax hike including the ongoing poor economic conditions in the Albuquerque Metro area, much of which is within Bernalillo County. Our city was recently ranked 360 out of 379 on several economic indicators. I’m sure a tax hike will not help turn around our economy.
Albuquerque already has the heaviest property tax burden of any city in the State. As of 2012, the millage rate (the rate at which property is taxed) for average property owners exceeded 41. The next highest rate in New Mexico was Rio Rancho’s 35. After that, Santa Fe weighed in with a paltry 20. Albuquerque residents also bear a property tax burden that is 20 percent heavier than the next-highest New Mexico city.
Lastly, Bernalillo County already spends $1.2 million annually on open space. If adopted, will County residents actually see any additional open space or is this simply a tax hike designed to increase overall spending or cover for recent financial troubles.
Apparently, Facebook tycoon Mark Zuckerberg didn’t learn his lesson the first time…or he is so desperate for positive PR, that he will waste millions of dollars on fluff projects that don’t actually achieve anything. I’m referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s latest donation to a government school monopoly ($120 million to San Francisco Public Schools).
I previously wrote about Zuckerberg’s misguided philanthropy here. Miami Herald columnist Glenn Garvin had a great article deconstructing Zuckerberg’s unwise charity that appeared in today’s Albuquerque Journal.
Of Zuckerberg’s donation to the Newark Schools, Garvin had this gem:
“The result might be titled No Consultant, Bureaucrat or Union Goon Left Behind. Consultants took $20 million right off the top, routinely charging $1,000 a day for services like public relations, human resources and other stuff that’s been around since the beginning of corporate time but which apparently had to be reinvented for Newark.”
The good news is that people can change. Remember the musician Bono who was once the world’s leading spokesman for foreign aid (another means of well-intentioned people propping up failing systems)? Now, Bono has come around to saying, “Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid.”
It’s a start, maybe someday Zuckerberg will realize that school choice and a healthy infusion of free market forces (choice and competition to name a few) will do more to benefit American students than pouring additional millions into broken systems.
We’ve been reporting on New Mexico’s abysmal graduation rate performance according to the national “Diploma’s Count” report for years. For example, it was just 54% back in the 2009 version of the report.
But, as the Albuquerque Journal noted in its top story today, the latest edition of the report shows New Mexico schools to be making significant gains, the greatest improvement since 2007 of any state in the nation. We’re still 44th, but we’re moving in the right direction.
A few points:
1) Clearly, the Gov.’s reforms are having significant, positive impacts;
2) Improving from 50th to 44th is good, but 44th is definitely not good enough. We need to continue with the Gov.’s reforms and convince the Legislature to adopt more significant reforms like improved school choice options to achieve even greater improvements;
4) Perhaps the push to tap the permanent fund for an expensive new Pre-K program can be put on hold. Clearly, New Mexico’s education system CAN improve its performance on existing resources absent a massive increase in spending.
We’ve only scratched the surface in education reform with some significant improvements. It is time for the Legislature to embrace the Gov.’s reforms and come up with some innovative ideas of their own.
Barbara K. Webber heads Health Action New Mexico and had an opinion piece in the Albuquerque Journal recently. The basic message of the piece is that ObamaCare is great and that New Mexicans should be thrilled by this wonderful new law. But a secondary message of the piece is that Native Americans will also benefit from the new law.
As Webber notes:
Native Americans in New Mexico also stand to benefit from better access to health care plans – particularly important for our state, where they make up more than 10 percent of the population. Improving access and quality of care is something our tribal communities desperately need.
Native Americans in New Mexico experience large health disparities compared to the rest of the state and are more likely to be sicker and die younger. They also are face unique obstacles in access and affordability of care.
So, ObamaCare, which is not quite single-payer, but is taking us in that direction, is going to pick up the slack for the Indian Health Service which is causing problems in terms of access and affordability of care…interesting. And, just to be clear, Health Action supports single payer.
The only answer is market-based reforms to our health care system, but that won’t happen until ObamaCare fully implodes and Republicans stand up to the insurance companies by moving insurance to the sidelines (and putting power back in patients’ hands) in US health care.
The electoral process can be slow and is imperfect, but it may have solved Mora County’s ban on fracking (and all oil and gas extraction). The County’s ban was passed on a mere 2-1 vote and, as Rob Nikolewski reports, one of the ban’s supporters lost handily to a candidate who expressed support for at least some oil and gas drilling in the County.
Overturning the ban may not be the Commission’s top priority, but as the lawsuits and the costs of said lawsuits pile up, it would appear that the hard-core opponents of oil and gas have been replaced by those who are likely to avoid costly legal battles by allowing private land owners to generate income — including income from oil and gas — from their lands. This is undeniably a good result of Tuesday’s primaries.
Check out the chart below:
It’s from Pew Foundation and it illustrates how Washington’s explosion in Medicaid and other health care spending due to ObamaCare and how other payments from Washington to the various stats are shrinking. No matter how you look at it, health care spending is “crowding out” other funding to the states. This could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, but it is hard to believe that Washington would have cut spending in these other areas without such massive growth in health care.
Arguably, this is just another indicator that Washington’s role is moving from “doing things” like building roads to simply making transfer payments from one group to another in the form of welfare payments.
Rio Grande Foundation is an issues-based organization. In other words, we look at public policy issues facing New Mexico’s economy and educational systems from the perspective of limited government. We believe that, when properly understood, limited government and economic freedom benefit ALL of us regardless of race, color, or creed. But, the reality is that public policy reform often involves appealing to specific groups. Certainly, conservatives and free market advocates have struggled to attract Hispanics to our point of view.
At least in New Mexico, the issue of federal overreach on land management issues provides an excellent opportunity. In today’s Albuquerque Journal, A.M. Martinez makes several salient points in that regard. More history on disputes between the federal government and land grant holders here.
Ultimately, when it comes to federal lands, the only thing that everyone can agree on is that Washington does a poor job of managing the land. Given the political challenges faced by Western states in managing those lands for the benefit of Westerners as opposed to wealthy environmentalists back East, we need all the support we can get.
The biggest beneficiary of the ongoing energy boom has been President Obama. That’s not my statement, it’s Rick Newman’s from Yahoo Finance. Obama’s controversial plan to cut carbon emissions by 30% reminds me of the politician that gets a law passed when a trend is already happening.
This doesn’t make it good policy (it’s not); It also won’t reduce overall carbon emissions (much of the coal will continue to be exported to China and Europe); It will definitely result in some economic harms. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the regulation will reduce GDP by $50 billion a year and prevent the creation of more than 220,000 jobs per year. The hit to household disposable income would be more than $550 billion a year. This would obviously be far worse if, for some reason, the natural gas boom slows or is halted.
The good news is that the full costs of this proposal won’t be felt by 2030. Anytime between now and then our political leaders and Congress could wake up and let the free market — which has already achieved a great deal of what Obama’s regulation imposes (the regulation is based on higher 2005 emissions, not 2012 emissions).
So, if Obama’s goals are achieved, it won’t be windmills, solar panels, or unicorn farts that lead us to the promised land. It’ll be good old fracking, the bane of the whacko “environmentalists” that gets us there. Oh, and for a clear illustration of how Obama has benefited politically from the oil and gas boom, the chart below should suffice.
In the wake of the various police shootings and issues over mental health problems, the Albuquerque City Council will be considering a tax hike of 1/8th of a percentage point on the gross receipts tax tonight. I have previously discussed the rationale or lack thereof for such a tax hike. Details follow:
To state the issue simply, there is no reason to raise taxes. There is no clear understanding of the issues at play in the first place and there is certainly no research or even widespread understanding that a tax hike will improve the situation. And New Mexico’s mental health spending is middle-of-the-pack among states, so it is hard to state on its face that more funding is required.
More importantly, when it comes to mental health issues in New Mexico, it must be noted that this spate of mental health problems coincides with some very tough economic times in our city/state. There’s no scientific evidence that I know of that the economy is the problem, but that argument is just as plausible as the “let’s raise taxes” argument. Raising taxes certainly seems unlikely to improve the local economy.
UPDATE: Due to protests, the meeting has been rescheduled for June 9, but according to media reports, no public comment will be allowed.
UPDATE 2: The tax hike issue will be discussed before the full council, presumably in an open meeting with public comment, in August. Stay tuned.
It seems like not a week goes by without yet another controversy over federal lands in the American West. New Mexico, with 42 percent federal land ownership (as seen in the map below), has been at ground-zero.
To cite just a few very recent or even ongoing situations, there was the Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada, a simmering standoff over ranchers' access to water in Otero County, and the Obama Administration's unilateral decision to place 500,000 acres of New Mexico land "off-limits" to a wide variety of human and economic uses.
You are invited to a discussion of these at once pertinent and controversial issues with Carl Graham, Director of the Coalition for Self Government in the West.
The Rio Grande Foundation and others have been grown concerned about the federal government's management of lands throughout the West. A Rio Grande Foundation study found that by transferring management of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands to the State, New Mexico could see as many as 68,000 new jobs and $8.4 billion in additional economic growth.
But the impact of poor federal land policies is not limited to economics: forest fires rage uncontrolled, ranchers, historic land grants, and recreational users have lost access to their lands, and funding provided by Washington in lieu of taxes paid on those lands (known as PILT) continues to leave local governments under-funded.
Legislation that would return or study the return of federal lands to the State of New Mexico has been introduced in the last two legislative sessions.
In addition to land management policies, Graham will be addressing what states like New Mexico can do to not be so reliant on Washington for their economic well-being. In fact, New Mexico is already learning the painful result of over reliance on Washington. But, States need to fully understand and analyze what would happen to their economies in the event of a significant loss of Washington funding. This concept, known as "Financial Readiness" will be introduced in the 2015 New Mexico legislative session and will be addressed in Graham's presentation.