I don’t read Joe Monahan’s blog (unless someone directly tells me to) so I just ran across his not-so-thinly-veiled attack today on yours truly and the Rio Grande Foundation. Monahan claims that New Mexico is suffering from “austerity” as advocated by the Rio Grande Foundation (technically, he refuses to mention us and instead calls us a “right wing think tank”).
For starters, New Mexico’s spending has grown in real terms under Gov. Martinez. According to the LFC, Martinez’ first General Fund budget was $5.43 billion and it is now $6.16 billion. That averages out to about 3.58 percent growth on an annual basis. Given low statistically-low inflation rates and New Mexico’s barely-there population growth, New Mexico’s budget has grown every year (on average) under Martinez.
Monahan moves on to attack our advocacy and research on a right to work law for New Mexico, but rather than doing so, he makes the bizarre claim: “Remember, a couple of years ago when the mantra was cutting corporate taxes and economic paradise would result?” No, I don’t remember that. RGF detailed the benefits of previous, not-enacted bill reducing corporate income tax rates, but we were never asked to testify on the bill that passed with its potential tax hikes and expansion of the film program . More importantly, Martinez’ small corporate income tax cuts are not even half-implemented yet.
What Monahan and his ilk refuse to acknowledge is that states that have right to work laws consistently outperform non-right to work states. The most recent data available show 8 of the 10 fastest-growing states have such laws on the books.
By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
Why Winston Brooks stepped down as superintendent of New Mexico’s largest school district remains a mystery.
The custodian of records at Albuquerque Public Schools turned back Tuesday the initial part of a request filed separately from New Mexico Watchdog and the New Mexico Foundation of Open Government to obtain details about the $350,000 taxpayer-funded buyout the school district worked out for Brooks.
APS hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into what the school board described only as a “serious personnel issue” concerning Brooks that led to the settlement.
Responding to Inspection of Public Records Act requests from New Mexico Watchdog and NMFOG, APS records custodian Rigo Chavez said APS Board of Education President Analee Maestas was approached about disclosing more details and “responded that the only investigation conducted by the Butt Thornton and Baehr law firm involves a personnel matter. Therefore, your request is denied.”
Lawyer-client privilege was also cited.
Chavez said APS is still looking into New Mexico Watchdog and NMFOG requests to see emails and documents regarding Brooks, his wife Ann Brooks and any communications with school board members regarding the investigation and subsequent agreement.
“I have asked the APS Board of Education Office and the APS Information Technology Department for any communications and will let you know within the 15 days allowed by the Act of any documents located,” Chavez said in the email to New Mexico Watchdog.
After Brooks turned in his resignation Aug. 15, the only comment from the school board came from Maestas, who restricted her comments to saying that “both (Brooks and the board) agree that this decision is the best option for APS at this time.”
Furthermore, the agreement said the investigation into the “serious personnel issue” will be kept “in a file separate from Brooks’ personnel file, and it shall not be released to anyone.”
Susan Boe, executive director at NMFOG, reiterated Wednesday her organization’s opinion that information about Brooks settlement should be made public.
“FOG believes there is information in that report that is factual in nature and is not exempt” under the personnel exemption in the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act, Boe said.
In addition, Ann Brooks is mentioned a number of times in the settlement agreement. But Ann Brooks is not an employee of APS.
“Clearly she does not fall under the personnel exemption,” Boe said.
Click here to read the Brooks’ resignation and settlement agreement with the school board.
By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE – How much taxpayer money should New Mexico invest in nascent companies?
The State Investment Council says $40 million per year is about right, but the head of the Association of Commerce and Industry of New Mexico wants nearly double that.
“New Mexico needs to believe in itself and we need to invest in ourselves,” said ACI executive director Beverlee McClure, who says the SIC, by not investing more in statewide businesses, “is not believing in New Mexico companies.”
“I would respectfully disagree with her take on that,” SIC spokesman Charles Wollmann said.
The SIC has a Private Equity Investments Program that allows the council to take money from the Severance Tax Permanent Fund and give it to New Mexico-based businesses in the early stage of development.
The amount deducted is capped at 9 percent — about $425 million.
But the SIC is not required to use the entire 9 percent. The council has decided to invest 5 percent on New Mexico startups and early-stage companies, about $40 million per year.
“We’re not even meeting the cap by their choice,” said McClure, who wants to see the SIC invest the full 9 percent.
An SIC advisory committee conducts a vetting process to determine which companies are worthy of taxpayers’ dollars.
“We just don’t believe that,” McClure told New Mexico Watchdog. “We believe there are quality companies here and this is our tax dollars, and we believe it should be invested (in New Mexico).”
But Wollmann countered by saying some 45 New Mexico companies are part of the private equity portfolio, and they employ about 1,300 people across the state.
In past, the SIC — i.e., New Mexico taxpayers — was burned by shaky private equity investments.
“The first 10 years of this program was a dismal failure,” Wollmann said. “They pushed money out the door trying to catalyze the venture community here.”
For example, the Private Equity Investments Program racked up returns of minus-18 percent between 1994 and 2004.
Since then, Wollmann said, the program improved, turning in 4 percent annualized returns.
“We have a fiduciary responsibility as council members to gain a return on the fund,” said SIC board member Leonard Lee Rawson. “And we’re still guarded as to whether or not the New Mexico Private Equity investments are going to generate the return that we have an obligation to produce.”
“I do think there’s another part of the mission” at the SIC, McClure said. “That mission is to invest in New Mexico companies and create New Mexico jobs.”
But Rawson says the No. 1 job for the SIC is making money for the state’s taxpayers.
“We are charged as fiduciaries not as economic development folks,” said Rawson. “Beverlee looks at it as economic development. We have to look at it (as), can we get a return that’s close to what we need to get? … We can’t continue to invest in a loss at 18 percent just for jobs.”
“The more money this fund makes the more money we contribute to the general fund and to school operations budgets every year,” Wollmann said.
“All we’re saying is, there’s got to be a balance in there somewhere,” McClure. “So instead of saying, no New Mexico companies qualify because we had some that did not perform well, there should be a better balance in investing in New Mexico companies.”
In addition to the Private Equity Investment Fund there’s requirement 1 percent of the Severance Tax Permanent Fund go to the Small Business Investment Council, which specializes in New Mexico companies.
“When you take the 5 percent (invested in the Private Equity Investments Fund) and the 1 percent in the SBIC, you’re really talking about 6 percent out there,” Rawson said.
“We (as a state) put them in an awkward position in that we’re saying two things to them,” McClure said. “We say, use this money to invest in us and create New Mexico jobs. And, oh by the way, you’ve also got to make money for the fund. We don’t see those two things as competing. But it appears that the current State Investment Council and the current advisory committee does see that as a conflict,” McClure said.
“Financial returns need to be the first focus,” Wollmann said. “We’ve seen what happens from the first 10 years of this program when you don’t make financial returns the priority … If you want to have a policy debate, that’s really for the Legislature.”
Recently, the Santa Fe Reporter ran an article decrying the US Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision from a highly-typical left-wing viewpoint that can be summarized from a line in the article: “Whether it’s restricting access to abortion or restricting access to birth control, women’s autonomy as individual human beings capable of making decisions is apparently not valued by the majority of those sitting on our nation’s highest court.”
While the left loves to pin blame on sexism or some other nefarious plot, the real issue is the absurd US health care laws (laws that long-predated ObamaCare) that strongly incentivize employers to purchase health care for their workers. You can read my letter to the editor which was published in response (and another letter supporting the decision! here).
As with so many liberal critiques of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, Hunter Riley fails to address the central issues in the case. Instead, she prefers to play up the “War on Women” meme and rail against the court’s supposedly sexist views.
The central issue in Hobby Lobby is the federal tax preference for employer health care purchases relative to those made by individuals. Absent this provision, which was literally an accident of history dating back to World War II wage and price controls, employers would have literally no say in their workers’ health care decisions.
Unfortunately, the Obamacare health “reforms” failed to address this simple, misguided provision, which created a number of harmful consequences, most notably the dominance of insurance companies in American health care.
The court simply decided that certain businesses had an interest in not purchasing for their employees certain forms of birth control that they believed to cause an abortion. Sixteen of 20 approved forms of birth control remain covered, and there is nothing stopping workers from purchasing these products on their own.
Ultimately, the reproductive rights community should get over their misguided obsession with “free” health care and work with libertarians to end misguided policies that place employers and government bureaucrats in control of our most intimate medical decisions.
Paul J Gessing
President Rio Grande Foundation
The first episode of the New Mexico Freedom Hour on 770 KKOB is now posted. At the outset of the show I outlined a few of the issues likely to be discussed during the show and our goals for the show. I spent most of the rest of the show discussing right to work laws with Jarrett Skorup of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center. Michigan is the latest state to have adopted such a law.
You can listen to the podcast here.