Economy

Work requirements for food stamps are hardly onerous

Since 2009, New Mexico has waived federal work requirements tied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. Over 21 percent of all New Mexicans receive food stamps, leaving us behind only Mississippi.

Gov. Susana Martinez’ Administration has proposed to reinstate rules limiting able-bodied people – including parents of children older than six-years – to three months of SNAP benefits unless they work, do volunteer work, or attend job training classes at least 20 hours per week. Children and the myriad food programs targeted at them and those who simply cannot work are not up for changes.

New Mexico is not alone in re-instating these modest requirements. According to a September 2014 report from the Pew Center, no fewer than 17 states were working to re-instate work requirements on able-bodied adults.

In 2014 Maine re-imposed a three-month limit (out of every three-year period) on food stamps for 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 such people receiving food stamps in Maine has dropped nearly 80 percent since the rule kicked in, to 2,530 from about 12,000.

Maine’s work requirement has been in effect for about a year now without a reported increase in hunger. No reports of dire or exacerbated hunger exist for the decade-plus during which this policy was in effect nationwide from the time of the welfare reforms enacted by then-President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress in the mid-1990s.

Keep New Mexico from being the Greece of North America

Despite (or perhaps because of) the latest bailout, Greece remains deeply-troubled. The crisis has manifested itself due to Europe’s single currency, the Euro. Greece cannot pay its bills, but because of the Euro, it cannot devalue its currency either. So a series of bailouts and “austerity” measures have been imposed.

This is a quick synopsis of the Greek situation, but what are the parallels for New Mexico?

In July of 2011, The Economist magazine noted one interesting parallel when an article “Greek Americans” noted which U.S. states are most reliant on transfers from Washington for fiscal support. According to the article, New Mexico was the most reliant U.S. state in the nation by far.

It is true that unlike Greece, the U.S. has a long-standing single fiscal policy and a culture (200+ years) of unified action. Greece could easily leave or be kicked out of the currency union after only a few decades of unity. That is not likely to happen to New Mexico.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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

(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.

Television interview: 2015 New Mexico Legislature special session recap

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

Of Groceries, Ray Guns, and the Gross Receipts Tax

Happy New Fiscal Year. Ready for higher taxes?

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

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

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

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