Education

Conservative Ideas for New Mexico’s Legislators and Candidates to Get Elected and Govern By

When it comes to government in a democracy, it is far easier to play the role of Santa Clause than Uncle Scrooge. In other words, it is easier to say “yes” than it is to say “no” when it comes to spending other peoples’ money and using government regulations to benefit special interest groups. As any parent knows, saying “yes” feels better in the short-run, but saying “no” is often better in the long-run.

“Unfortunately,” says Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing, “New Mexico policymakers have been saying ‘yes’ for too long and needs a healthy helping of ‘no’ when it comes to government spending and regulations. The good news,” says Gessing “is that there are many free market policies that would be good for New Mexico’s economy and education system while also being quite popular with average voters.”

The Rio Grande Foundation has compiled some of the best of these ideas into a list entitled, Common-Sense Ideas for a Conservative Majority in the New Mexico House. This paper is available at our website and it includes specific policy ideas and relevant polling data and arguments that should make these ideas a proverbial “slam-dunk.” The document should be an invaluable resource as conservatives look to gain control of New Mexico’s House of Representatives for the first time in more than 60 years.

Several of the ideas outlined have been introduced as legislation in the past including elimination of 3rd grade social promotion and creation of a system of tax credits for school choice. Ending “worker’s compensation” payments to drunk or drugged workers who injure themselves on the job and taking action to restore federally-controlled lands in New Mexico to state control are also included.

Other ideas involve opening New Mexico government to greater public involvement by eliminating unnecessary signature requirements for New Mexico’s volunteer legislature (or at least making the requirements equitable among the various political parties) and allowing for remote testimony in legislative committees.

Lastly, the Rio Grande Foundation offers several popular and free market reform ideas that have been implemented in other states. Such ideas include amending New Mexico’s Constitution to require voter approval for all tax hikes at the state or local levels, repealing New Mexico’s onerous “prevailing wage” law which increases construction costs for projects like roads and schools by 15 percent or more, and shifting all new government workers out of New Mexico’s failing “defined benefit” pension plan and into user-controlled-and-directed “defined contribution” plans.

Legislative update interview: latest from the 2014 session

I sat down with Margaret Ortiz at TBN for a discussion of the issues moving through the 2014 legislative session. Things are happening fast at this point at the Roundhouse, but this interview remains relevant as it touches on the big, controversial issues facing legislators:

Issues and Legislation Facing the 2014 Legislation from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

KRQE story based on RGF research: Generous perks at NM community colleges

The Rio Grande Foundation released a report in December of 2013 detailing the benefits given to presidents at New Mexico's community colleges. This report caught the attention of Katie Kim at Channel 13, KRQE who put together a major investigative report on the issue. Kim's report aired last night and can be viewed below:

Lottery Scholarship Program should not pay full costs



The Legislature will soon be considering reforms to New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarship Program. While a number of tweaks such as increasing the GPA requirement have been offered and will likely be considered, after taking a careful look at the program as a whole, it would appear that the Lottery Scholarship could use a serious overhaul.

Before getting into specific reforms, it is worth pointing out that while they have provided college educations for thousands of New Mexico students, the Lottery Scholarships are not free money. Their proceeds are the result of voluntary lottery ticket purchases which are disproportionately made by middle and low income people. These people could have potentially saved, invested, or even invested in their own child’s educations.

The fact that there are tradeoffs and that the Lottery Scholarship is a regressive (albeit voluntary) tax, makes it extremely urgent that the return on New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarships must be maximized both in terms of educational outcome and overall impact on our state’s economy.

Are your legislators voting for or against freedom?

Click here.

The Rio Grande Foundation has re-launched its legislative tracking tool called “Freedom Index,” which provides a daily review of legislation impacting economic freedom in the state. For the first time, lawmakers will be able to get an independent, free market view of legislation pending before the Legislature. Moreover, voters can see whether their legislators are voting for free markets or for bigger government.

Users will be able to see:

• The relative voting performance of legislators according to the Freedom Index;

• The relative voting performance of each party according to the Freedom Index;

• The analysis criteria behind the legislation ranking will be made publicly-available for download;

• Links to legislation detail;

• Links to legislator Information, including contact information;

• And selections of legislation by relevant categories. The Freedom Index is available here.  Our analysis will be available before final votes on those bills that are analyzed and can be used by both legislators, legislative staff and interested voters to debate the merits of a bill. In short, the Index provides an excellent analysis of bills that will come before committees or a vote on the floor as well as tracking a legislator’s Freedom Index score.

The public will find our Freedom Index to be a tool to hold elected officials accountable for their vote and to gain a better understanding of the legislation being proposed by the House or Senate members. Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing said of his organization’s new legislative tracking web site, “We are thrilled to add the freedom perspective to the legislative process in Santa Fe. For too long, the special interests have run wild with the voice of taxpayers and those who pay the bills too often pushed to the side.”

Paul Gessing’s appearance on KRWG “Newsmakers”

On this 30 minute interview with Fred Martino of KRWG public television in Las Cruces, Gessing discusses several issues facing New Mexico including the struggling economy, the RailRunner and Spaceport, education reform, federal lands in New Mexico, and criminal justice reform. Check out the video below:

A Market-Based Approach to New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarship Program

(Albuquerque) The Legislature will consider reforming the system during the upcoming 2014 legislative session. Several proposals have been made in the hopes of reforming New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarship program which plays such a large role in financing higher education in the Land of Enchantment.

In its newest paper, “Let’s Really Reform New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarships,” Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, takes a broader look at the impacts, both positive and negative, of the Lottery Scholarship program and outlines some principles that legislators should adhere to in considering the program’s future. He also offers some approaches that might increase the positive impact of the program both on educational outcomes and New Mexico’s economy as a whole.

The paper includes:

  • A reminder of the tradeoffs and negative impacts of government-sponsored gambling;
  • Analysis of how New Mexico’s Scholarship program results in students “slacking off” in high school;
  • The scholarship discourages students from pursuing scholarships and other funding opportunities for their higher educations;
  • An explanation of why it might not be good public policy to encourage New Mexico’s best high school students to stay in New Mexico; and
  • How the Lottery Scholarship spurs price inflation among New Mexico’s institutes of higher education.

Gessing strongly discourages the Legislature from using General Fund revenues to prop up the Lottery Scholarship Program and cautions against over-emphasizing the use of grades in determining who keeps and who loses their scholarships.

Finally, Gessing encourages the Legislature to consider an innovative voucher-style proposal that, if adopted, would solve several of the problems inherent in the current, flawed model.

A Gessing argues, “The Lottery Scholarship Program has the potential to improve New Mexico’s work force. We believe that a healthy dose of market-based incentives could make limited lottery funds go further without tapping taxpayers for even more spending on higher education.”

School Choice is Key to Results

There has been an incredible amount of angst among the education establishment over New Mexico’s newly-enacted system of teacher evaluations. Unlike other aspects of Gov. Martinez’s education agenda including the A-F grading system, elimination of 3rd grade social promotion, and an emphasis on digital learning, these evaluations were not based on Jeb Bush’s successful reforms in Florida.

In fact, New Mexico’s educators might be surprised to know that these hated evaluations came to our state via the Obama Administration. A few years ago, the National Education Association gave $60 million to candidate Obama to re-elect him to the White House. Ironically, these angry union members funded the very source of their considerable angst.

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