Tax and Budget

New RGF Study: How Federal Spending in New Mexico Grows State/Local Government

(Albuquerque) – Elected officials of both parties have conspired over several decades to “bring home the bacon” in the form of federal dollars. For example, Senators Domenici and Bingaman served in the United States Senate for decades and were known as effective “porkbarrel” politicians.

New Mexico’s poverty along with its willingness to aggressively pursue federal spending has made the State the 3rd-greatest recipient of federal dollars relative to what it sends to Washington. A report by Key Policy Data recently found that New Mexico receives $1.69 for every dollar it sends to Washington.

More recently, the Republican Gov. Susana Martinez agreed to expand Medicaid under the federal “ObamaCare” program thanks in part to the generous federal match which is currently 100% of the costs of expansion and will remain at 90% from 2020 on. Prior to Medicaid expansion, Medicaid was often touted as “economic development” due to the fact that the federal government covered 70% of the program’s cost in the state.

Also, the Republican Mayor of Albuquerque has been pushing for a plan to put “bus rapid transit” along Central Avenue. That plan is contingent upon the federal government kicking in $80 million of the plan’s expected $100 million cost.

While federal funds are often seen as “free” and an “economic stimulus” by proponents, a new analysis by Dr. Eric Fruits, an adjunct scholar with the Rio Grande Foundation, each additional dollar of federal intergovernmental transfers to New Mexico is associated with $0.99 in additional taxes, charges, and other state and local own source revenue.

This new research further finds that New Mexico experiences a larger ratchet effect than states as a group. In 2012, New Mexico state and local governments received $5.9 billion in federal intergovernmental transfers and spent $13.1 billion raised from state and local sources. A hypothetical 10 percent increase in federal transfers to New Mexico would amount to about $590 million more federal money to the state.

“ How Federal Spending in New Mexico Grows State Government” is linked here and can be downloaded from the Rio Grande Foundation’s website,

Time to prioritize at Albuquerque City Hall

 In the wake of two recent shooting tragedies and ongoing negative attention for the city of Albuquerque, Mayor Richard Berry has asked New Mexico’s Legislature to make changes to the pension system in order to allow police to return to the workforce. The Albuquerque Police Department says 135 officers need to be hired to fully flesh out the local police force.

Earlier this year, the mayor proposed spending an additional $4.7 million to comply with the U.S. Department of Justice’s reform demands at APD. We can all agree that public safety is the first and most important role of government. Unfortunately, there are always infinite wants and limited means to provide those, and it seems like local governments and the local citizenry have been unwilling to prioritize. Over the years, this has led to higher taxes and real economic harm.

At the start of the 2000s, Albuquerque’s gross receipts tax (GRT) rate stood at 5.8125 percent. Currently, it’s 7.1875 percent — an increase of 23.7 percent. That rate will further jump to 7.3125 percent when the recently-passed ABQ BioPark tax hike is in place, a nearly 26 percent increase since 2000. All those tax hikes of a “fraction of a penny” have added up over the years to real money.

Today, our city has 17,100 fewer jobs than at its pre-Great Recession employment peak in March 2007. Yes, New Mexico’s economy remains weak, but its largest city is not helping.

Unfortunately, we’re just getting started. For more than a year now, Berry and a majority on city council have been promoting a costly and unnecessary bus rapid transit system along Central Avenue.

Full text of the article is available from Albuquerque Business First.

No more Santa Fe Studios subsidies

The following appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday, November 1, 2015.

When is $10 million in taxpayer money simply not enough? In the case of the people who already got a sweetheart deal to build Santa Fe Studios, when you can ask for $22 million more.

There is likely no other business in the State of New Mexico that has received as many subsidies as Santa Fe Studios. That hasn’t stopped the Studios have applied for $22 million in industrial revenue bonds to Santa Fe County.

Already, the State has provided $10 million in economic development grants. The County has provided a generous $6.5 million bank loan.

It’s not as if film studios in New Mexico require subsidies. Albuquerque Studios was built without direct taxpayer subsidy. One would think that if Santa Fe Studios’ business was good enough to require expansion, the owners could pay for it themselves like any other business. Unfortunately, once you realize that you can stick you hands into taxpayers’ pockets, the temptation to do so again is hard to resist.

And then there is the lack of transparency. In October of 2013, there was a dustup between another think tank, Think New Mexico, and the Studios over how many films had actually been produced at the Studios. Without a doubt, Think New Mexico was justified in questioning Santa Fe Studios which has given few details on how the tax money they have received has been used.

Yet another reason to yell "cut" on New Mexico film subsidies

The results of yet another report on New Mexico’s film subsidy program were recently released. This study was commissioned by the New Mexico Film Office and conducted by the Canadian accounting firm MNP. It included payroll data, industry interviews, and financial reports filed with the Film Office.

The report further casts doubt on the idea that New Mexico’s generous film subsidy program will ever lead to a permanent, sustainable film industry presence in the Land of Enchantment.

According to the report, “total statewide spending on goods and services by … film and television productions declined from 2011 through 2014, with $118.7 million being spent in the 2011 budget year and $82.8 million being spent in 2014.” In addition, direct employment fell between the 2010 and 2014 fiscal years.

‘Political pay’ at APS is a bad deal

Most of the media’s attention has been focused on the ongoing scandal at the top of Albuquerque Public Schools. Unfortunately, an issue with much larger long-term ramifications was voted on by the APS board – minus Peggy Muller-Aragon, who opposed the move.

The issue is of course paying district employees “political pay” for serving in the Legislature. Apparently, a majority of the board recognized an opportunity to increase its influence in Santa Fe at taxpayer expense.

Currently, four legislators are employed by the school district. Those include Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque; Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque; and Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Rio Rancho. Unlike the others, Lewis has not accepted his pay as a teacher in recent years when serving in Santa Fe and presumably will continue to do the same despite the district’s move.

This is a classic case of a taxpayer-funded entity working to further its own political interests at the expense of those who pay the bills. After all, APS already has lobbyists patrolling the halls in Santa Fe, why not add a few more APS-paid legislators into the mix when it comes time to vote on education budgets?

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.

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.

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.

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