This op-ed ran in The (Farmington) Daily Times on March 1, 2015.
On January 1, 2005, food bought at New Mexico's grocery stores was excluded from the gross receipts tax, or GRT. In exchange for the break, the GRT was hiked on all other purchases.
A decade later, it's clear that the tax shift was a mistake.
With several proposals before the legislature to reinstate the GRT on food, it's time for an honest examination of how and why the well-meaning exemption failed.
Many of the state's liberal activists and organizations opposed ending the food tax. In 2003, New Mexico Voices for Children argued that the "very poorest people will not receive the benefits," because most "use food stamps, which are not subject to gross receipts taxes." (A staggering 21.5 percent of our citizens participate in the federal program.) In addition, many household essentials such as soap, paper products, and toothpaste remained taxable. Utility and motor-fuels taxes were not touched, either.
(Albuquerque, NM) – New research by New Mexico’s free-market think tank finds that a dollar goes much further in right-to-work (RTW) states.
Legislators in Santa Fe are debating whether to adopt a RTW law for New Mexico. Opponents of the measure charge that residents of right-to-work states are poorer, and that if enacted in The Land of Enchantment, there will be “greater expenditures for subsidized food, housing and health care for newly hired workers who will never make a living wage.”
The Rio Grande Foundation’s research debunks such claims.
The issue brief “Purchasing Power and the Right to Work” finds that once adjusted for the the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s estimate of the cost of living, disposable income, per capita, is equal in the two types of states. Using an alternate calculation developed by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, income in RTW states is 8.5 percent higher.
Many ways that life’s basic necessities are costlier in non-RTW states, including:
“These statistics show that union bosses’ favorite argument against RTW is hollow,” said Dowd Muska, research director with the Rio Grande Foundation and author of the new report. “When adjusted for purchasing power, RTW states are at least as wealthy as their compulsory-unionism competitors – and in all likelihood, wealthier.”
“Contrary to the allegations of Big Labor’s well-funded lobbyists and activists,” concluded Muska, “RTW is not a ticket to impoverishment. Life is good where unions must earn their members’ financial support. Little wonder why so many RTW states have strong economies and growing populations.”
The various issue-oriented license plates offered were discussed recently on KRQE Channel 13 and Rio Grande Foundation was asked to weigh in. In the grand scheme of things, there are many more wasteful government programs, but it is hard to see how New Mexico taxpayers come out ahead on the license plate deal. Full story below:
I recently sat down with Gwyneth Doland at KNME and CNM President Katherine Winograd to discuss the Obama Administration's proposal for "free" community college. Needless to say, we are not big fans of Obama's proposal. Even Winograd doesn't seem to be fully-convinced that the program is the best use of taxpayer dollars.
And, while RGF opposes the Obama proposal, we do value the educational value of community colleges and emphasized their importance in a 2014 paper outlining needed reforms for New Mexico's lottery scholarship program. Community colleges (like CNM) are one way to get more "bang" for lottery scholarship bucks.
The full interview is below with a "web extra" below that.
It pleases me to no end that a report published by my organization back in July of 2012 has recently become an object of such criticism and outrage among left-wing critics of “right to work.” It shows that our efforts to put “right to work” at the top of the Legislature’s policy agenda have paid off and that New Mexico may finally be on the verge of adopting some long-overdue reforms that will shake our economy out of its torpor.
Both the union-funded, Washington-based Economic Policy Institute and University of New Mexico sociology professor Tamara Kay made news recently by giving the report an “F-grade” and calling it “kindergarden math.”
To be clear, truly conclusive data are hard to come by in the social sciences. The statistical tool known as regression is useful and it was used in our 2012 report, but the ideal method would be to have two or more experiments running with New Mexico moving forward with or without a “right to work” law in place. After a given period of time you compare notes and draw conclusions. That is impossible in the real world so “proof” is elusive and debates (and name calling, apparently) continue.
“Even in cases where a person has not been convicted, or even accused of a crime, the police can seize personal property and keep it for their own gain,” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “This practice should outrage any American who values the property rights guaranteed to them by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”
Bipartisan legislation has already been introduced in both houses of Congress that would dramatically reform federal civil asset forfeiture laws. The Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). In the House, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an identical version of the FAIR Act.
STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT:
The bill to end civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico is supported by an ideologically diverse range of organizations including the Rio Grande Foundation, the Institute for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance.
No one acquitted of a crime in criminal court should lose property through forfeiture in civil court. This legislation ensures New Mexico remains tough on crime. Guilty people will lose the fruits of their crime. Equally important, innocent people will keep the fruits of their labor.
- Lee U. McGrath, Legislative Counsel, Institute for Justice
Policing for profit is very much alive and well in New Mexico. In 2011, the ACLU of New Mexico took legal action after police seized thousands of dollars from a vacationing father and son, even though they were never even accused of a crime. Innocent people in New Mexico should never fear that law enforcement officers will strip them of their property without due process.
- Peter Simonson, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico
For decades civil asset forfeiture practices have robbed innocent people, taking money right out of their wallets—or even taking their home and their car—without even charging them with a crime. Like other drug war programs, civil asset forfeiture is disproportionately used against poor people of color who cannot afford to hire lawyers to get their property back.
- Emily Kaltenbach, State Director, Drug Policy Alliance
MORE ABOUT PROFILING FOR PROFIT IN NEW MEXICO:
Profiling for Profit? Cops Take $17K From Father, Son (ABQ Journal)
In depth investigation into civil asset forfeiture (Washington Post)
There have been so many things going on during the 2015 legislative session, that keeping up has been a real challenge. The interview below was done with Fred Martino of KRWG TV in Las Cruces at the beginning of the legislative session in January. A lot has happened since then, but the discussion remains extremely relevant.
Note: Education tax credit legislation has been introduced this year in the New Mexico House as HB 333 by Rep. James Strickler
Children aren't widgets. Each child learns differently, and one-size-fits-all education cannot work for every pupil.
That's why a growing number of elected officials and school-reform activists support education tax credits. The idea is simple: Shouldn't parents decide which learning environment is best for their kids? And shouldn't the options include public, private, or religious schools?
Offering scholarships to low-income children is smart policy for two reasons: boosted academic achievement and tax relief. Here's how the system would operate: Individuals and corporations would receive tax breaks to fund scholarships to low-income students through qualified nonprofit organizations. Previous bills set the credits at up to $500 for individuals — $1,000 for married couples filing jointly — and up to $50,000 for corporations. Participating students need to qualify for the federal school-lunch program. Parents could use the scholarships to enroll their children in a secular or religious school, a charter school, or a Bureau of Indian Education school.