Legalize ride-sharing to reduce DUIs in New Mexico

Driving under the influence is a problem throughout America, but in New Mexico, the toll is severe. The Land of Enchantment consistently ranks among the worst states for DUI accidents and fatalities.

While there are no failsafe solutions — with the possible exception of self-driving cars — one significant way to address the DUI problem is ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber.

Evidence is mounting that the availability of ride-sharing services reduces DUI incidence. A study by Temple University found that the presence of Uber led to between a 3.6 percent and a 5.6 percent reduction in alcohol-related driving homicides. Noting that there are 13,000 DUI-related deaths a year, researchers estimated that nationwide availability would save 500 lives annually and the economy $1.3 billion in losses.

Considering the seriousness of the DUI problem, it is unfortunate that New Mexico’s Senate has been a major obstacle to ride-sharing in our state.

Slew of Bad Rankings Reflect New Mexico's Difficult Reality

Over the years, New Mexicans have grown used to seeing their state at the bottom of a lot of good lists and at the top of many of the bad ones. This long-term systemic problem has grown worse due to declines in federal spending and employment at the Labs and military installations as well as plunging prices of oil and natural gas.

There are a lot of great people in New Mexico. We have a unique culture, internationally-recognized events and attractions, all topped off by incredible weather and landscapes. Unfortunately, for decades many believed that federal largess and mineral wealth were adequate bases for our economy. Business-friendly economic policies were ignored in favor of finding ways to tax and redistribute resources from these two industries.

This phenomenon is quite common. The list of resource-rich, but economically-backward nations is long including Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Libya, and Iraq (to name a few).

In just the span of a few weeks New Mexicans found their state ranked poorly on a series of national reports:

Eric Fruits, PhD: ‘Free’ federal money costs New Mexico

With the 2016 election right around the corner, the candidates are searching for wedge issues to appeal to large swaths of the electorate. Medicaid expansion, particularly in New Mexico and other states that have already participated, is proving to be a major sticking point.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a provision that expands Medicaid coverage to almost all individuals with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line. But in the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision to uphold the ACA’s constitutionality, the court ruled that the federal government could not compel states to expand their Medicaid programs. At this point, 30 of them have done so (New Mexico chose to in early 2013).

The arguments over whether to expand Medicaid vary by state, but proponents often point to the federal government’s offer to foot almost the entire bill. For example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich supported Medicaid expansion as a way “to bring Ohio money back home” — that is, avoid bearing any of the cost.

My latest research suggests that this argument may be lacking, since it doesn’t account for associated increases in state and local spending.

Rio Grande Foundation Gives Obama Administration Lump of Coal for Christmas

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 22, 2015

For further Information, Contact: Paul Gessing 505-264-6090

(Albuquerque) – Today, the Rio Grande Foundation announced it is suing the Obama Administration over the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which is an illegal rule to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.  The Foundation is joining the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in asking the Courts to review the CPP rule.

Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing said, “This is yet another unlawful Washington power grab by the Obama Administration that will cost New Mexico rate payers dearly. The Rio Grande Foundation believes the appropriate Christmas gift for economically-strapped New Mexicans is a lawsuit to stand up for those would pay the price for this ill-conceived and illegal regulation.”

In 2014, the Foundation, along with New Mexico Representatives Candy Ezzell and Tim Lewis filed comments against the CPP. In part, the Rio Grande Foundation cited, the traditionally-state nature of electricity regulation and the fact that under the plan, residential rates are projected to increase by 13 percent to 14 percent, while industrial rates are projected to increase by 23 percent.

Gessing concluded his remarks saying, “This regulation is a continuation of President Obama's promise to make electricity prices 'necessarily skyrocket' while his Administration lavishes subsidies on so-called 'renewables.' The CPP is an effort to use government regulations to hinder the use of traditional energy sources.” The Rio Grande Foundation is taking legal action in an effort to stop these disastrous effects from happening.”

The Foundation's 2014 comments as well as more information about the organization's work on energy and a wide variety of issues relating to New Mexico's economy can be found at The Rio Grande Foundation’s website, www.riograndefoundation.org.

Information on the Competitive Enterprise Institute can be found at: www.cei.org.

"Free" Money is Killing New Mexico

Nothing seems to unite New Mexicans like the desire for “free” money.

Over the past few weeks,  no fewer than three opinion pieces have run in various media outlets in support of Medicaid expansion. Two of these articles were from Democrat legislators.

While “compassion” and alleged health care improvements – unsupported by real-world data – were cited, a central argument involved “free” money that is flowing into the State from Washington.

Recently, I had the chance to testify before an interim committee of the New Mexico Legislature on the economic impact of Medicaid. The program for the poor was expanded under the federal health care law commonly known as “ObamaCare.” New Mexico was one of 24 states to expand the program in January 2014.

Obama’s proposed BLM regulations to increase costs/harm economy

Photo by: Shutterstock

Photo by: Shutterstock

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) looms large as a land manager in the American West. Total surface acreage maintained by the BLM in my home state of New Mexico comes to 13.5 million acres. That’s more than twice the size of the state of Maryland or nearly as much land as the entire state of West Virginia.

Under the Obama Administration the BLM has become far more difficult for the oil and gas industries to deal with. An indicator is that since 2009, oil production on federal lands is down by 6 percent and natural gas production is down 28 percent. At the same time, oil production on non-federal lands is up by 61 percent and gas production on non-federal lands is up by 31 percent.

Unfortunately, a slew of new and proposed regulations will only make things more challenging. Combined with lower prices, these regulations could bring oil and gas drilling on BLM lands to a halt. This may be the goal of many in the Obama Administration. It is certainly the desired outcome of many of the President’s activist environmentalist supporters.

Proposed changes to Onshore Order No. 3 would dramatically alter the metering of production on federal leases, most likely forcing industry to install new meters on thousands of wells. 

These changes may slightly improve the accuracy of royalty payments, but the increased cost of compliance will lead to the premature abandonment of wells that cannot be economically updated. Significant revenue losses will be traded for minuscule changes to the accuracy of royalty accounting. A few years ago (when this same change was debated and then abandoned by BLM), New Mexico’s State Land Office conservatively estimated that the state could lose $1 trillion in revenue over a decade under this regulation.  

Another costly new BLM regulation expected to be formally proposed in the near future will address venting and flaring. The rule, submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review in September, aims to reduce the amount of methane released into the environment.

A recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) claims that $330 million worth of natural gas is “lost” on federal lands due to “excessive” venting and flaring. But like much of what passes for “energy analysis,” this figure is calculated by comparing estimates in two different time periods.  In the meantime, the EDF conveniently ignores the increasing amount of actual data that gradually shows reductions in methane emissions by industry action.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Photo by: Shutterstock

This new venting and flaring rule is expected to require the twice yearly inspection of all gas-producing wells with special, costly cameras. In northwest New Mexico alone, where there are over 20,000 active wells, the annual cost would be over $24 million a year not including administrative costs.

Ironically, the BLM’s own slow permitting process is a leading cause of flaring. When permits for rights of way for gathering systems are delayed, natural gas flaring times are often extended. This is a case of a bureaucracy-induced problem that has greatly impacted the industry in recent years.  

Another proposed BLM rule involves “fracking” on federal and Native lands. The BLM rules would require oil and gas companies to reveal the chemicals they inject, to meet construction standards in drilling wells and to safely dispose of produced water. This all sounds great, but “fracking” regulation has traditionally been done at the state level.  

According to Obama’s own EPA, states have been doing a good job. The EPA has never definitively identified a case where the fracking process itself resulted in water contamination.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in April joined North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming in arguing that the feds overreached and intruded into an area where state rules control.

Said Coffman, “It makes no sense that there would be two sets of regulations — one from the state and another conflicting one from the federal government that would apply to the same activity — especially when the state of Colorado has been responsibly regulating oil and gas in our state for decades.”

U.S. District Court of Wyoming Judge Scott Skavdahl agreed with Coffman. In late September he issued a preliminary injunction blocking federal land managers from regulating fracking on public lands until the legal case is resolved.

These are just three of the Obama Administration’s major new regulations being imposed on the oil and gas industries. Other regulations impacting Indian lands as well as mining rules relating to streams on BLM lands are in the works.

These costly regulations will reduce tax revenues and jobs on lands managed by the federal government with negligible positive impact on the environment.

Paul Gessing's Testimony on the economic impacts of Medicaid expansion: Before the Health and Human Services Committee New Mexico Legislature, Santa Fe

Good morning Sen. Ortiz y Pino, Rep. Espinoza, and members of the committee. I am Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico.

I appreciate this opportunity to provide my organization’s perspective on whether the benefits of Medicaid expansion in New Mexico outweigh the costs and whether a “multiplier effect” exists by which increased federal dollars will generate increased economic growth in our state.

Introduction

Before discussing the economic and multiplier impacts of Medicaid expansion, I feel it is important to discuss the impact of Medicaid on actual health care outcomes. Supporters of free markets and skeptics of the efficacy of government programs are are often accused of being callous or uncaring to the poor, but we actually want government spending to be used in ways that have proven, positive results.

There is no question that Medicaid expansion is a massive expansion of a health care entitlement. According to Congressional Budget Office, between 2014 and 2022, expanding Medicaid will cost American taxpayers at the combined federal and state levels $1 trillion. Before discussing the economic impact on New Mexico, it is important to ask what kind of health care we getting for that money.

For starters, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found that over half of providers no longer accept Medicaid patients. Of doctors who do accept Medicaid, the provider networks are narrow and nearly one-third face wait times of over a month.

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