Putting Teeth in Transparency

 

“Transparency,” when it comes to government, it is certainly the ideal. Taxpayers – the ones who pay government’s bills – deserve nothing less. The good news is that New Mexico governments have made great strides in recent years.

To name just a few improvements, records of legislative floor sessions are now online, as are all floor votes. New Mexico’s new “Sunshine Portal” includes an expanding collection of payroll data, revenue lists and contract amounts. A growing number of cities, counties and school districts across New Mexico now post complete or at least partial payroll information online. Albuquerque Public Schools recently joined the fast-growing list.

Robert Bradley's Presentation in Albuquerque

Energy expert Robert Bradley recently spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Rio Grande Foundation, Energy Makes America Great, and the New Mexico Utility Shareholders Alliance. Although we did not get full video of this event, check out the interview that Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico did with Bradley below:
Bradley's informative powerpoint presentation is available here.

The EPA’s Shocking Power Grab in New Mexico

The Washington, DC-based Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the New Mexico-based Rio Grande Foundation have released a new report on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s)rampant abuse of power in enforcing the “Regional Haze Provision” of the federal Clean Air Act.

Full text of the new report is available online.

The specific target of the EPA in this unfolding debacle is the San Juan Generating Station in the Four Corners region of New Mexico. Author William Yeatman, Assistant Director, Center for Energy and Environment, at CEI, describes in detail how the EPA ran roughshod over New Mexico’s rightful authority under the Clean Air Act, at a cost of almost $340 million to New Mexico ratepayers.

As Yeatman writes in the paper, “New Mexico proposed a plan in full compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. In a contortion of logic, the EPA is rejecting New Mexico’s cost-effective analysis for a plan that achieves the EPA’s own target for cost-effectiveness. It is the only state subject to this bizarre reasoning.”

While overreach on the part of the EPA is not uncommon, Yeatman explains in detail that “New Mexico is being treated differently than every other state, in order to justify $700 million in costs beyond what the EPA’s own rules stipulate are necessary.”

Said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation, “In New Mexico, we care deeply about both clean air and economic growth. Our own policymakers in the Environmental Department came up with a cost-effective solution that fully-complied with the EPA’s own guidelines, but that was completely ignored by the out-of-control federal agency.”

Concluded Yeatman, “New Mexico lawmakers should send a strong message to the EPA that its actions are unacceptable. They should enact a resolution condemning the EPA’s arbitrary regulations and demand that New Mexico be treated like its peers. In so doing, they would be governing in the best interest of the nearly 500,000 New Mexicans who face a $120 per year electricity tax to pay for invisible benefits.”

"In Focus" with KNME

RGF President Paul Gessing recently appeared on "In Focus" on KNME Channel 5. The discussion covered Afghanistan, the "Occupy" movement, San Juan County's junk ordinance, and several other timely issues. View the full show below:

Watch October 14, 2011 (s5e16) on PBS. See more from New Mexico In Focus.

Tax-Friendliness Report Errors Lead to Retraction

(Albuquerque) Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing made the following statement relating to the organization’s 2011 “Tax Friendliness Report”:

“It has come to our attention that several factual errors were made in The Rio Grande Foundation’s recent report which purported to analyze and rank the relative ‘tax friendliness’ of New Mexico’s 10 largest cities based on property and gross receipts tax burdens. We apologize for these errors and have retracted the report in its entirety. The report is no longer on the organization’s website, www.riograndefoundation.org.

“Pending a full review of the report,” Gessing concluded, “we may re-edit and re-release the report at a later date.”     

Is the New Mexico Legislature happy with 49th?

 

When Gov. Martinez came into office back in January, among her top priorities was to turn New Mexico’s failing educational system around. To say that it is “failing” sounds harsh, but it describes reality. The problem is that, having had two opportunities to move towards fixing the problem, the Legislature has thrown up roadblock after roadblock in a (so-far successful) attempt to keep the status quo in place.

First, the problem: According to the “Diplomas Count 2011” report from the Education Research Center, New Mexico’s real graduation rate is 57.1 percent. This is 49th in the nation. Only Nevada has a lower rate. The results are similar on the respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a respected national test. On the 2009 reading version of that test, New Mexico 4th graders again beat the scores of only one other state.

For N.M., federal largesse nearing an end

 

New Mexico faces rapidly-changing economic and political realities. The situation provides both peril and opportunities for New Mexicans, but there will be a transitional period and it may not be easy.

The political changes are two-fold and both of them will reduce the flow of federal money that has long propped up New Mexico’s economy. The simplest and most obvious change involves our massive loss of Congressional seniority. As recently as 2009, the state’s US Senators held the top two slots on the Energy Committee. Come January 2013, New Mexico won’t have either seat.

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