FreedomWorks President and CEO’s Remarks at Rio Grande Foundation luncheon

The Rio Grande Foundation hosted a luncheon on May 13, 2014 with Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of the grassroots/Tea Party group FreedomWorks. Kibbe is the author of "Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff" and he discussed the book and its message at the event.

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe Discusses "Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff" from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Applaud and expand transparency in Aztec

The City of Aztec is to be applauded for posting a variety of budget and bid information online in an effort to expand transparency and openness in local government. My organization, the Rio Grande Foundation, has been a leader in actually requesting and publishing such data online in an effort to encourage citizens and activists to be more informed and more active citizens.

A few major cities, counties, and school districts around New Mexico have taken steps towards additional transparency, but Aztec is one of the smaller cities in the state to do so. Hopefully, other governing bodies in the Four Corners (and around New Mexico) including the Cities of Farmington and Bloomfield, San Juan County, and San Juan Community College (to name just a few of the big ones) will follow Aztec's example by publishing similar information.

One small area of improvement that we'd recommend for Aztec is to publish the actual pay for government workers (this is already public information) rather than the employee pay bands that are currently available. Employee names are not essential, but actual real-world numbers would be helpful.

Reform ideas: Ballot access, remote testimony, voter tax approval


New Mexico’s state legislature has been controlled by Democrats since 1953, but there are some reasons to think that Republicans could take it over in 2014. While the Rio Grande Foundation is a non-partisan organization willing to work with anyone who shares our ideas, even on a single issue, we have prepared a report on long-overdue reforms that a Republican-led state legislature could have an advantage in enacting. (Democrats are encouraged to read it too!) Not only are these reforms good ideas in their own right, but we believe they are also appealing to the electorate.

They’re both good policy and good politics and given the poor economic performance during the ongoing economic “recovery,” New Mexico needs some good public policy reforms.

First, there’s ballot access reform. Political competition is a good thing, and it’s hard to imagine that the benefits of increased competition stop with the second party. Current New Mexico ballot access law imposes much steeper signature collection requirements on third-party candidates than on Democrats and Republicans. At a minimum, equalizing the signature requirements would provide for a fairer and more truly representative electoral process. Ideally the Legislature could scrap the signature requirement entirely and let voters see the whole menu before making a choice. Voters will like this.

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.

New Mexico’s Supreme Court Adopts Modest "Reciprocity" Deregulation as Recommended by Rio Grande Foundation, Others

(Albuquerque) In a first step for “free trade” in legal services, the New Mexico Supreme Court has adopted partial reciprocity for attorneys (also known as reciprocal bar admission). In its pure form, lawyer reciprocity enables experienced attorneys from other states to practice in New Mexico. This basic regulatory reform was discussed in a 2013 Rio Grande Foundation policy brief that dealt broadly with regulations that hold back New Mexico’s economy.

Said Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing of the Court’s decision, “We are pleased that the Court has concluded that failing to recognize the credentials of out-of-state attorneys – while providing protection to a small group of marginal, in-state attorneys – is unfair to New Mexico consumers of legal services and ultimately harms our economy.”

Gessing continued, noting that “In today’s economy, businesses can set up their headquarters wherever they choose. State requirements that attorneys be ‘barred’ once again to practice in New Mexico after having already gone through that process elsewhere, is not helpful as our elected official attempt to bring jobs and economic growth to our state.

Attorney Pat Rogers who has been leading a pro-reciprocity effort before the Court noted that, while pleased with this first step, “The Court did not adopt the less restrictive proposal favored by his group and the Rio Grande Foundation. The Court did, however remove a good portion of the existing restrictive barriers to competition in the practice of law, in NM. Consumers should be the winners.”

Concluded Gessing, “The New Mexico Supreme Court’s move towards reciprocity is a small, but necessary step forward in terms of reducing unnecessary regulations on New Mexicans.”

‘War’ always fought for unions

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” George Orwell

Recently, Gov. Martinez stated that her administration wants to stop allowing union dues to be withdrawn automatically from state employee paychecks.” The head of one government employee union called this statement a “declaration of war” against the unions.

What could generate such heated rhetoric from one of New Mexico’s most powerful special interest groups? Simply put, government employee unions benefit greatly from having their members’ dues and non-members’ “fair share” payments automatically deducted from their paychecks (“fair share” payments are funds extracted from non-union workers for the supposed purpose of funding union bargaining efforts).

Purchase of gas company would benefit economy

What if I told you that a business was planning to make close to a billion dollar investment in New Mexico? What if I told you that this company is a leader of may be a potential revolution in automobile fueling and technology and that they could help our state make the transition to cleaner, more affordable fuel for automobiles?

No, I’m not talking about Tesla which has, aside from the recent exploits of local basketball teams, been the talk of the state. I’m talking about the proposed purchase of New Mexico Gas Co. (NMGC), currently owned by New York City-based Continental Energy by Tampa-based TECO Energy.

Bringing Tesla to New Mexico could be a home run for New Mexico’s economy, but having a natural gas company that is owned by a utility company with a 115 year track record of serving its customers – as opposed to a hedge fund – could be at least a double.

For those who are concerned about rates and prices, TECO has proposed that NMGC customer rates will be frozen until at least July 2017. NMGC will retain its name, and its headquarters will remain in Albuquerque. While New Mexico’s economy has struggled mightily in recent years, TECO’s management is “bullish” on New Mexico. The company’s CEO John Ramil recently was quoted as saying, “The Company is looking at New Mexico to be a growing state, and New Mexico Gas Co. to continue its growth.
Given the onslaught of negative economic news from our state in recent years, it is wonderful to have a business that sees our state’s growth potential looking to come here and invest.

A positive attitude is an important factor, but the real potential for New Mexico lies in TECO’s willingness to replicate its successful Florida model of investing in filling stations for vehicles that use clean natural gas produced right here in New Mexico. Due to broader market forces and newly-discovered supplies, natural gas prices remain at historically-low levels, spurring calls for increased investments in fueling stations.

In fact, whether the fuel in question is gasoline, electricity, or natural gas, a large national network of filling stations is an absolute necessity in order for alternative fuels to become widespread.

TECO has a proven track record and stated interest in investing in infrastructure and the communities it serves. NMGC which is currently owned by a hedge fund with a business model that involves purchasing and “flipping” under-valued assets is unlikely to make such investments.

One final point on the importance of the NMGC sale is the need for government bodies to respect free markets and a business’ desire to sell a company that does business in New Mexico to another business. It is one thing for regulatory bodies to stand in the way of such transactions for tangible, specific reasons. It is another thing to stand in front of these business transactions out of abstract fears.

My organization has worked assiduously to research and explain how New Mexico can improve its economy. While there are myriad issues to overcome before our state becomes truly business-friendly, there is no easier way to become a pariah among investors and businesses than to be seen as a place where once you have invested resources, you are unable to sell those investments.

Venezuela and Argentina are just two nations whose economies have suffered greatly from such capricious state actions. New Mexico should not fall into that trap.

Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

Rio Grande Foundation submits comments to NM PRC in support of NM Gas Co. sale to TECO Energy

New Mexico Public Regulation Commission
PO Box 1269
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1269
Case number: 13-00231-UT
prc [dot] records [at] state [dot] nm [dot] us

Comments to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission on the purchase of New Mexico Gas by TECO Energy

On behalf of the Rio Grande Foundation, utility customers, and advocates of freedom throughout New Mexico, I urge you to approve of the proposed TECO purchase of New Mexico Gas Co.

For starters, New Mexico Gas is currently owned by an equity or hedge fund. This was always expected to be a temporary situation. It would be far better for New Mexico Gas to be owned by TECO, a utility company with a 115 year track record of serving its customers.

For those who are concerned about rates and prices, TECO has proposed that NMGC customer rates will be frozen until at least July 2017. NMGC will retain its name, and its headquarters will remain in Albuquerque. While New Mexico’s economy has struggled mightily in recent years, TECO’s management is “bullish” on New Mexico. The company’s CEO John Ramil recently was quoted as saying, “The Company is looking at New Mexico to be a growing state, and New Mexico Gas Co. to continue its growth.
Given the onslaught of negative economic news from our state in recent years, it is wonderful to have a business that sees our state’s growth potential looking to come here and invest.

A positive attitude is an important factor, but the real potential for New Mexico lies in TECO’s willingness to replicate its successful Florida model of investing in filling stations for vehicles that use clean natural gas produced right here in New Mexico. Due to broader market forces and newly-discovered supplies, natural gas prices remain at historically-low levels, spurring calls for increased investments in fueling stations.

In fact, whether the fuel in question is gasoline, electricity, or natural gas, a large national network of filling stations is an absolute necessity in order for alternative fuels to become widespread.

TECO has a proven track record and stated interest in investing in infrastructure and the communities it serves. NMGC which is currently owned by a hedge fund with a business model that involves purchasing and “flipping” under-valued assets is unlikely to make such investments.

One final point on the importance of the NMGC sale is the need for government bodies to respect free markets and a business’ desire to sell a company that does business in New Mexico to another business. It is one thing for regulatory bodies to stand in the way of such transactions for tangible, specific reasons. It is another thing to stand in front of these business transactions out of abstract fears.

My organization has worked assiduously to research and explain how New Mexico can improve its economy. While there are myriad issues to overcome before our state becomes truly business-friendly, there is no easier way to become a pariah among investors and businesses than to be seen as a place where once you have invested resources, you are unable to sell those investments.

Venezuela and Argentina are just two nations whose economies have suffered greatly from such capricious state actions. New Mexico should not fall into that trap.

I urge the PRC to allow the proposed sale to go through.

Sincerely,

Paul J. Gessing
President
Rio Grande Foundation
PO Box 40336
Albuquerque, NM 87196
505-264-6090

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