Other than Marty McFly’s time-traveling DeLorean, 1985 is the distant past in terms of technology. Yet some of New Mexico’s phone carriers are still regulated under a law passed that year – before the World Wide Web was created and before wireless broadband connectivity became the norm for our multitude of digital devices. Carriers are governed under different sets of rules, leading to an overly-complicated regulatory mix that hampers competition among carriers and discourages private investment in the state’s telecommunications infrastructure.
SB 152, which has been introduced in the 2014 Legislative Session seeks to harmonize the regulatory scheme, holding all carriers to the same standards. It enjoys bipartisan support from Governor Martinez (R) and Democrats such as bill sponsor Sen. Phil Griego and House Business and Industry Chair Rep. Debbie Rodella. The bill would hold all incumbent phone carriers to the same standards and apply the benefits of a 1999 rural incumbent telephone law evenly throughout the state.
Antiquated telecommunication regulations are holding New Mexico back. According to the 2013 Mercatus Center report "Freedom in the 50 States," New Mexico suffers under some of the heaviest regulatory burdens of any state. The Rio Grande Foundation has spent a great deal of time researching and exposing many of these burdensome regulations, which can undoubtedly improve the economic climate in New Mexico at no cost to the taxpayer.
New Mexico's broadband regulations are a classic case of overregulation that should be addressed for the good of our rural economy. Greater competition inevitably leads to lower prices and greater choice for consumers. Antiquated land line phone service providers remain regulated by a 1985 law that dates before implementation of the internet and smart-phone technology. This outdated regulatory scheme has hindered investment in rural broadband resources throughout our state. Having high-speed Internet access throughout the isolated communities of New Mexico will remain integral, if not a necessity, to spurring the rural economic growth everyone desires, while simultaneously increasing statewide effective educational opportunities.
During the current legislative session, a bi-partisan bill has been introduced that will modernize and improve these regulations in a positive and productive manner to encourage greater private sector broadband investments. A 30-day legislative session is brief, but this modest regulatory improvement of New Mexico's stale broadband regulations can be one commonsense reform that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on.
I urge all New Mexicans to support SB 152.
Board Member, Rio Grande Foundation
Candidate foro US Congress, 3rd District
(Albuquerque) As the Legislature discusses the budget during the 2014 legislative session, pay hikes for State and local government workers are on the table. The Legislative Finance Committee has proposed relatively ambitious pay raises ranging from 1.5 percent to more than 3.0 percent. Gov. Martinez, on the other hand, has proposed more modest pay hikes targeted at teachers. Martinez’s plan would result in small raises for about 7,000 of the state’s roughly 22,000 workers.
With these competing proposals on the table, it is worth looking at the data to better understand the compensation premium that’s already enjoyed by government workers in New Mexico. New research conducted for the Rio Grande Foundation, documented in “New Mexico’s Unionized Employees earn more than their non-union Counterparts” demonstrates the source of that premium: In unionized sectors of New Mexico government, employee pay is higher than it is for government workers who aren’t union employees. In other words, taxpayers pay more than they have to for basic public services.
Economists from the University of Miami (OH) and Trinity University conducted a study of 819 public employees in the state, and found that collective bargaining in the state leads to less-affordable services for the taxpayers and artificially-inflated pay for unionized government employees.
Noted Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing, “Around the state, government employees who are working under a union-negotiated collective bargaining contract cost taxpayers 7.4% more in total compensation – the “union premium” – for services the taxpayers could be getting more affordably from a non-unionized counterpart.”
When discussing across-the-board pay raises for public sector workers, it is important that policymakers and the Legislature have a full understanding of public employee pay and benefits relative to their private sector counterparts.
Concluded Gessing, “New Mexico desperately needs to improve the health of its private sector. While a growing private sector economy can support a growing and better-compensated public sector, this is not currently the case in New Mexico.
RGF president Paul Gessing recently sat down with KNAT TV's Mike Cosgrove for two separate interviews to discuss New Mexico's economy, why it is such an important issue, and what can be done to turn it around. Gessing also discusses criminal justice reform efforts that have been under way in the New Mexico Legislature. He explains some of the concepts his group is looking to use to influence criminal justice policy reforms, his involvement with Right on Crime, and how such reforms could help New Mexicans prosper.
The Legislature will soon be considering reforms to New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarship Program. While a number of tweaks such as increasing the GPA requirement have been offered and will likely be considered, after taking a careful look at the program as a whole, it would appear that the Lottery Scholarship could use a serious overhaul.
Before getting into specific reforms, it is worth pointing out that while they have provided college educations for thousands of New Mexico students, the Lottery Scholarships are not free money. Their proceeds are the result of voluntary lottery ticket purchases which are disproportionately made by middle and low income people. These people could have potentially saved, invested, or even invested in their own child’s educations.
The fact that there are tradeoffs and that the Lottery Scholarship is a regressive (albeit voluntary) tax, makes it extremely urgent that the return on New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarships must be maximized both in terms of educational outcome and overall impact on our state’s economy.
The Rio Grande Foundation has re-launched its legislative tracking tool called “Freedom Index,” which provides a daily review of legislation impacting economic freedom in the state. For the first time, lawmakers will be able to get an independent, free market view of legislation pending before the Legislature. Moreover, voters can see whether their legislators are voting for free markets or for bigger government.
Users will be able to see:
• The relative voting performance of legislators according to the Freedom Index;
• The relative voting performance of each party according to the Freedom Index;
• The analysis criteria behind the legislation ranking will be made publicly-available for download;
• Links to legislation detail;
• Links to legislator Information, including contact information;
• And selections of legislation by relevant categories. The Freedom Index is available here. Our analysis will be available before final votes on those bills that are analyzed and can be used by both legislators, legislative staff and interested voters to debate the merits of a bill. In short, the Index provides an excellent analysis of bills that will come before committees or a vote on the floor as well as tracking a legislator’s Freedom Index score.
The public will find our Freedom Index to be a tool to hold elected officials accountable for their vote and to gain a better understanding of the legislation being proposed by the House or Senate members. Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing said of his organization’s new legislative tracking web site, “We are thrilled to add the freedom perspective to the legislative process in Santa Fe. For too long, the special interests have run wild with the voice of taxpayers and those who pay the bills too often pushed to the side.”
On this 30 minute interview with Fred Martino of KRWG public television in Las Cruces, Gessing discusses several issues facing New Mexico including the struggling economy, the RailRunner and Spaceport, education reform, federal lands in New Mexico, and criminal justice reform. Check out the video below:
You are invited to a special screening of "The Ticket: Stories of School Choice and Quality Education" by filmmaker and school choice advocate Bob Bowdon. Following the 30 minute film, you'll be invited to participate in a Discussion of Educational Choice in the Land of Enchantment which will be led by Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation and will include former New Mexico Senator and school choice leader Mark Boitano and Daniel Ulibarri, head of Educate New Mexico.
The event is being held as part of nationwide National School Choice Week celebrations from January 26th to February 1st of this year.
We are hoping to have an interactive discussion of the wide variety of school choice options and where New Mexico stands with respect to each option. These might include great public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, digital/online learning and homeschooling. So, bring your questions!
Co-sponsors of this year's event are the Rio Grande Foundation and Educate New Mexico.
National School Choice Week's Albuquerque Event
Wednesday, January 29th - 6:00 to 7:30pm
St. Pius X High School
5301 St Joseph's Dr. NW
Albuquerque, NM 87120
There is no cost to attend this event. Snacks and sodas will be provided. An RSVP would be appreciate via the online registration form available here.
We look forward to celebrating with you!
Location Details: The event will be held in the St. Cecelia building. It is the second one on the right as you enter the St. Pius campus.