Rio Grande Foundation president appeared recently on KRQE Channel 13's newscast to discuss his organization's concerns over Albuquerque Mayor Berry's proposed wi-fi system along Central Ave. Video of the interview can be found below:
The tremendous costs of the Rail Runner were outlined in grave detail recently in the Journal. Annual costs are currently about $50 million between operations and payments on the original infrastructure. A portion of these costs are currently being shifted to the federal taxpayer, but there is nothing “sustainable” about the Rail Runner’s long-term finances.
New Mexico taxpayers will face significant additional financial burdens if the Legislature and Governor decide to spend taxpayer dollars to keep both the Rail Runner and federally-owned Amtrak trains heading down the tracks here in New Mexico.
Worse, what Washington gives us in the form of operating subsidies, it can also take away. New federal regulations costing up to $30 million are being imposed by Washington on the entire railroad industry, including the Rail Runner. Those costs which were completely unexpected will be borne directly by New Mexico taxpayers above and beyond the current operating subsidies which themselves come to nearly $20 per passenger, per trip.
The Rio Grande Foundation has generally supported Mayor Berry’s leadership as Mayor. Obviously, large numbers of Albuquerque voters agree with his fiscally-conservative, personally moderate style of leadership as the Mayor was re-elected with 68 percent of the vote.
Every day mayors and other politicians face the temptation to join the latest fad in the hopes of finding a dramatic way to use government on the theory that expanding government beyond the basics will result in improved economic growth.
Back when Mayor Berry took office, the idea being pushed by some was a new taxpayer-financed events center/arena. Thankfully, we convinced the Mayor not to go down that path which would have significantly worsened our city’s economic condition.
The newest idea is for the City to spend up to $1 million to create a public wi-fi network around Central Avenue. While well-intentioned, municipal wi-fi efforts have a long track record of failure to achieve technical goals (speed and coverage), they also have a long track record of cost overruns.
Recently, the Rio Grande Foundation recently hosted Travis Brown of How Money Walks for a luncheon talk in Albuquerque. The website which is linked above, is fascinating and easy to use.
Watch Brown's full luncheon presentation here:
Brown also did a shorter interview with Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico:
Signed books are still available for purchase from the Rio Grande Foundation and make great stocking stuffers. Call 505-264-6090 or email us at: info [at] riograndefoundation [dot] org for details.
(Albuquerque) Just in time for the first meeting of the Criminal Justice Reform Subcommittee, the Rio Grande Foundation is providing an update on its original, 2009 report, which arguably started the ball rolling on criminal justice reform in the Land of Enchantment.
The new report, “Criminal Justice Policy in New Mexico: Keys to Controlling Costs and Protecting Public Safety (Updated),” which was authored by Marc Levin, Policy Director of Right on Crime with Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation, provides a variety of bi-partisan, but fiscally-conservative ideas for the Subcommittee to consider, including:
• Expanded use of drug courts;
• Introduction of courts similar to Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Drug (HOPE) Courts where offenders are ordered to treatment and must call in a number every morning to see if they have to report to the court to take a drug test. If they fail, they are jailed for several days, usually weekend jail in order to preserve employment;
• Mandatory Probation, Treatment and Work Requirements for First-Time Drug Offenders: This policy should apply only to individuals caught with small quantities of drugs that are for personal use;
• Graduated Responses for Probationers and Parolees: Research indicates this approach reduces technical revocations to prison because the swift but proportionate responses effectively lay down the law, deterring future violations;
• Performance-Based Probation Funding: Under this incentive-based approach which has not been adopted in New Mexico, probation departments receive a share of the state’s savings from less incarceration when they reduce their revocations to prison without increasing probationers’ convictions for new offenses. The probation departments are required to reinvest the additional funds in victim services, substance abuse treatment, and strategies to improve community supervision and reduce recidivism;
• Modernize Sentencing Laws: New Mexico should revise its sentencing laws to ensure prison space is prioritized for violent and dangerous offenders;
• Utilize Victim-Offender Conferencing: Conferencing is often used in property offense cases, particularly for first-time offenders, and must be chosen by both the victim and the offender, since the offender is required to take responsibility for his conduct. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King recently called for similar efforts; and
• Reduced Barriers for Nonviolent Ex-Offenders to Obtain Occupational Licenses;
Many of these reforms have been introduced with great success in other states that can provide both data and a road map for successful implementation.
The Rio Grande Foundation hosted its latest event on ObamaCare with syndicated columnist and ideas-man Deroy Murdock speaking on the health care law's myriad problems in Albuquerque:
I call Murdock an "ideas man" because unlike so many writers and pundits, he doesn't just focus on the problems with the current system. Instead, he actually brings creative solutions to bear:
-- Approach health care from an individual, not group perspective;
-- Give insurance companies tax breaks for taking on high risk patients and people w/ pre-existing conditions;
-- Give doctors tax benefits for treating charity cases/indigent care;
-- Allow purchase of health insurance across state lines;
-- Provide vouchers (like food stamps for health care) rather than reworking the entire health care system.
How long do you keep spending money on something before you quit and cut your losses? New Mexico's Legislature will soon face some difficult decisions as to how much taxpayer money to spend on two high profile, Richardson-era projects, the Rail Runner and the Spaceport.
Let's start with the RailRunner. The train already costs taxpayers nearly $50 million a year in payments on the initial infrastructure and operations. That doesn't include two balloon payments of $230 million (made in addition to operations costs) which will come due next decade.