Paul Gessing interviewed on New Mexico's economy and criminal justice reform

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.

Lottery Scholarship Program should not pay full costs

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.

Are your legislators voting for or against freedom?

Click here.

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.”

Paul Gessing’s appearance on KRWG “Newsmakers”

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:

Nation School Choice Week Film Screening/Discussion - Albuquerque

Join Us For a Special Event During
National School Choice Week

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.

2014-01-29 18:00 - 19:30

A Market-Based Approach to New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarship Program

(Albuquerque) The Legislature will consider reforming the system during the upcoming 2014 legislative session. Several proposals have been made in the hopes of reforming New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarship program which plays such a large role in financing higher education in the Land of Enchantment.

In its newest paper, “Let’s Really Reform New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarships,” Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, takes a broader look at the impacts, both positive and negative, of the Lottery Scholarship program and outlines some principles that legislators should adhere to in considering the program’s future. He also offers some approaches that might increase the positive impact of the program both on educational outcomes and New Mexico’s economy as a whole.

The paper includes:

  • A reminder of the tradeoffs and negative impacts of government-sponsored gambling;
  • Analysis of how New Mexico’s Scholarship program results in students “slacking off” in high school;
  • The scholarship discourages students from pursuing scholarships and other funding opportunities for their higher educations;
  • An explanation of why it might not be good public policy to encourage New Mexico’s best high school students to stay in New Mexico; and
  • How the Lottery Scholarship spurs price inflation among New Mexico’s institutes of higher education.

Gessing strongly discourages the Legislature from using General Fund revenues to prop up the Lottery Scholarship Program and cautions against over-emphasizing the use of grades in determining who keeps and who loses their scholarships.

Finally, Gessing encourages the Legislature to consider an innovative voucher-style proposal that, if adopted, would solve several of the problems inherent in the current, flawed model.

A Gessing argues, “The Lottery Scholarship Program has the potential to improve New Mexico’s work force. We believe that a healthy dose of market-based incentives could make limited lottery funds go further without tapping taxpayers for even more spending on higher education.”

New Mexico economy in search of leadership

The year 2012 was a tough one for New Mexico’s economy. Without going through the litany of evidence, our state was the only Western state to be found on United Van Lines’ list of “top-outbound” states. And, while the US as a whole grew by an anemic 2.2% during the year, New Mexico grew by a downright pitiful 0.2%. Texas grew by 4.8%.

As the end of 2013 nears, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that 2013 is not looking to be much better.

According to the report, the state’s labor force participation rate, a measure of how many working-age residents are employed or looking for work, was the fourth-worst in the nation in October. And, between April and October, the state lost 20,382 jobs, or 2.4 percent, and nearly 24,000 labor force participants.

Comparing the Contracts of Presidents at New Mexico’s Two-Year Institutes of Higher Learning

(Albuquerque) New Mexico’s Two-Year Institutes and their leaders have made headlines recently with the termination of President Ana “Cha” Guzmán by the School’s governing board. Regardless of the specific issues at stake, there is no doubt that a new President will be hired at the School.

In the interests of greater transparency, the Rio Grande Foundation has requested and posted online a useful comparison of the salary and benefits packages at the various independent, two-year institutes of higher learning around the state. Actual contract information along with brief analysis and comparison of the compensation packages is available now.

As Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing explained, “When the board enters into negotiations on behalf of taxpayers and the public has a chance to weigh in, we believe that all parties, including the public, should have an understanding of the compensation packages available at similar schools around the state.”

These compensation packages might include a base salary, performance/retention bonuses, a car, a house, retirement contributions, and paid leave.

Each contract is posted below (please note the addendum for New Mexico Junior College)

Central New Mexico Community College (CNM);

Clovis Community College;

Luna Community College;

Mesalands Community College;

New Mexico Junior College plus addendum

New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI);

San Juan College;

Santa Fe Community College;

After a close analysis of each contract, in terms of overall benefits, Gessing concluded, “The presidents of Mesalands, Luna, and NMMI are at the low end of the spectrum compensation-wise. The middle of the pack is represented by San JuanCommunity College and Santa FeCommunity College. The most generous packages are at CNM, Clovis, and New MexicoJunior College. Notably, however, CNM is by far the largest two-year institute in the state with a student population far bigger than any other similar school in the state.”

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