The good, bad, and ugly of New Mexico’s 2020 Legislature

Ugly: Important bills or concepts that were not seriously considered:

  • No GRT reform or tax cuts were seriously considered despite New Mexico being in a time of massive budget surpluses
  • Specifically, the Social Security tax cuts failed
  • HB 325: Removing licensing obstacles for those convicted of crimes

Bad: The Worst Bills that Passed

SB 5: Red Flag bill

HB 364: Government Union Giveaway (or anti-Janus effort)

The convoluted and hyper-partisan means of passing this bill is inherently problematic;

  • Institutes “card check” for union elections
  • Pushes labor boards to be favorable to union interests by ensuring only they survive. Also, this process is a one-way ratchet toward centralization.
  • The bill also denies to public employees the right to pursue legal action regarding “fair share” dues collected prior to the Court’s Janus decision.
  • The bill compromises the privacy rights of public employees. It requires employers to provide names, job titles, work locations, home addresses, personal email addresses, and home or cellular telephone numbers of public employees in the proposed bargaining unit.
  • The bill requires employers to allow public employee unions to conduct union work during work hours, use public employer email accounts for conducting union business, and use public facilities for meetings without compensation for that use.
  • Creates threat of perpetual bargaining will create uncertainty in labor relations.

SB 98: Public Project Prevailing Wage Complaints The bill authorizes any person to file a complaint that a contractor, subcontractor, employer or person acting as a contractor on the project has failed to pay wages or fringe benefits at the rates required by the Act.

Overspending (7.6% growth) in state budget at a time when inflation is growing at 1.76% and population growth is nearly flat.

The Gov. was denied “free college,” but $17 million was spent to create the opportunity scholarship program and an additional $10 million was added to the Lottery Scholarship program. The program will prioritize financial aid based on need to undergraduate, credential-seeking students who are enrolled in a two-year academic program.”

HB 83: Creation of Early Childhood Permanent fund

Best things to happen in 2020 Session

SB 72: pension reform

SB 96: putting education data online

Best things to NOT happen in 2020 session

Complete “free” college was denied

HJR 1 permanent fund tap was denied

HB 217 Electric vehicle tax credit was killed at last second

If you want to see how your legislators voted on these and other big issues in the 2020 session, click the Freedom Index logo below:

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RGF efforts to limit taxes and spending lands it in Forbes

Although the legislation itself did not get very far in New Mexico’s “progressive” dominated Legislature, the discussion over how to limit spending and taxation in the State is just getting started.

Patrick Gleason of Americans for Tax Reform cited our efforts in a recent Forbes column in which he detailed the battle to restrain taxes and spending in state legislatures all over the country. New Mexico is by no means alone in its overspending. Wyoming and Pennsylvania are among the other states in which such limitations are being considered. And, while the political will for tax and spending cuts is limited, it is a good idea that we will keep pushing.

Wyoming

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Talking 2020 Legislature with Jim Williams on ABQ Connect Radio

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Paul Gessing

Paul Gessing is the President of the Rio Grande Foundation. He shares his ideas today about a “Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights” for New Mexico, and he updates us on the 54th New Mexico Legislative Session. We talk about Pension reform with PERA,  and the battle between government employee unions, and those who believe people should be able to choose whether or not they want to join a union. For more information about the issues affecting all New Mexicans go to  https://riograndefoundation.org/.

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Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 172: Voices For Taxes and Spending and More

On this week’s discussion podcast Paul and Wally discuss the Voices for Children’s recent missive in the Santa Fe New Mexican decrying the “disaster” of Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights. The problem is so dire that the State’s population is booming while New Mexico’s with its unlimited spending is stagnant.

Wally and Paul discuss how Voices consistently supports bigger government, even at the expense of poor people and why even Bernie Sanders opposed soda taxes while Voices remained silent. Also, RGF appears in Forbes on the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Paul and Wally discuss the curious saga of SB 110/HB 364, a massive giveaway to public employee unions.

Paul and Wally discuss pension reform legislation which is one of the few bright spots in the 2020 Legislature.

At this point legislation creating a new permanent fund for early childhood education will likely pass (the versions need to be reconciled) spending $230 million. But, tapping the land grant permanent fund won’t happen (again).

HB 325 criminal record for employment is a good bill that would help those convicted of crimes overcome obstacles to occupational licensing.

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HB 364 is a massive union power grab

We’ve christened HB 364 as the “Union Empowerment Bill version 2”

The Union Empowerment Bill version 1 was SB 110.

HB 364 is a massive union power grab coming to the Senate floor soon. The Democrats have used “dummy bills” and other tricks to avoid a fair hearing on the issue.

This bill is designed to tilt the collective bargaining process and representation proceedings heavily against the interests of public employers—and thus of taxpayers and the citizens served by government entities subject to collective bargaining.

Even more, the bill compromises the privacy of public employees who want a fair process free of intimidation.

In addition, the bill would take power over labor issues away from local boards and jurisdictions and centralize it in the hands of the New Mexico Public Employees Labor Relations Board—an entity that is less likely to understand the particular circumstances of local employers and employees than the local boards and jurisdictions.

Problems for employee rights:

  • It allows the union to elect to have a card check certification instead of an election, and do so without the employer’s consent. Card check is not only more vulnerable to fraud; it also violates the employee’s right to privacy in making a choice to support the union or not, which opens them up to coercion and intimidation. If private elections are appropriate for government representation, why is it not appropriate for union representation?
  • The bill allows local labor boards to continue to exist only if every union (and the employer) under its jurisdiction petitions for its continuance. The petitions have to be unanimous. Thus, if four out of five unions under a labor board want to continue under the local board but a fifth does not, then the wishes of the majority of employees are ignored and the local board is abolished.
  • Under this process, only boards that are sufficiently favorable to union interests can survive. Also, this process is a one-way ratchet toward centralization. There is no process for reviving local boards that do not receive sufficient petitions to continue. The bill specifically says “whenever a local board ceases to exist for any reason, it may not be revived.” According to the Attorney General, this language does not seem to contemplate the possibility of an error in determining whether a local board may continue, and thus provides no remedy for such an error. An inconsistency in the bill is that while it allows for local labor boards to continue, it removes all of the language in the law that governs the nature, make-up, term limits, and jurisdiction of local boards.
  • Public employees are given only a 10-day window for revoking their authorization for dues deduction. The bill also provides that no such revocations can occur before July 10, 2020. These provisions are suspect under the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, issued on June 27, 2018. In Janus, the Court held that forced dues are a violation of employee First Amendment rights. Further, Janus elaborates that respecting the employee’s First Amendment rights requires an opt-in procedure not an opt-out procedure. Under this bill, an employee can opt-in at any time, but once he has opted-in, he has no right to opt-out except under a procedure that is designed to make it easier for unions to retain members and then only after July 10, 2020. The constitutional question is: What conditions are unions permitted to place on employees exercising their constitutional rights?
  • The bill also denies to public employees the right to pursue legal action regarding “fair share” dues collected prior to the Court’s Janus decision. It preemptively resolves such litigation by holding the issue moot.
  • The bill compromises the privacy rights of public employees. It requires employers to provide names, job titles, work locations, home addresses, personal email addresses, and home or cellular telephone numbers of public employees in the proposed bargaining unit.
  • The bill expands the definition of public employee to any job funded by a grant—even if just partly by a grant. Under that provision, for example, employees of any private non-profit receiving grants would be subject to unionization.

Problems for employer rights:

  • The bill requires employers to allow public employee unions to conduct union work during work hours, use public employer email accounts for conducting union business, and use public facilities for meetings without compensation for that use. These provisions requiring public resources to be used for union business may violate the New Mexico constitution’s Anti-Donation Clause.
  • The bill creates uncertainty about what collective actions are allowed. It says: “Public employees have the right to engage in other concerted activities for mutual aid or benefit.” Other than stipulating that “other concerted activities” do not include strikes, the term is undefined. Do “other concerted activities” include walking off the job, refusal to perform job duties, refusal to work overtime, engaging in work slowdowns, sick-outs, sit-ins, name calling and use of profanity?
  • The bill creates an obligation on public employers to continue bargaining even while a collective bargaining agreement is in force. The threat of perpetual bargaining will create uncertainty in labor relations.
  • The bill changes the definition of management employee to require that such an employee must devote a majority of time to management or executive functions. This attempt to expand the number of employees subject to membership in a collective bargaining unit will especially affect smaller entities where management personnel must perform multiple functions.
  • The bill prohibits a public employer from using public funds to influence employees regarding supporting or opposing a labor organization or whether to become a member of any labor organization. The State Personnel Office writes: “[T]he term ‘influence’ could be used out of context and has the potential to be used out of context in potential grievances against the state.”
  • The bill gives labor boards the authority to go beyond the administrative remedies traditionally allowed and impose any remedies deemed appropriate including compensatory damages and injunctive relief. That type of power is normally given to courts, not administrative bodies.

Problems for democratic accountability:

  • The bill authorizes arbitrators to ignore local government appropriations in awarding monetary judgements, thereby transferring from elected officials the power of the purse to out-of-state arbitrators.
  • The bill states “a collective bargaining agreement that provides greater rights, remedies and procedures to public employees than contained in a state statute shall not be considered to be in conflict with that state statute.” Such a provision allows a collective bargaining agreement to amend state law. It hands the legislative power to a non-legislative body.
  • The bill reduces the power of local jurisdictions by eliminating their option to have a local ordinance or resolution governing collective bargaining.

Process problems:

  • Central New Mexico Community College writes:
    “The proposed changes to the law are so broad and overarching that passing such a bill in the limited time available during this session is a matter of grave concern because it does not provide an adequate opportunity to assess the impact. The substitute raises questions of constitutionality as it relates to recent Supreme Court decisions and the New Mexico Constitution’s anti-donation clause.”
  • About SB 110, which is identical to HB 364, the New Mexico Council of University Presidents writes:
    “Proponents say it took them a year to communicate with unions and develop SB 110(the original bill), but no public employers were ever consulted or notified of the proposed changes during the course of its development. […] [The bill] proposes significant and numerous changes to existing law that cannot be addressed in a few days’ time—and although some amendments have been discussed, it is unreasonable to expect public employers to reach consensus on a bill so quickly after its proponents had a year to do so. We ask that public employers be given a similar amount of time to communicate among the counties, cities, school districts, colleges and universities in order to review the legislation and work with the unions to address issues they have with current law. “

The Rio Grande Foundation remains committed to meaningful reform and opposes HB 364 in its entirety.

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Good news, SB 72 to reform NM’s PERA system is on to the Gov. Bad news, SB 62 (which just passed the Senate) would worsen pension PERA solvency situation

SB 72 is far-reaching, bi-partisan pension reform that passed the Legislature last night and is on to the Governor’s desk. It may be the highlight of the 2020 Session. But, SB 62 would increase pension liabilities and is problematic.

The Fiscal Report states :… preliminary estimates are an increase in unfunded liabilities of $29.8 million for the Municipal Fire Division.

Because State/Police and Corrections are fully solvent you could amend the bill, remove Fire (until they reach 80% solvency) and leave in Corrections, as they do work some of these shifts.  This would be the fair and fiscally solvent way forward and would help Corrections officers.

No enhancement of PERA benefits, for any fund, should be approved until it has a positive or neutral effect on the fund.  SB 62 has a negative effect.  For this reason I urge voting NO, or passing an amendment that it will automatically become law once the Fire Fund reaches 80% solvency and it will no longer have a negative effect, or taking Fire out of the language and leaving it only for Corrections Officers.

The Rio Grande Foundation has previously exposed the already-generous pensions available to fire fighters.

Image result for firefighter pensions

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Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Would Further Divide New Mexicans

When Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the formation of two tax advisory committees in the fall, she said they would “study the state’s tax system and recommend changes to ensure fairness, efficiency and equity.” Legislation to create an electric vehicle (EV) tax credit (such as Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 217), however, will have the opposite effect and make New Mexico’s tax code less efficient and more unbalanced.

If passed, the legislation would create a $2,500 tax credit for the purchase or lease of an electric vehicle, and another $300 giveaway for an at-home charger. This initiative, like similar policies at the national level, will function as a special interest carve-out for wealthy residents living in urban areas and only further alienate rural parts of the state.

Electric vehicle subsidies will benefit wealthier residents. Congressional Research Service data shows that nearly 80 percent of the federal EV tax credits are claimed by people who make over $100,000 per year. Both bills attempt to prevent the disparity in New Mexico by offering a higher credit for lower income buyers, but with an average price of $55,600, most electric vehicles would still be out of reach for many in our state where 400,000 receive federal food assistance.

In addition to tipping the scales toward high earners who can afford to buy cars without a tax credit, EV tax credit legislation also favors New Mexicans in urban areas. Of the 53 public charging stations in New Mexico, 39 are in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area. The remaining 14 are scattered throughout our massive state, putting residents of the majority of New Mexico at a disadvantage. Designating more money for public charging and issuing $300 for home-charging investments aims to correct the problem, but it’s a solution that won’t work for a lot of people.

Beyond that, electric vehicles are also an impractical choice for thousands of farmers and ranchers who rely on their pickups to haul livestock and equipment, often in extreme temperatures. Many others rely on their vehicles to do jobs that electric vehicles simply aren’t cut out to do.

According to a just-released study by the non-profit Road Improvement Program, a nonprofit research organization, “more than half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition,” which is costing us as much as $2,114 per driver.

Electric vehicle ownership only exacerbates the problem, because unlike other cars, EVs do not pay into our state’s road repair fund or the federal Highway Trust Fund, even though they contribute to wear and tear on our roads. Both EV tax credit bills would impose an annual registration fee on electric vehicles, but that falls far short of the $500 a typical New Mexico family pays in federal and state gas taxes each year.

Even without the subsidy, New Mexicans around the state are already subsidizing wealthier electric vehicle owners in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. If EV tax credit legislation passes and succeeds in its goal of putting more electric vehicles on the road, it will further tip the scales way from rural communities.

Coming on the heels of a 33-percent increase in New Mexico’s vehicle sales tax — which was supposed to fund road projects — it’s counter-productive to now consider providing tax refunds to the few people who can afford electric cars and to charge them less for infrastructure upkeep.

Electric vehicles have struggled to take off in New Mexico for reasons unrelated to federal or state subsidies. Fewer than 1,000 electric vehicles were sold in our state in each of the last two years, even with a federal incentive of up to $7,500. Adding a $2,500 rebate isn’t going to make our state more electric. Our policymakers have already hinted that they may follow in California’s footsteps and mandate that a minimum percentage of all state vehicle sales need to be electric. An electric vehicle tax credit is an ineffective and unfair precursor to that sort of extreme policy making.

 

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Leftist: TABOR has been a disaster in Colorado; also, people are moving there for strong economy

This letter to the editor against limiting taxes and spending from Voices for Children may be among the funniest that I’ve ever seen. Specifically, the letter claims:

It’s as if Colorado’s limits on spending and taxes have nothing at all to do with the State having a strong economy. In Voices-land, there is no such thing as a good tax cut. Only government spending helps the economy. We don’t have any hope that the folks at Voices will figure out that when government taxes our money away it actually hurts the economy, but we hold out hope that more New Mexicans will realize that New Mexico’s big spending ways are not the way to achieve economic prosperity.

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Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 171 Danny Seymour – Spaceport America Finances

Paul interviews Danny Seymour a policy analyst with the Foundation about the recent study from Moss Adams regarding Spaceport America.

There are numerous serious issues with the report and in this podcast Danny and Paul have some fun discussing its flaws as well as some serious issues that will make it a challenge for the Spaceport to ever achieve the goals of its proponents.

Seymour has written and published an opinion piece in which he addresses the Spaceport’s finances.

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Zombie bill SB 110 amended, brought back from dead, still bad

A few weeks ago we argued in this space that SB 110 was the worst bill in the New Mexico Legislature (with a reasonable chance of passage). In a surprising move the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to table the bill on Monday which prompted this response.

Well, as the following Tweet from Sen. Mimi Stewart states, SB 110 is officially a zombie. It has been brought back from the dead:

Image result for zombie

The bill will be heard Friday morning, so please contact members of Senate Judiciary here. The bill has strong support from those government employee unions who stand to benefit from the legislative changes. Of course, we agree with President Franklin Roosevelt on the basic issue of whether government employees should be able to unionize in the first place:

Image result for franklin roosevelt government unions

 

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