Proximate ABQ Journal stories highlight trades vs. academia

This newspaper is from a few weeks ago, but has an extremely interesting juxtaposition right on its front page. One story highlighted the demand for workers in the trades while the other features a unionized employee of UNM who works for $1,565 on a 9 month contract at UNM. Over the span of a full year the second-year English doctoral student is making just $14,085 annually.

On the other hand, the hourly pay for a skilled tradesperson in New Mexico is $21.81 an hour. Assuming a full year of work that’s more than triple what the UNM doctoral student is making without a college degree.

We’re not arguing on behalf of the unionized UNM graduate assistants. We’re not even saying that you shouldn’t attend college. Simply put, subsidized or “free” college as Gov. Lujan Grisham has embraced here in New Mexico is wasteful and is largely a waste of money.

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RGF op-ed: Education reform can boost workforce, economy

The following article appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on November 19, 2023.

The Legislative Finance Committee has produced a new report looking at the issue of New Mexico’s low workforce participation rate. Here is one of many choice quotes analyzing the problem: “While unemployment rates have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the share of the state’s working age population participating in the labor force is persistently low. Social services, economic development, tax rates, pension systems, the service industry and virtually every other area of the economy is impacted when there are fewer people working to support those who do not work.”

The report further notes “misalignment between the state’s workforce skills and industry is a challenge for New Mexico’s economic future,” the report focuses most of its attention on job training programs and other economic development incentives, but I believe this is a mistake. What the LFC gently calls “misalignment” really means “ill-prepared.”

Sadly, no matter how much New Mexico seems to spend on education, our results remain mired in the very bottom among U.S. states. We all know the numbers. New Mexico is last on the Nation’s Report Card, last on Kids Count and last in nearly any ranking of public education systems or outcomes. New Mexico is still working to comply with the Yazzie v. Martinez ruling, which deemed our education system “inadequate.”

Solving our state’s educational issues is fundamental to the future of New Mexico. People have moved their families out-of-state during the governor’s coronavirus pandemic lockdowns or have found other educational options. Sadly, tens of thousands of New Mexico children continue to suffer in a failing system.

The key is to reform the system, not pour more money into a system that is so clearly broken. Recently, through the education reform project called Opportunity for All Kids New Mexico, my foundation held a daylong conference in which numerous reform ideas were discussed.

High-level reformers from across the nation and state discussed private school choice options that have been implemented, how New Mexico can learn lessons from other states and maximize its charter school laws and what we can learn from Mississippi in reforming our existing education system. Advocates for charter schools were also able to tout ways in which New Mexico’s current form of school choice is working to improve education and outline how it could be harnessed to do even more.

After all, when your education system is so troubled, you need to consider all the options. Sadly, advocates of the status quo failed system, many of whom are supported financially and elected thanks to support from the unions, continue to stand in the way of necessary reforms.

What is holding New Mexico’s economy back? Many policies are responsible. Rio Grande Foundation continues to advocate for needed tax reform (to name just one needed reform). That said, no area of public policy in New Mexico could have a more profound impact on both our children and our long-term economic success simultaneously than would making needed changes to our education system.

In next year’s 30-day legislative session and beyond, New Mexicans and their elected officials must embrace a combination of accountability and reform that could (at last) begin to move New Mexico out of last place, improve the lives of our children and give us a better workforce.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a nonpartisan research and educational organization.

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RGF president discovers incorrect RailRunner schedule

There are numerous problems with “mass” transit. One of the most frustrating things is when you miss the train or whatever you are trying to ride.

RGF’s president had plans to take his kids on the train over the Thanksgiving Holiday (Saturday) to visit the model train museum in Belen and visit friends. The first screenshot below is the train we’d planned to take (from the RailRunner app for Iphone).  Below that is a shot of the schedule posted at the station (notice the #705 column) and the departure at 10am vs. 10:20am on the app.

Imagine our surprise when no train came because it had already left 20 minutes earlier (at 11:21am from the Montano station instead of 11:41am as reflected on the app)! It appears that several other changes have been made to the Saturday afternoon schedule that differ from what is on the app.  Does no one else use the RailRunner app on the Iphone?

We wound up driving down to Belen and had a great time at the museum and were able to do a number of things we couldn’t have done without a vehicle, but this is a shocking oversight for the RailRunner folks.

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Tipping Point NM Episode 559: What are “Regulatory Sandboxes” and Will New Mexico Pass Legislation to Allow Them?

On this week’s episode Paul discusses an innovative approach to regulation that comes to us from Utah that has been embraced by red and blue states alike. The idea is the creation of “regulatory sandboxes” which  allows live, time-bound testing of innovations under a regulator’s oversight. Paul discusses the issue with Rees Empey, Director of State Govt. Affairs at the Utah-based Libertas Institute and Brian Knight is the Director of the Program on Financial Regulation at the Mercatus Center based in the DC area.

The “Sandbox” issue has bipartisan support in the New Mexico Legislature having been introduced by Democrats in the 2023 session.

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Energy sector job growth is NOT a win

What if you had a power source that was free and plentiful?  That would be a good thing and it would allow for great expansions in prosperity. Fossil fuels have, for decades, provided affordable and plentiful energy, but so-called “environmentalists” and politicians like Sen. Heinrich aren’t really interested in cheap and plentiful energy.

Instead, they tout the number of jobs created in the subsidized wind and solar industries. See chart below. These aren’t necessary “clean” as the chart claims, but they DO require massive infusions of tax dollars and costly new investments in high tension wires like Heinrich’s beloved SunZia project in order to get wind and solar produced in New Mexico all the way to California.

The total price tag of SunZia is $8 billion which certainly means some jobs, but more importantly it requires massive subsidies and will ultimately result in more expensive (and less reliable) electricity.


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RGF presents to Environmental Improvement Board

While the Board ultimately voted on a 3-2 basis to adopt Gov. Lujan Grisham’s electric vehicle mandates, RGF truly put on a full court press to stop them. Below is Paul Gessing’s 3 minute presentation to the Board:

Here is Marina Herrera’s testimony and presentation of the boxes of thousands of signatures.

A few photos of our team delivering boxes containing thousands of hard copies of signatures to the Board.

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RGF opinion piece: Electric vehicle rule is unsustainable and will kill jobs

The following appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, November 21st, 2023.

After four long days of testimony and public comment the Environmental Improvement Board decided recently to move forward with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s plan to follow California’s “clean vehicle” standard. In practice that means New Mexico’s car dealers will have to increase sales of EVs in New Mexico from the current 3% of all new vehicles to 43% by summer of 2026 and 82% by summer of 2031.

That may seem like a long time away, but the summer of 2026 is less than three years from now. New Mexico’s car dealers are the ones with the most to lose under this policy, but the new rules will negatively impact all New Mexicans. Car dealers rightly fear that New Mexicans will travel to neighboring states to purchase their cars. There is nothing to stop them. In fact, online super-seller Amazon just announced that it would begin selling vehicles online.

Amazon’s presence in the auto market alone is a problem for car dealers but if Amazon — and out-of-state dealers — can sell whatever consumers want and New Mexico dealers can’t, that is a big problem. Many car dealers are small businesses. New car dealers average 56 employees per dealership and employ a total of 6,314 New Mexicans statewide. Car dealers also pay numerous taxes — like property, payroll, and income — that Amazon and Texas dealers won’t pay when they sell cars to New Mexicans.

The EIB’s process is hugely problematic. New Mexico’s Democrats talk endlessly about defending “democracy” but when push comes to shove, elected bodies like the Legislature refuse to guard their own power. Every Democrat in the Legislature needs to go on the record in support or opposition to the governor’s mandate when seeking reelection in 2024. Notably, every single Republican in the Legislature signed letters in opposition to the proposal.

Sadly, despite overwhelming numbers of New Mexicans expressing their opposition, including 3,517 individual opponents through our website, the seven-member board voted on a mere 3-2 basis to adopt the mandate. The governor couldn’t even get an outright majority of her own appointed board to support her policies.

So, who supported it? Major environmental groups led the charge, of course. But, in attending the hearings a common refrain from supporters — many of them wealthy, Anglo, EV owners from Albuquerque and Santa Fe — were that “EV’s work great for them.”

That attitude ignores the dire lack of charging infrastructure throughout rural New Mexico, an issue that is even more acute in Navajo Country. Apartment dwellers and those who do not own single-family homes, while often living a “green” lifestyle, will inevitably struggle to charge their mandated vehicles.

Factually speaking, this mandate cannot and will not work. New Mexicans will simply not have enough EVs available to comply with this mandate with vastly more populous California having already embraced similar rules. Car dealers will go out of business and either Lujan Grisham or some future governor will either delay or modify this unworkable mandate.

The question is how many jobs will be killed in New Mexico? How many people and businesses will leave our state or choose not to come here due to the adoption of another ill-conceived public policy? We don’t know, but what we do know is that despite having the benefit of a large federal infrastructure, and the jobs and tax dollars it brings, and being the second-leading oil producing state in the entire country, New Mexico remains poor and is losing its young people.

In the name of environmental “sustainability” our governor has made New Mexico’s future less sustainable.

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

Another blue state unleashes electric vehicle mandate: 'Walking the walk'

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Tipping Point NM episode 558: EIB Decision on Electric Vehicles, Education Not Improving, Soccer Stadium and more

Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Environmental Improvement Board adopted her EV mandate. Find out more here and how RGF attempted to stop this debacle. 

According to a new LFC report New Mexico student results are not improving despite more money being pumped into education. The NY Times admits terrible learning loss due to COVID lockdowns like those of MLG. Unfortunately the Texas Legislature has again killed school choice.

NM United get their stadium 7-2 vote.

A self-described “libertarian” just won Argentina’s election. Paul lived for a time in Argentina and has studied the place. Here’s his take. 

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Can Javier Milei save Argentina?

This may seem like a random post on a site dealing almost exclusively with New Mexico politics and policy, but with the election of the free market-oriented Javier Milei as Argentina’s next president, we will see if a formerly great South American nation that sadly pursued socialist policies for decades, can pull out of its tail spin.

It is a nation that RGF president Paul Gessing spent four months from March to June of 2001 living in and working as a fellow with a libertarian/free market think tank.

Argentina was one of the 10 wealthiest nations on earth in 1900, but quasi-socialistic/fascistic Peronist policies embraced in the post-war years led the nation to poverty. In fact, after my departure from Argentina in 2001, the nation suffered a default in which it devalued its currency.

Is Milei a mere “blip” on the radar or will he be able to help his nation pull out of its death spiral? No one knows. But there ARE lessons for even a state like New Mexico which has been poorly governed for much of the past century.

canada goose historia argentina, Off 60%,

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LFC report: More education spending is not leading to significant boost for students

With a great deal of attention focused on MLG’s plan to foist unwanted electric vehicles on New Mexicans one could be forgiven for almost missing this story from KRQE Channel 13. The story addresses a new report from the Legislature’s own internal think tank, the Legislative Finance Committee.

According to KRQE (quoting) LFC analysts, while money going into education has increased, student enrollment has decreased about 1% each year for the last few years. “Given the demographics and projections that we’re hearing, we don’t see that recovering in the near future either.”

Said Sen. George Muñoz (D-Gallup), “Roughly $6 billion we’re pumping into our public education system better, and we’ve got zero to show for it.” You can read the LFC report here. 

Among the numerous problems cited is “chronic absenteeism.” Sadly, New Mexico is pouring more and more money into a system that is serving fewer students. Even a “free” system can’t get students to attend.

It’s long past time for needed reforms to allow school choice (like Arizona) AND enact Mississippi-style reforms.

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