Interior Secretary Haaland ignores Navajo opposition, creates 10 mile barrier around Chaco Monument

In the kind of one-person power grab that has become all-too-common in recent years and especially with the Biden Administration, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has instituted a 10 mile barrier around Chaco Canyon Monument. The ban will last for 20 years (unless overturned by a subsequent administration).

The Navajo Nation recently explicitly rejected ANY barrier around the Monument. However as the Journal reports, the nation had in the past supported a 5 mile barrier.

Haaland’s move is expected to cost Navajo members with allotted property rights an estimated $194 million over the next 20 years.

Naturally, New Mexico’s entire Congressional delegation, all of whom are anti-energy radicals, support the 10 mile buffer.

Delegation moves to create buffer around Chaco - Albuquerque Journal


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KOAT-TV covers RGF workforce participation rate analysis

The Rio Grande Foundation recently analyzed workforce participation data for New Mexico and its neighboring states. Separate data from New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee was also discussed in the post.

This attracted the attention of KOAT Channel 7 which did an excellent report on RGF’s data and analysis including discussing the data with a UNM economist who added his cogent thoughts. Check out the KOAT report here and by clicking on the image below:

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Tipping Point NM episode 509 Vance Ginn – State Budgets and Tax Burdens

On this week’s interview Paul talks to Vance Ginn, PhD. Vance is an economist who worked in the Trump Administration, is Founder and President of Ginn Economic Consulting, LLC, Host of the Let People Prosper Show Podcast, and is Chief Economist or Senior Fellow at Multiple Think Tanks.

Paul and Vance discuss reports claiming that California has a lighter tax burden than Texas, ensuring sounds state budgets, and they even dive into immigration policy.

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LFC: Oil and gas supply HALF (50%) of New Mexico general fund revenues

The Legislative Finance Committee’s post-session fiscal review is a trove of interesting information (translated: expect additional posts using information gleaned from it, but have a read for yourself). One interesting item among many is the chart below which shows that even as the Gov. and Democrats who control the Legislature claim to want to “diversify” the economy and even dismiss New Mexico’s role as an energy state, New Mexico’s budget has become even MORE reliant on oil and gas revenues in recent years.

As the chart below shows, more than 50% of New Mexico’s general fund revenues (nearly $7 billion in 2023) comes from oil and gas. As a reminder, the state’s FY 2023 revenues were approximately $11 million (according to the LFC) but it spent $8.4 billion in FY 2023 (the FY 2024 budget was just passed and that is $9.6 billion).

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New Mexico workforce participation still lags (plus further analysis from LFC)

The Rio Grande Foundation has been tracking and discussing New Mexico’s low workforce participation rate for several years. The chart below covers the time period dating back to pre-pandemic January 2020. As you can see, New Mexico’s rate remains much lower than its neighbors’ rates and both New Mexico and Arizona have NOT recovered from the pandemic.  You can find the raw data here.

In their post-session review, the Legislative Finance Committee also looked at workforce participation rates over time among men and women (using separate data set) and found some troubling info. The following charts are from their report. Although the LFC report does not explain their choices, the following charts show New Mexico’s low an worsening workforce participation rate for groups of prime working age adults:



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City asks for volunteers to clean up Albuquerque bus stops

If you drive around Albuquerque for any length of time you’ll notice a lot of trash. Among the places with the largest amount of trash is bus stops. Well, according to Channel 13, the City is asking for volunteers to help clean up the trash around the City’s bus stops this weekend.

The idea is to prepare for ABQ Pride Parade and Route 66 Summerfest. If you are interested in helping out, that is great, we encourage you to do so.

But it also seems that if the City of Albuquerque is serious about boosting ridership on its buses and generally making the City a cleaner, less-polluted (and perhaps an even safer place), perhaps it is time to redirect some of the $3 million in “free” bus money to pay for clean up and enforcement of litter (and other) laws around bus stops.

Having an “official” presence at bus stops might also have a deterrence effect on the rampant shoplifting for which City buses have become a popular “getaway vehicle.”


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Episode 508: Debt Ceiling Deal, Virgin Galactic Launch Up Stock Down, ABQ Public Schools Budget, Pre-K Effectiveness Questions, “Mississippi’s Miracle”, Solar NIMBY in Santa Fe

On this week’s conversation Paul and Wally discuss the contents of the debt ceiling deal. While they agree that it is better than nothing, their “real” interest now shifts to the political battle between the mainstream and left/right in both parties.

Virgin Galactic had a successful launch last week, but their stock plummeted simultaneously. Why? 

In education-related news, Albuquerque Public Schools adopted a massive $2.16 billion budget last week. The Associated Press discovers “Mississippi’s miracle.” The media (and a new study) falsely claim that pre-K is improving New Mexico education. 

There is an impending battle over a massive Santa Fe solar development. Will NIMBY interests or the environmental activists win?

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Debt ceiling agreement better than the alternative

Over the Holiday weekend negotiators in Washington struck a deal relating to the federal debt ceiling that would suspend the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025. The challenge for House Republicans is that they BARELY have a majority in one house in order to gain leverage on spending and their party has not exhibited fiscal restraint in general (as recently as the Trump Administration).  

While we believe the deal is better than the alternative, the interesting question is whether it ultimately is embraced by enough on the right and left to pass. If not, which side kills it and who is blamed if it is killed. New Mexico’s delegation has (so far) been quiet with the exception of Rep. Gabe Vasquez who represents the most competitive seat and has stated his support for the deal.

Here are some of the key provisions:

Via CNN: Under the deal, non-defense spending would remain relatively flat in fiscal 2024 and increase by 1% in fiscal 2025,

Under the deal, $11 billion in rescinded unobligated Covid-19 relief funds and $10 billion in money shifted from the Internal Revenue Service would be used to beef up non-defense discretionary spending. Also, $10 billion in funds repurposed from mandatory programs and $23 billion that’s designated as emergency funding would be shifted.

The agreement calls for temporarily broadening of work requirements for certain adults receiving food stamps.

Currently, childless, able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 are only able to get food stamps for three months out of every three years unless they are employed at least 20 hours a week or meet other criteria. The agreement would increase the upper limit of the mandate to age 55 in phases, according to the bill text.

The deal would rescind roughly $28 billion in unobligated funds from the Covid-19 relief packages that Congress passed to respond to the pandemic, according to the House GOP,

Under the deal, borrowers would have to begin paying back their student loans at the end of the summer.

Biden, McCarthy agree to raise US debt ceiling – what's in the deal? | US  Congress | The Guardian

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Opinion piece: Legislature’s 529 expansion a positive step for New Mexico

The following appeared in the Roswell Daily-Record on May 21, 2023.

The 2023 New Mexico legislative session was generally disappointing for New Mexicans who wish to see much-needed K-12 education reform. However, it was not a total loss. In fact, one bill did pass that could help thousands of New Mexico families pay for educational options that work best for them. Without a single “no” vote during the 2023 session, HB 342 will soon be the “law of the land.”

The bipartisan bill was sponsored in the House by Republican Minority Leader Ryan Lane and by Democrat Majority Leader Peter Wirth in the Senate. It was signed into law by Gov. Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat. HB 342 aligns New Mexico law with federal law as updated during the Trump Administration and recent legislation under the Secure 2.0 Act.

Over the years Congress has expanded the use of 529 plans to pay for kindergarten through 12th grade tuition and included student loan repayment and apprenticeship program expenses. And in 2023, Congress added a provision to allow rollovers of unused 529 plan funds into a Roth IRA for the beneficiary.

Starting on June 16 when this new law takes effect, New Mexico families will be able to deduct any contributions to their New Mexico sponsored 529 account that will be used to pay for up to $10,000 annually (per-child) on tuition expenses at an elementary or secondary public or private school (making them “qualified” expenses under New Mexico law).

Originally created to help families save for college, 529 plans have been helping families do that for years and will continue to do so into the future. For New Mexico residents, features include the fact that 100 percent of contributions to New Mexico’s plans are deductible from state taxable income in the year contributions were made to the account. If the account owner is a resident of New Mexico, then earnings and withdrawals from their 529 account are also exempt from state taxation.

New Mexico’s educational woes have been well-documented in numerous analyses. Families who are considering 529 plans or if they already have such a plan and want to know more about the latest changes can find out more at The Education Plan website The Education Plan is New Mexico’s state-sponsored 529 education savings plan.

The website is informative and Rio Grande Foundation has undertaken its own efforts underway to educate New Mexicans, but it is up to families to either find this information for themselves or talk to a financial advisor.

If you have a child for whom the existing K-12 system is not working and you are considering the financial challenges of paying for school (in addition to the taxes you already pay to fund the schools), you should strongly consider looking at using a 529 plan.

This is especially true since the original purpose of 529 plans may not be as critical as in the past. That’s because many college costs in New Mexico are now covered thanks to the State’s “Opportunity Scholarship” program for “free” college. While nothing is truly free, the prospect of college being heavily subsidized by New Mexico taxpayers may change the financial equation for some New Mexico families who no longer need to prioritize saving for college and instead can use their 529 plan for K-12 tuition at a non-public school.

The Rio Grande Foundation has long been a proponent of increasing the educational options available to New Mexicans. While much work is to be done to improve educational options for families, we are pleased that New Mexico’s Legislature is allowing families to maximize the benefits of 529 plans for K-12 students. It is critical for parents of school-aged children to educate themselves on the benefits of these plans.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is 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

529 Education Plan | College Savings | The Education Plan

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Impending battle over massive Santa Fe solar development

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, construction of the proposed Rancho Viejo Solar facility is under consideration on 800 acres of private land about a mile off N.M. 14. Not surprisingly, pushback is already coming from residents who live near the proposed industrial development.

Before construction can begin on the Rancho Viejo Solar facility, the project must gain approval from county officials.

And, as much as the denizens of Santa Fe usually support wind and solar, I expect this to be a  knock-down battle. While often touted as “green,” the reality is that deploying wind and solar takes a great deal of land (much more than a nuclear facility for example).

As this article from the UK Guardian notes, “What was an oasis has become a little island in a dead solar sea.”

Kevin Emmerich worked for the National Park Service for over 20 years before setting up Basin & Range Watch in 2008, a non-profit that campaigns to conserve desert life. He says solar plants create myriad environmental problems, including habitat destruction and “lethal death traps” for birds, which dive at the panels, mistaking them for water.

He says one project bulldozed 600 acres of designated critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise, while populations of Mojave fringe-toed lizards and bighorn sheep have also been afflicted. “We’re trying to solve one environmental problem by creating so many others.”

While RGF often finds itself at odds with the NIMBY crowd, we support opposition to heavily-subsidized, not really “green” energy.

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