Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 122: RGF’s president and his family head to Yellowstone

Paul and his family recently visited Yellowstone National Park. Normally this would not be news (or podcast) worthy, but when the Governor of New Mexico threatens out-of-state travelers and unilaterally imposes a 14-day self-quarantine, it becomes an incredibly important political issue.

Paul discusses several aspects of the trip including the various states he traveled through and their relative openness or closedness. He also discusses some other ways in which the Governor and her decisions are impacting aspects of family life. You can see a few photos from the trip below:

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How is NM REALLY doing in battling COVID 19

The Rio Grande Foundation has repeatedly argued that deaths are the appropriate way to measure the impact of this Virus on our State. As the chart below from the New York Times shows, while a small uptick has happened recently, the rolling average in terms of deaths in New Mexico is well below where it was back in mid-May and during most of this crisis.

Have restaurants caused the increased spread of the virus? The Gov. doesn’t tell us. The Gov. didn’t impose as mask requirement until mid-May. What has the impact of that requirement so far and is there any evidence as to the effectiveness or lack thereof of that requirement (or the newly-imposed requirement) on the Virus.

When comparing New Mexico with other states, our deaths per-million rate is better than Colorado or Arizona, but still much worse than Texas, Oklahoma, or Utah. At 254 per-million we are ranked 21st (from highest) overall as of July 9, 2020. 

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“Restaurants didn’t do this to New Mexicans. New Mexicans did this to restaurants.” Michelle Lujan Grisham

“Way” back on June 23, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said “you’re welcome” in response to a tweet from the New Mexico GOP asking her to reopen New Mexico’s economy.” Now, of course as the Gov. just announced, New Mexicans face a raft of new restrictions. Who does the Gov. blame? YOU, of course!

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New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is shutting down indoor dining at restaurants and breweries and wants people to wear masks at ALL TIMES. Her new order takes effect on Monday (delaying the announcement for three days from making it). But, the new restrictions will have profound, negative consequences for New Mexico’s restaurant industry and its employees. And, of course, numerous businesses throughout our State remain completely closed thanks to the Gov. You can watch her press conference and read more about her orders here.

 

 

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KRWG Article and response: New Mexico’s tax (and subsidy) systems undeniably need an overhaul

Recently, I co-authored a piece with national tax leader Grover Norquist arguing that tax hikes should NOT be enacted when the New Mexico Legislature returns in January.

A response ran at KRWG, the Las Cruces public television station. While the author claimed the mantle of supporting tax reform, he made the unfounded claim that, “For over 50 years, conservative policy proposals have been reducing taxes and regulations, destroying unions, and building wealth for billionaires on the backs of average workers.”

This left-wing talking point belies the fact that New Mexico’s tax and government systems do have big problems. The Rio Grande Foundation responded with this article which in part argued,

While we know that the K-12 system is going to require a lot of money to open in a post-COVID environment, the Gov. and Legislature kept $300 of the $320 million in the FY 2021 budget that was allocated to fund a brand new pre-K fund. The Legislature also spent $5 million for the Gov.’s “free” college programs and did not touch massive film subsidies which the Legislative Finance Committee says cost $150 million annually.

And this issue is something that all New Mexicans should agree on. While exemptions and deductions are definitely open to question, film subsidies are tax dollars collected by the State and then sent to Hollywood film studios. This is awful public policy and should be ended at once.

Tax and subsidy reform are long-overdue in New Mexico. Taking more money from hard-working New Mexicans in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is simply not the right way to solve this problem.

Reform Louisiana's Broken Tax System | Pelican Institute

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AP catches on to grocery delivery tax issue and House Tax Chair considers “surcharge” on big box stores

Two months after the Rio Grande Foundation broke the story with Patrick Hayes and KOB TV, Morgan Lee of the Associated Press did a story about groceries in New Mexico being taxed when delivered by certain stores.

The story was fine and provided what amounts to an update on what we discussed back in early May, but the more notable aspects of the story involved some quotes by House Tax Committee Chairman and “progressive” Javier Martinez. His quotes directly from the story are below.

Martinez seems inclined to cover for the Gov.’s unfair and arbitrary orders that shut down all manner of small businesses under COVID 19 while keeping “big box” stores open by imposing new taxes on said “big box stores.” Obviously, this is concerning for anyone who cares about New Mexico’s economic recovery:

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Tipping Point NM episode 211: Dreary, Depressed, Ugly

On this week’s discussion podcast, Paul and Wally discuss the ABQ City Council’s recent actions on mandatory paid sick leave. Council recently voted down pandemic hazard pay and postponed a vote on paid sick leave. Council did pass an ordinance that requires businesses to give their employees masks and enforce mask-wearing in their facilities. In an ABQ Journal piece, businesses respond to the renewed threat of more regulation and express dire concerns about the future.

Gov. MLG extends her health order through July 15. The Gov. cites travelers to New Mexico, increased spread to younger people. $100 fine for not wearing masks in public. Mandatory 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state travelers into New Mexico, whether traveling by air or by vehicle. Hotels and other places of lodging are expected to enforce the 14-day travel quarantine for any out-of-state visitors and report non-compliance to state health authorities. Paul talks to KOAT Channel 7 about the City of Albuquerque spending $100,000 on “COVID Safe Fireworks”

The ABQ Journal has a touching story regarding “Shadow Deaths of the Virus”

Paul discusses why it especially touched him.

Another ABQ Journal piece quotes a homeless man who compares ABQ to Detroit and calls Downtown “Dreary, Depressed, Ugly”

Charles Sullivan writes a piece about the Spaceport boondoggle while the facility’s CEO Dan Hicks has been placed on Administrative Leave.

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Tax increases in New Mexico would be a mistake

Las Cruces Sun-News

Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing recently penned this op-ed along with Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. The piece appeared in numerous publications around the State.

New Mexico is facing a budget deficit due to the combined forces of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s shut down of the New Mexico economy and reduced oil production. It is of the utmost importance that the Legislature not increase the economic pain by raising taxes.

Despite plummeting revenues, the Legislature STILL saw fit to increase spending this year. New Mexico is currently set to spend $7 billion, more than one billion dollars more than it will take from taxpayers: $5.9 billion.

When the 2021 Legislative session convenes, significant budget challenges will remain even with the national economy regaining jobs (May saw an increase in employment of 2.5 million, the highest monthly gain in history.) The easy, traditional response to overspending is to blame the taxpayers for not sending in more cash. The Legislature will look at their own overspending and standing on their heads call it a “revenue shortfall.”

Under normal circumstances, tax increases of any kind result in economic harm. After months of “non-essential” businesses being forced to close and many people being out of work, tax increases would be devastating.

During these difficult times, families across New Mexico have had to tighten their belts. The legislature should control its appetite. It should not say of taxpayers: “let them eat cake.” (Heavily taxed cake.)

This should not be too hard for them to do. If they are serious. Over the years, New Mexico’s spending has increased well beyond the rate of population and inflation. Government spending has increased faster than the paychecks of taxpayers. And that is before the current big-spending Gov. Lujan Grisham and her legislative allies came into office.

Based on data from the National Association of Budget Officers’ State Expenditure Report from 2011 and 2019, total state spending in New Mexico increased roughly 33.6% from 2010 to 2019. Over that same time period, New Mexico’s population increased just 1.8%, according to a report from the United States Census Bureau, and inflation increased 17.2%.

State government in New Mexico has grown a whopping 14.6% faster than population and inflation did over the last decade. There is absolutely no “need” to raise taxes. Particularly not after last year, when a $350 million tax hike – which some are calling the largest in state history – was heaped on top of a $1 billion surplus.

New Mexicans cannot afford higher taxes. A 2018 report from the Mercatus Center measured and ranked all 50 states based on various tax and budget data. On the issue of “service-level solvency” – how high taxes, revenues, and spending are when compared to state personal income – the Mercatus report found that New Mexico was the state least able to raise taxes without harming the economy. New Mexicans couldn’t afford higher taxes in 2018 when the economy was booming. They certainly can’t handle higher taxes now.

Americans oppose tax hikes as the nation struggles to recover economically from COVID 19. A recent Wallethub poll found that just 28% of Americans “think that tax rates should increase to fund coronavirus recovery efforts.” Overwhelmingly – a whopping 72% – people do not think taxes should rise. Even former Governor Bill Richardson (D) has voiced his opposition to tax increases during this time:

“Don’t raise taxes of any kind. We need to attract new businesses and, if anything, get rid of the onerous double Social Security tax.”

Struggling businesses are doing everything they can to avoid cutting hours and laying off employees. Some have already had to move forward with these difficult decisions. Individual taxpayers and families are already seeing their paychecks dwindle.

The last thing the people of New Mexico need right now is to hand more of their paychecks over to the politicians.

Gessing is president of the Rio Grande Foundation. Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. Gessing and Norquist are encouraging all candidates and elected officials to take the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to taxpayer across New Mexico that they will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to raise taxes.

Opposed to the GE Tax Increase? These Links Can Help | Hawaii Reporter

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A tour of the Mountain West beyond the “wall.” Paul reports from Yellowstone

Recently, RGF’s president Paul Gessing took a family trip through a number of neighboring states to vacation in Yellowstone National Park. The trip took us through Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

From the COVID 19 perspective these states have been less impacted than New Mexico (aside from Colorado) at least if you measure by deaths per million.  A new report by Wallethub finds New Mexico to be among the most shut down states in the nation while Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming (states in which we traveled and stayed in on our trip) are among the most open. Even Colorado which is listed as being locked down like New Mexico had the hotel pool open and local governments were apparently granted great flexibility in their COVID 19 policies (a concept we have discussed extensively).

Here are some impressions: When traveling with kids on the road, having a swimming pool is HUGE. Hotels in Utah, Wyoming, and even Colorado had swimming pools open. New Mexico has them open only for lap swimming which kids don’t do.

Most employees in various restaurants wore masks (probably at the behest of their employers), but most patrons in restaurants didn’t. In West Yellowstone, Montana, the “touristy” places were socially-distanced, but the “townie” places were not.

At Yellowstone itself the lodges in the Park were all closed, but the campgrounds were all full. The Park itself was about 75% of normal July 4 weekend capacity. Many people did wear masks around the major sites, but most did not.

One playground we visited in Ennis, MT had a common-sense solution: a hand-washing station. Another playground in Durango was FULL of kids playing and adults watching them while no one was wearing masks at all.

A few photos of the trip are below. As an aside, it felt great to get out of town and do something “normal.” I discuss further details in an upcoming episode of TippingPointNM:

 

 

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Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 210: Bradly Birzer – Discussing our flawed but incredible Founding Fathers through the Civil War

In honor of Independence Day this week we will feature one Tipping Point New Mexico podcast. But, we are thrilled to have Bradley Birzer, an American History professor at Hillsdale College on this week. Dr. Birzer and Paul discuss various well-known and more obscure figures in the Founding of America and some of the great accomplishments of the Founding. Dr. Birzer has a book about Andrew Jackson and the two discuss Jackson and his legacy.

Finally, given all the tearing down of monuments happening in America right now Paul and Dr. Birzer discuss the evolving judgments of important figures in American history from the Founding through Jackson and to the Confederacy on issues relating to slavery as well as Native Americans.

Birzer publishes regularly at The Imaginative Conservative.

Bradley Birzer - Hillsdale College

 

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Albuquerque to pay nearly $100,000 for “social distance” fireworks displays

The Rio Grande Foundation always is on the lookout for unnecessary government spending. With this Independence Day “on lockdown” the City of Albuquerque chose to spend nearly $100,000 to put on four fireworks displays instead of the usual one at Balloon Fiesta Park (which actually cost the City zero).

This fact was not discussed in the recent KOAT Channel 7 story in which briefly shared my thoughts on the issue. In reality, the City could have modified  their one fireworks display to embrace reasonable social distancing guidelines (just as it seems could have been done with Balloon Fiesta. Instead, in a time of budget issues the City is spending nearly $100,000 for four displays throughout the City in order to keep  people at home.

Click the picture below for the full story:


Anyone who knows that he’s not a huge fan of fireworks. Hanging out in a car and watching the big City display from a nearby park is his preferred approach. It is strange and unfortunate that the City couldn’t come up with an innovative approach that brought Albuquerque residents together (safely) rather than keeping them apart.

 

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