Gov. Lujan Grisham needs to “Do No Harm” to Four Corners

Farmington Daily Times

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in New Mexico, the Four Corners region of New Mexico faced serious economic challenges. The declining price of natural gas which had been the basis of the area’s economy for decades was the most significant issue.

The price which exceeded $15 per million cubic feet (MCF) back in 2008 embarked on a rapid decline with the advent of the “fracking” revolution. The price is now below $2.00 per MCF and shows no sign of rising in the foreseeable future. That’s a decline of over 80%.

The next “shoe” to drop was the Gov.’s Energy Transition Act which placed the San Juan Generating Station on a path to closure in June of 2022. Efforts by the City of Farmington and Enchant Energy could result in the plant remaining open beyond that deadline.

What is Governor Lujan Grisham’s position on the Enchant Energy project?  No one seems to know. This critical economic issue like so many others has taken an extreme distant back seat to COVID-19.

The Four Corners region needs a Governor and state government that can do more than one thing at the same time. San Juan Generating Station’s employees, and Four Corners’ government officials and economic planners could certainly benefit from state government leadership.

In addition to the extreme energy industry challenges, the Four Corners has also been disproportionately hit by the effects of COVID-19. The Four Corners region has been hard-hit by the virus and has faced stricter timelines for its opening and subsequent economic recovery. The result has been job losses and severe decreases in economic activity for the Navajo Nation and the region as a whole far greater than many other parts of New Mexico.

Add on top of all of these factors and the Gov. is facing a second impactful decision regarding the so-called “Methane Rule.” The Gov. is expected to impose some kind of new regulatory regime on natural gas producers, predominantly in the Four Corners in the months ahead. While environmentalists claim an untold bounty will be reaped in the form of capturing “vented and flared” methane, the reality is that strict rules as proposed by the environmental community would further devastate the region.

All of this is to say that Gov. Lujan Grisham literally holds the Four Corners’ future in her hands. No amount of job retraining money will prepare the local population for jobs that don’t exist. No amount of corporate welfare or state “investment” in things like movie studios will get the region on solid economic footing.

Rather, the region needs real jobs and real economic investment the likes of which job training and government “investment” simply can’t offer. Enchant Energy must be given an opportunity to make its carbon capture technology work. If it doesn’t or if economic conditions show that it is just not feasible, so be it, but the opportunity to keep hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of economic activity and tax revenue in the region and State simply can’t be dismissed. However, if the carbon capture technology works New Mexico will find itself on the forefront of a new form of green, carbon-free energy.

Likewise, any methane rule must be designed with the realization that if the San Juan region becomes too costly in terms of regulations, natural gas producers will permanently close all but the highest producing wells, and more and more business will leave the state.  Given the massive surplus gas production and rock-bottom prices, it is hard to see additional producers and the jobs they bring ever returning to the region.

New Mexico is quickly heading from the proverbial “penthouse” to the “poorhouse” based on 40% of its budget (oil and gas) essentially evaporating overnight. The Four Corners faces even greater challenges thanks to economic forces beyond their or the Gov.’s control. Inflicting further, unnecessary economic damage on the region would be inexcusable.

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

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Paul talks 2020 election results, George Floyd, and more w/ Jim Williams on ABQ Connect

Paul Gessing

Paul Gessing is the President of the Rio Grande Foundation. His knowledge of the issues and players in New Mexico politics makes for a lively discussion.  These are just a few of the topics Paul addresses for us on this show with links to the additional information:

  1. How did the primary election affect incumbent Democrats in the State House and Senate? https://errorsofenchantment.com/three-takeaways-from-last-nights-earthquake-in-new-mexicos-legislature/
  2. Were there any surprises with incumbent republicans?
  3. What role did the Rio Grande Foundation play in the House race between Schmedes and White? How about the Senate race between Gallegos and Fulfer?  https://errorsofenchantment.com/rgf-dragged-into-primary-battle-between-senate-district-primary-between-gallegos-and-fulfer/
  4. How did the issues around COVID-19 affect George Floyd?  https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/05/28/a-beautiful-spirit-george-floyd-made-new-life-in-minn-but-lost-job-due-to-pandemic/?fbclid=IwAR0XPxc9QY_WBr64SpQynnb1BTJDETnQSk3GMqho_qFnjmAQyGcs9i7XrO0
  5. How do police unions parallels to teacher unions: https://errorsofenchantment.com/time-to-take-a-hard-look-at-police-and-teacher-unions/
  6. Is Amazon coming to New Mexico good news for our Economy?  https://errorsofenchantment.com/thoughts-on-amazon-coming-to-new-mexico/
  7. How does New Mexico rank among states that are “business-friendly.”
  8. Is the success of SpaceX a possible indicator that Virgin Galatic may soon bring some economic return on the $275 million Space Port.
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Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 203: Tom Mullins discusses challenges facing the Four Corners

On this week’s episode, Paul sits down with Tom Mullins. Tom is on the Board of the Rio Grande Foundation. He is in the oil and gas industry and resides in the Four Corners area (Farmington). That area of our State has suffered serious economic challenges for more than a decade as natural gas prices have dropped significantly. Worse, they recently were hard-hit by the COVID-19 epidemic with even some of Tom’s family members dealing with the issue.

As if that is not all bad enough there are two significant additional economic threats to the region in the form of the shutdowns from the Energy Transition Act and the Governor’s Methane Rule. Both of those could have further, negative impacts on the already-struggling region.

All is not lost, however, as Tom and Paul discuss there is a potential carbon sequestration plan that could save the Generating Station and with the Virus threatening big cities, the Four Corners with its wide-open spaces could be a more attractive destination for people looking to relocate. Finally, efforts are in the works to bring a rail spur to the area.

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Time to take a hard look at police AND teacher unions

Among the calls for racial unity and reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd there have been serious conversations on the left for what seems like the first time regarding police unions. Free marketeers (especially more libertarian types among them) have long advocated for reform or abolition of police unions and those calls have grown stronger as well. 

We applaud New Mexico Rep. Javier Martinez and any other political leader of any party who is willing to seriously explore reforms to government unions that operate under a monopoly and often with little to no accountability.

Of course, as the following shows police unions and teacher unions operate in similar ways and conditions. Notably, the negative impacts of both police and teacher unions have disproportionate negative impacts in and on impoverished and communities of color.

New Mexico’s Democratic leaders MAY be willing to discuss police unions and that is a welcome development. There is practically zero interest in addressing teachers’ unions, however.

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Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 202: Protests and Riots in Albuquerque, COVID-19, SpaceX, Amazon, and More

On this week’s podcast discussion Paul and Wally discuss the George Floyd protests/riots in Albuquerque and around the nation.

The protests are happening in the shadow of COVID 19 with businesses having been shut down for several months. There are so many issues going on, but are cities as we know them dead?

SpaceX launches the first American manned space flight in nearly a decade to the International Space Station. This is a big day for privatized space flight and just in general good news for the country.

Gov. starts opening New Mexico a bit further. Paul and Wally discuss the details.

Primary election Tuesday. RGF got dragged into a SE NM primary. Paul and Wally discuss what is happening this primary election day.

Finally, online sales giant Amazon.com comes to NM. Paul and Wally share a few thoughts on this momentous occasion.

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Three takeaways from last night’s earthquake in New Mexico’s Legislature

There were a lot of important races in New Mexico’s primaries last night, but the Rio Grande Foundation focuses on the Legislature (the main policymaking arm of New Mexico) and this post is going to focus on what happened in those races last night.

      1. New Mexico’s “moderate” senators took it on the chin. John Arthur Smith was the most notable defeat which will have profound impacts on New Mexico’s fiscal future, but Clemente Sanchez and Mary Kay Papen were also taken down. The defeat of Smith means that come 2021 (barring a massive Republican upsurge in November) there will be little opposition to “progressive” efforts to tap the permanent fund at least in the Legislature. Gov. Lujan Grisham has already made tapping New Mexico’s permanent funds the centerpiece of her economic strategy. Her path to do that just got MUCH easier.
      2. From a fiscal conservative perspective, while Smith has done a lot of good for New Mexico there’s also no concern that he allowed spending to grow out of control on his watch. He’s allowed millions to be paid out in film subsidies and has generally been unable to do much to reform New Mexico’s broken tax code, economic incentives, or budget processes besides block attacks on the Land Grant Permanent Fund.
      3. With Smith gone the GOP (especially the Senate) will need to provide an ideological alternative as opposed to operating as a support structure for Democrats like John Arthur Smith. While there is no question that Smith is better than the progressive alternative on policy his presence also neutered many in the Senate GOP. Two additions to the Senate who defeated incumbent Republicans last night (Gregg Schmedes and David Gallegos) will hopefully provide a stronger “loyal opposition” in the Senate than has existed in the past, but the Senate is still likely to be a heavily-Democratic controlled body next year and those Democrats just became a lot more “progressive.”
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Understanding the Rio Grande Foundation

The Rio Grande Foundation often comes under criticism from the left. But sometimes we come under fire from the right as well.

For starters we are designated as 501c3 “education and research” think tank. We don’t make endorsements and we don’t “carry water” for any political party or politician. Various media outlets have called us libertarian, conservative, and free market. We call ourselves “free market,” but we don’t waste our breath and time arguing the finer points of ideology because we believe that our work is self-explanatory.

For starters, New Mexico is a deeply challenged state. We believe that a vast majority of these issues are self-inflicted. New Mexico lacks economic freedom and remains poorer and less well educated than our neighbors. We also spend a VAST majority of our time focused on state and local issues as opposed to federal ones.

Those issues broadly include:

  1. Size of Government: New Mexico has long been a state driven by government. Data show that state/local spending is too high and that government regulations make doing business in New Mexico less attractive than doing business elsewhere. We’ve worked on this issue from all angles including: all forms of taxation, subsidies and corporate welfare (notably film subsidies), but also LEDA, JTIP, and “green” subsidies.
  2. Regulation: Rio Grande Foundation has led the charge for “right to work” repeal of NM’s”Davis-Bacon” law, reform of government employee pensions, and against numerous “nanny state” regulations like plastic bag bans. We have also done extensive work against “green” programs from the Energy Transition Act to costly “green” building codes.
  3.   School Choice/Education Reform: Across the political spectrum New Mexicans agree that our K-12 system is failing. While politicians of both parties typically opt for some combination of more money, more time in school (pre-K), and some form of top-down accountability, the Rio Grande Foundation believes that parents and (to an extent students themselves) are better able to decide on the educational options that appeal to them. Charter schools are a good start and should be expanded, but more options are needed.

Additionally, the Rio Grande Foundation supports the US and New Mexico Constitutions, we stand up for free speech, gun rights, private property, and open government.

We don’t take on immigration, gay rights, or abortion issues.

So, there you have it. We at the Rio Grande Foundation have our plates very full, but we are making a difference in New Mexico every day. If that appeals to you, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!

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Rio Grande Foundation Files Public Records Lawsuit Against City of Albuquerque

(Albuquerque, NM) – The voters of Albuquerque voted against Democracy Dollars in November of 2019, and the Rio Grande Foundation played a pivotal part in the defeat of the ballot measure. Furthermore, the Rio Grande Foundation won an ethics complaint against the Mayor for his use of the City’s website (CABQ.gov) in which he specifically called for voters to approve Democracy Dollars and other bond measures.

Almost six months later, the Foundation has filed suit over a lack of transparency and openness associated with Mayor Tim Keller’s decision to violate the law.

Specifically, the Rio Grande Foundation requested a reasonable collection of text messages and emails sent to and from specific City employees leading up to the posting of Mayor Keller’s pleas on the City’s website to vote “YES”.

According to the Rio Grande Foundation, the public records request was filed under New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records law and accepted by the City in December of 2019. After dutifully paying the invoice to receive the first portion of these records, the City of Albuquerque has failed to produce any records in response to the request from over five months ago.

Patrick Brenner, a Policy Analyst with the Foundation, filed the original request. Mr. Brenner has left no less than six voicemails and has sent dozens of emails and messages through the City’s open government portal imploring the City to fulfil its duty to provide public records.

On May 12, 2020, after exhausting all other avenues to obtain these public records, which includes receiving assistance from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government when Director Melanie Majors sent a letter of complaint to no avail, the Rio Grande Foundation filed a legal complaint in District Court against the City.

In the lawsuit the Foundation alleges that Ethan Watson, City Clerk, and the Custodian of Records, Yvette Gurule, are creating artificial delays in order to delay production of these public records. Early in the process, the Foundation emphatically requested confirmation from Mr. Watson and Ms. Gurule that these documents were not being destroyed. To date, no such confirmation has been received.

The Foundation recognizes that the ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic may have caused delays later in the request process. However, the Coronavirus does not excuse any governmental body from its obligation to timely respond and provide public records requested in accordance with the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.

Click here to see a copy of the lawsuit that was filed.

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Thoughts on Amazon coming to New Mexico

Just under a year ago the Rio Grande Foundation wondered if/when the online retailing giant Amazon.com would have a warehouse presence in New Mexico.

Recently, of course, it was announced that Amazon would indeed be building a distribution center in Albuquerque and creating 1,000 or so jobs. Better still, so far as we know, while Bernalillo County is spending $6 million on infrastructure and utilities, no major subsidies were required to bring Amazon here.  This is pretty much ALL good news for the local economy.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Contrary to some on the left (see Tweet below), the issue of Internet sales taxes didn’t play a role in Amazon’s decision. They are a big company with lots of physical locations nationwide and actually lobbied FOR Internet taxation.  It is actually small businesses with one physical location that are most impacted by Internet taxes.

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  • Recent changes to interpretations made by the US Supreme Court companies doing business online like Amazon only had to collect taxes on Internet sales if they had a physical presence. A few years that changed and New Mexico like many other states could collect sales taxes without a physical presence.
  • While Amazon coming to town is good news for the local/State economy the overall economy is what matters, not the comings and goings of individual businesses. Rockwell just left. Amazon just came. There are many other businesses opening and closing every day. New Mexico remains relatively unfriendly to business and unless some needed policy reforms are enacted, that isn’t going to change.

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RGF dragged into primary battle between Senate District Primary Between Gallegos and Fulfer

There are a few intense battles in New Mexico going on among GOP candidates for Senate seats. We’ve weighed in on the race for Jim White’s seat, but Rep. David Gallegos is challenging Sen. Gregg Fulfer for his SE-New Mexico Senate seat and our Freedom Index has been used quite a bit.

In a debate posted here on Facebook (go to nearly the end at 1 hour 57 minutes) the Rio Grande Foundation and its Freedom Index became an issue. You can check the add run by the Gallegos campaign below which uses an accurate interpretation of our “Freedom Index” vote tracking system.

While RGF never attacked Fulfer, his statements regarding the Rio Grande Foundation expose his basic misunderstanding of our “libertarian” limited government, free market philosophy.

He implies that the Rio Grande Foundation rejects that our nation was founded on biblical principles, claims that we support legalizing “all” drugs, and claims we support allowing transgender boys into girls’ bathrooms and for them to compete against girls in sports.

Simply put, none of these statements are true.

The Rio Grande Foundation is a think tank. We work on economic and education policy issues to restore choice and personal responsibility. We HAVE endorsed the idea of marijuana legalization (based on criminal justice, personal freedom, and economic issues) but RGF has never endorsed legalization of ALL drugs.

We have Freedom Index data going back to 2015 (go to our webpage and look for the Freedom Index Link). Fulfer has been in the Legislature since 2019. He’s voted as moderate Republican during that time period. Gallegos, on the other hand, is a conservative within the Republican caucus in the House which is more conservative than the Senate GOP.

Whether the voters or candidates agree with the Rio Grande Foundation’s take on the issues is up for them to decide, but it is important to clear the air when the Foundation is accused of taking positions on issues it simply hasn’t taken.

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