Tipping Point NM Episode 427: Kids Count Report, Spaceport Delay, Electric Vehicles, Workforce Participation and more

During this week’s conversation Paul and Wally discuss the recently-passed and poorly-named “Inflation Reduction Act.” What’s in the bill and why is it so bad?

Next, the latest “Kids Count” report put out by Annie E. Casey Foundation and Voices for Children is out and New Mexico is back to 50th. What does it mean and why does “Voices” wish to undermine the findings of their own report?

Virgin Galactic announced that it has again moved back its launch date from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. News articles indicate even more serious issues with the company’s spacecraft.

The City of ABQ has offered “free” bus service in recent months. While there is little evidence of success, “free” bus ridership could prove very expensive.

A few months ago ABQ City Council gave $250,000 to Planned Parenthood. They will be voting on August 15 to potentially redirect that money.

A new report by Axios includes some interesting data on electric vehicles and their lack of market penetration.

The ABQ Journal has additional reporting on workforce participation.

No electric vehicles on the market today qualify for the new EV tax credit

The headline of this blog post is the same as that of a recent article from The Verge. The new EV tax credit is contained in the wasteful and misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act.” The legislation includes a $7,500 tax break for the purchase of electric vehicles.

But, the rules are written in such a way as to effectively disqualify every EV that’s currently on the market today because the rules adopted in the legislation mandate that  eligible vehicles use batteries that are made in North America.

China currently produces 76 percent of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, while the U.S. produces only 8 percent.

Automakers could ask for waivers from the requirements, given the precedent that allowed many manufacturers to avoid “Buy America” rules that were enacted as part of last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, according to Politico.

The obvious solution is for the US to increase domestic mining for lithium and other components of EV’s, but the very same “environmental” groups pushing EV’s tend to be the loudest in shutting down proposed mining operations. 

New Mexico drops back to 50th in “Kids Count” report

The latest “Kids Count” report has just been published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation with the assistance of the left-wing New Mexico Voices for Children. Sadly, New Mexico again comes in 50th, dead last in the report for overall child well-being.

At the Rio Grande Foundation, we have long held that the “Kids Count” report, while imperfect, is  a useful and largely accurate reflection of where New Mexico stands (it is a national report), but Voices for Children consistently tries to use the report to boost Democrats’ big-spending, economically-destructive, and failed policies regardless of their actual impact on children.

So, despite sliding back to 50th we get a defense of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s policies with Amber Wallin of Voices undermining her organization’s own report saying, “What’s not reflected in the data book is ‘great policy progress in the past few years that put kids first,’ she said, noting a number of legislative changes made from 2019 forward (when MLG took office).”

Attempts to defend failed policies of New Mexico’s Democrat politicians are nothing new from Voices as we noted last year. And, while RGF may not buy into pre-K as a driver of improved educational outcomes, Voices certainly does, yet they gave former Gov. Susana Martinez zero credit for her massive spending in that area. You can check out the results for yourself below:

Yet another delay for Virgin Galactic

In yet another sign that Virgin Galactic may simply never make it to its goal of manned space tourism launches out of taxpayer-financed Spaceport America, the company has once again pushed back its planned launch schedule. While the company claims the latest delay will ‘only’ push space tourism flights back to the 2nd quarter of 2023, according to Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, “the company now expects those flights (on its Imagine craft) to begin no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2023.”

The reason for the latest delay is even more troubling with Colglaziier saying, The “most acute” issue was work on the central wing section of the plane, where workers were replacing the pylon to which SpaceShipTwo is attached. There are differences between the designs for the plane and what was actually built.

If this doesn’t sound like the kind of problem that can be easily resolved or the kind of issue that should be happening more than a decade into the Spaceport’s existence, you likely see why this latest delay should be of concern.

Spaceport America confirms new tenant without further information

ABQ “Free” bus fare could turn into another budgetary black hole

The City of Albuquerque’s foolish “free” bus program will, unless City Council puts a stop to the situation, result in good money following bad. The Albuquerque Journal editorialized recently in tepid support of the program, but also argued that in order to address increased security issues on City buses due to the program that it might have to raise pay for bus drivers AND increase security on buses due to increased incidents and problems with homeless etc.

While the Journal touts ridership growth of 36 percent over the first 6 months of 2022, the reality is that ridership is WAY down (40%) since 2019. And, there has been a sustained nationwide decline in transit ridership in the wake of COVID 19.




A closer look at electric vehicles

With the Biden Administration and Gov. Lujan Grisham constantly touting (and subsidizing) electric vehicles, the following discussion of electric vehicles from the news site Axios is worth considering.

The article is chock full of data which, if considered by policymakers, should throw cold water on the headlong push for EV’s, but as we know, that push is agenda-driven, not policy driven.

“EVs account for only about 0.6% of all registered vehicles in the U.S.”

And, “while California leads the U.S. in electric vehicle ownership accounting for 39% of all EVs registered nationwide…EVs represent less than 2% of all vehicles on the road in the Golden State.”

“As of April 1, Florida has the second-highest share of the country’s EVs, at 6.7%. Then comes Texas (5.4%), Washington (4.4%), and New York (3.6%). Yet, EVs account for only 1% or less of all vehicles within each of these states.”

Finally, New Mexico which has .6% of the US population has just .3% of all electric vehicles (according to the article). Under a new rule put in place by Gov. Lujan Grisham recently 7% of all vehicles sold in New Mexico will have to be electric as of 2025.



Tipping Point NM Episode 426 Carol Wight – Challenges for New Mexico’s Restaurant Industry

According to Carol Wight of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, more than 1,000 New Mexico restaurants shut down thanks to Gov. Lujan Grisham’s COVID lockdowns.

Paul talks with Carol Wight of the New Mexico Restaurant Association about the current state of the restaurant industry.  They discuss how the industry fared through the challenges of COVID-19 as well as the post pandemic challenges of inflation, difficulty in finding workers, the impact of new regulation and more. They also discuss federal and state programs that restaurants were able to use to help survive in tough times as well as future policy changes that could benefit the industry including expanding the elimination of New Mexico gross receipts tax on food to include restaurants.

Education poll shows support in New Mexico for school choice, concern for education system

The group EdChoice does polling on various education issues on an ongoing basis. You can find details on their New Mexico and national polling here.

Here are two particularly interesting items. Simply put, anywhere between 2/3rd and 3/4ths of New Mexico adults/parents support money following the children. And, vast majorities of people feel the education system is headed in the wrong direction.

New Mexico’s pitiful workforce participation rate…updated

The Albuquerque Journal is one of the few media outlets to have caught on to the fact which we’ve been discussing for years, that New Mexico’s workforce participation rate is terrible…and, it got much worse during COVID. The Journal and its sources cited an increase in New Mexicans on SSDI or “disability.”

Here’s the raw data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As you can see from the chart below, since January of 2020, shortly before the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, Colorado has actually increased its workforce participation rate from 66.7% to 67.1%; Utah’s rate has stayed the same at 66.7%; Texas’ rate dropped slightly from 61.4% to 61.2%; Arizona’s rate also dropped slightly from 59.1% to 58.9%; and Oklahoma’s rose from 58.9% to 59%.

New Mexico not only went into the Pandemic with the lowest workforce participation rate (by far) at 55.6%, but that rate dropped rather significantly down to 54.2%

This cartoon highlights the fundamental problem facing New Mexico. We need more New Mexicans pulling the cart and fewer people in the cart. Alas, we have moved in the opposite direction under Gov. Lujan Grisham.

Opinion piece: Government boondoggles shouldn’t be New Mexico way

This article first appeared in the Las Cruces Sun News on Sunday, July 31, 2022.

New Mexico is always ranked among the “poor” states in the United States. But, as anyone who lives here or has taken stock of New Mexico’s abundant natural and cultural resources can tell you, we have no business being “poor.”

Sadly, much of our poverty is self-inflicted. It is the obvious result of bad public policy. While there are all manner of bad tax and regulatory policies that often wind up being “in the weeds,” one of New Mexico’s fundamental problems is the result of politicians’ misguided belief that the path to success involves more government spending or another big government project.

The Rio Grande Foundation has long had its concerns about two Bill Richardson-era projects of this kind: the Rail Runner and Spaceport America. Starting with the Rail Runner, the latest ridership data just came out and, over the past year the train saw 319,635 riders board the train. The train was fully operational throughout the last 12 months which included a few months of fares having been discounted to $2.50 a day.

One might think that with gas prices these days the Rail Runner would be a cost-effective alternative. Sadly, the train’s current ridership is about 25% of peak years of 2010 and 2011 when more than 1.2 million people boarded the train. Sadder still is the fact that taxpayers continue to pay tens of millions of dollars in debt service on construction of the train and nearly $20 million annually to operate it.

Shockingly, Las Cruces Sen. Bill Soules recently pledged to reintroduce legislation in the 2023 session that would theoretically create “high speed rail” from Denver to Chihuahua. The fact is that population density numbers don’t justify commuter rail between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Now Soules wants to spend tens of billions on “high speed” passenger service spanning more than 850 miles, three states, and two countries?

Sadly, Spaceport America has proven itself to be another Richardson-era boondoggle that hasn’t lived up to its promise. Spaceport America has been open for business for more than a decade and it has yet to fulfill its mission of hosting commercial space flights.

Last July Richard Branson and a team of Virgin Galactic employees did make it to weightlessness, but the company’s stock has tanked in the meantime and their latest prediction is for flights to begin the first quarter of 2023.

Plans for those manned commercial space flights have been delayed time and again. We’re not holding our breath for flights to begin in earnest early next year.

Worse, Virgin Galactic recently announced plans to build its future fleet of spacecraft in Mesa, Arizona. Sadly, spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to provide a spaceport for Virgin Galactic was not enough for them to build ships here.

With massive oil and gas surpluses flowing into the state’s coffers, politicians like Soules will again be looking for new “opportunities” to waste money. But big government spending schemes have repeatedly failed to truly diversify our economy or bring sustainable growth to our state.

Instead, the governor and Legislature would better serve our state by considering why companies with a New Mexico presence (like Virgin Galactic and Intel to name two) continue to choose neighboring Arizona over us.

It might be Arizona’s school choice which has improved educational results and workforce preparedness, not to mention a willingness for families to locate there.

Or, perhaps it is Arizona’s lower taxes which has dropped to 2.5% for nearly all Arizonans under a new tax cut law.

Finally, it could be that Arizona has a “right to work” law which gives private sector workers the right to opt out of membership or the payment of dues and fees in labor unions.

No matter, it is high time for New Mexico to abandon our government-driven model and consider what states like Arizona and others do that has worked so much better.

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