San Juan County attempts to overcome economic woes…by raising taxes

At the Rio Grande Foundation we have covered the economic challenges faced by the Four Corners region and San Juan County. Primarily this involves the long term decline in natural gas prices combined with the closure of the region’s coal-fired power plants. 

Due in part to these economic challenges, tax revenues at San Juan County are down significantly and the County faced a $4.6 million gap next fiscal year. So, the County Commission just voted to raise taxes (1/8th cent on the GRT).

This isn’t a long-term solution. The Four Corners area needs some good economic news, but when two of your largest job-creating industries face extinction options are limited. We have consistently urged change in the Legislature and approaches by our State to bring more economic freedom to the State as a whole with benefits accruing to the Four Corners and every other part of New Mexico. Unfortunately, COVID 19 and the Gov.’s intense lockdown has caused the State’s unemployment rate to jump dramatically with Farmington’s rate even higher at 16 percent.

Unless something dramatic happens in Santa Fe this fall there don’t seem to be many bright spots on the Four Corners’ economic horizon.

 

Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 231: Polling data, ABQ rejects gun control, and considering Respect NM’s proposals

On this week’s podcast discussion Paul and Wally discuss the latest COVID 19 update from Gov. Lujan Grisham. According to her latest pronouncements, theaters, entertainment centers, and bars in New Mexico are not likely to open until there’s a COVID vaccine.  The Gov. also begs Congress for more COVID aid in her recent testimony. There were not many specifics or details, just “send cash!”

In a bit of good news, the City of Albuquerque Council rejected an ordinance that would have “requested” the Legislature place a constitutional amendment on the ballot giving local governments the ability to enact gun control measures.

APD police chief Geier has resigned (or been fired). Paul discusses what Albuquerque residents should hope for on KOB TV Channel 4.

Wally and Paul discuss the policy proposals put forth by the pro-GOP umbrella group Respect New Mexico.

Finally, the Albuquerque Journal over the past week released polling numbers seeming to indicate strong support among New Mexicans for the Gov.’s mask mandate and the policies being implemented by both Gov. Lujan Grisham and ABQ Mayor Tim Keller. As Paul and Wally note, the only poll that matters happens in November.

NM’s new $300 million early childhood fund isn’t growing & could be reallocated (but MLG still wants a federal bailout)

A recent article from the Santa Fe New Mexican notes that New Mexico’s new early childhood permanent fund is unlikely to grow as much as the advocates would like.

Quoted in the piece is Rep. Javier Martinez, one of the most left-wing members of New Mexico’s far-left Legislature. Martinez is and an advocate of “ending reliance on fossil fuels” but he sure loves the money they generate. Unfortunately, oil/gas revenue is down since the pandemic so the fund isn’t growing as fast as he’d like.

And, while Gov. Lujan Grisham cries about Republicans in Congress and the President not passing yet another massive bailout, she refuses to reallocate the $300 million early childhood “permanent fund” to more pressing needs. This fund was created in the 2020 session but apparently it is Washington’s job to fund NM government, not hers.

NM early childhood fund could get oil-powered takeoff - New Mexico Oil & Gas Association

The latest on NM oil production: a slight bump in June, but down 20% since March

While Gov. Lujan Grisham continues to plead for more federal money to shore up New Mexico’s finances, we are taking the longer and more New Mexico-centric view of looking at the leading systemic challenge facing our State: low oil prices combined with dropping production.

The data do lag, so we are using the best info available from Oil Conservation Division, but as of June 2020, oil production in New Mexico has dropped about 20% since March. That is a slight rebound from May and the June data is also the latest available.

Prices on the global market have dropped somewhat to below $40 a barrel. Will production rebound in such a price-depressed environment? Only time will tell. If not for the Gov’s Virus policies and the myriad ongoing election controversies, this would be the number one issue facing our State.

RGF president Paul Gessing discusses Albuquerque Police on KOB Channel 4

The Rio Grande Foundation is avowedly NOT an expert on the nitty-gritty of policing, BUT when asked about the general role of what a new police chief for New Mexico’s largest city should do, we definitely have a perspective. We shared that with KOB TV Channel 4.

1) Police MUST protect property including businesses downtown AND statues. Waiting and simply watching vandals destroy businesses and public property is a bad strategy and it undermines the very role of policing. This includes doing more to move homeless encampments out of parks and other public areas.

2) Politicization of policing is a problem. The Mayor should set goals and standards and let the professionals work to achieve them.

3) “Defunding” the police is simply not going to happen, nor should it. Reforms must be considered to both encourage proactive law enforcement AND respect for individual rights, but even substantial budget cuts are likely NOT helpful in high-crime Albuquerque.

You can watch what we have to say below:

Analyzing the NM GOP’s “Fair Deal”

The Fair Deal | Respect New MexicoAdmittedly, when we at the Rio Grande Foundation first heard of the Fair Deal, a raft of public policies proposed by Republican candidates for the New Mexico Legislature,  we were pretty skeptical.

After all, the original Fair Deal was a 21 point plan proposed by President Harry Truman that would have resulted in a massive expansion of the federal government. Then it was reported in the media that the plan was a “moderate agenda.” The term “moderate” is not necessarily a bad, but it doesn’t mean anything. So, what IS the Fair Deal agenda? We looked and it is actually pretty good. Here are the most substantive parts:

ECONOMY: Protect people’s right to retain more of what they earn (presumably by holding the line on or reducing taxes). Eliminate taxes on Social Security, stop unfair double and triple taxation of small business (presumably by reforming the GRT), and reduce or eliminate the income tax on working families.

Professional licensure reform, streamline mandatory disclosure requirements (unclear what these are or this means in practice), regular and mandatory review of all regulations, and the elimination of at least one old regulation for each new one added.

CRIME: Protect the 2nd amendment; redo bail reform, ensure mandatory sentencing, and require short-term confinement and counseling for drug criminals.

There are other policies discussed in the plan which can be found here. Some of them are written vaguely more as statements of principle than as specific agenda items. We’d like to see issues like “right to work” and New Mexico’s “prevailing wage” laws addressed and “school choice” or “education $$ follow the student.” Also, it is imperative that New Mexico’s laws governing public emergencies be addressed in order to restore balance of power.

Overall, as far as they go, the specific policy proposals laid out in this “Fair Deal” would definitely move New Mexico in the right direction.

Anti-Gun Measure Fails at Albuquerque City Council; Victory for the Second Amendment

Good news!  The anti-gun measure being considered by the Albuquerque City Council tonight failed at 5 to 4, specifically Resolution 20-68 which would have called the legislature to push firearm preemption reconsideration to the ballot. The vote tally is included below:

Lan Sena: yes
Isaac Benton: yes
Klarissa Peña: no
Brook Bassan: no
Cynthia Borrego: no
Pat Davis: yes
Diane Gibson: yes
Trudy Jones: no
Don Harris: no

A no vote indicates opposition to the anti-gun measure. Thank you so much for your hard work in encouraging our City Council to protect our constitutional right to keep and bear arms!

The confusing debacle that is reopening New Mexico’s schools

Are New Mexico schools reopening? Are they in-person, “hybrid,” or completely virtual? And, more importantly, what standards are to be used by policymakers? The Lujan Grisham Administration has made a hash out of this and that only reinforces my personal view that home-schooling was the only option that made sense for MY family. Unfortunately, not all families can easily do that and, with an ever-changing landscape of school reopening New Mexico’s already “inadequate” public education system is truly going to leave the vast majority of students behind.

Theoretically, schools in the green areas on the map below are allowed to open (whether that is sound logic or not is open to question), but in Farmington plans were changed on September 3, just a few days before kids were supposed to return to school in-person, due to a decision made by the PED/Gov. Lujan Grisham. The exact reason for that decision is tough to understand.

A similar situation arose in the Moriarty/Edgewood School District. On Friday September 4th the district received the final OK from the PED that they could reopen K – 5 on September 8th. On Sunday September 6th the MESD Superintendent was contacted by the PED and told that the filters in the HVAC systems in the schools in the district were subpar and they would not be allowed to open.

And, we can’t forget about the disparate treatment of public and private schools with the former being able to open at 50% and the latter only being allowed 25%.

Remember that the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that children return to school.

UPDATE: We understand from sources at Hope Christian School in Albuquerque (a private, religious school that has worked VERY hard to open) that the Gov.’s office/PED have been aggressively working to find ways they may be violating the Gov.’s orders and prevent the school from staying open 5 days a week).

Right to Work becomes issue in New Mexico US Senate Campaign

Ben Ray Lujan doesn’t want to debate Mark Ronchetti in the race for US Senate. But, he DID take time over the Labor Day Weekend to attack Mark Ronchetti for saying, as he did during an RGF-sponsored “Liberty on Quarantine” event back in May, that he supported “Right to Work.”See for yourself in the Tweet below:

Interestingly, while the Gallup polling company releases a poll on labor issues every Labor Day they stopped asking questions about support for Right to Work back in 2014 when overwhelming majorities of Americans (regardless of political party) expressed support for such laws which simply allow people to choose whether they want to support a union by paying dues or fees.

Thanks to the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision of 2018 all government employees in America now operate under such laws, but in New Mexico, private sector workers still may be required to join a union. Ben Ray Lujan is on the losing side on this issue, but he knows the unions are major financial supporters and have lots of manpower to help in political campaigns.

Opinions of Labor Unions, by Political Party