Local Taxman Out of Control

The results are in and it appears that you can fool some of the people all of the time, or at least 58 percent of them anyway. Now, we turn our attention to the so-called quality of life tax increase that will face voters in November.
For more on the deluge of tax hikes that are falling on taxpayers in Bernalillo County and Albuquerque like the monsoon rains did earlier this year, check out this recent missive from the Rio Grande Foundation on the web-magazine The Citizen. By the way, if you are a close follower of the news, especially what happens here in New Mexico, but the Tribune and Journal leave you feeling less-than-fully-informed, I highly recommend bookmarking The Citizen.

The Albuquerque Journal Endorses a “Kooky, Radical Idea”

It really shouldn’t be such a radical, nor should it be such an uphill push in Congress, but it is good to see the Albuquerque Journal throwing its considerable weight behind more transparency in government.
Speaking of “transparency,” although I can’t say for sure whether the Republican Party’s lawsuit on biased location of early voting stations has merit, it seems pretty obvious that locating an early polling station in the Albuquerque Public Schools headquarters for the September 19 school tax hike is a transparently political move. I’m not sure how this problem can be solved, but ways to improve neutrality in voting sites should be considered.

A Sweet Deal only Found in Government

What a concept! Take a government monopoly — in this case I’m talking about America’s taxpayer-funded national passenger railroad known as Amtrak — and allocate a portion of the money appropriated to you by Congress every year to fund a group to lobby for more funds for you. These practices are not entirely uncommon in the federal government, but at least there is usually a middleman, say the public employee unions, that does the lobbying. In this case there is no pretext, Amtrak simply gives the National Associtation of Railroad Passengers — one of Amtrak’s most dedicated backers — money to lobby on its behalf, theoretically as a citizen-backed organization.

Keeping up with the Joneses?

Now that Rio Rancho is set to open its arena in a matter of weeks, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez has a serious case of arena-envy. Chávez has threatened eminent domain for a project that wouldn’t have a single permanent tenant lined up. Of course, eminent domain isn’t the only potential problem with the proposed arena, taxpayers would also be on the hook as an insurance policy on debt repayment. This may have been something of a gamble when a similar agreement was made, but with a competing arena located in Rio Rancho, not to mention The Pit, I can only imagine how poorly the taxpayers will fare under such an arrangement. Here’s hoping Mayor Marty comes to his senses!

A RailRunner Experience

I took my first-ever trip on the new Rail Runner commuter train this weekend to and from the New Mexico Wine Festival and thought I’d offer a few thoughts on the train. First and foremost, I got on at the Paseo/Los Ranchos station for the first train of the day. The train was jammed to the gills and it wasn’t just standing room, but sardine-like conditions. The train cars are nice and the air conditioning was cranked up so conditions weren’t too bad. On the way back on the 3:05 train, there were fewer people although it was still standing room only.
Obviously, the price for a ticket is still “0” and most economists will tell you that there is a nearly unlimited demand for anything that is “free.” Curiously enough, this very same dynamic was at work inside the wine festival as well where the lines for a “free” sip of wine were upwards of 10 minutes long. I did notice that, while large numbers of passengers did take the train to the wine festival, equally large numbers (at least on the first train of the day) appeared to be joy-riding. After all, I saw many of the people that had just gotten off the train at Bernalillo, get back on the train right away.
While the train may prove popular even after the “reduced fare” of $2 per trip (as opposed to free) is instituted on October 14, the most important number is the estimated $320 million cost to taxpayers. Even if you don’t believe as I do that the $320 million would be best given back to the taxpayers of New Mexico in the form of tax cuts, it is hard to believe that other legitimate needs would not be better served than a train, the tickets for which, are priced far below market prices.

Gas Price Guru Says: Price Gouging Doesn’t Exist

A recent story about Trilby Lundberg, the nation’s guru of gasoline prices, is a must-read for politicians and those who think that high gas prices are the result of some kind of conspiracy. Ms. Lunberg publishes a twice-monthly newsletter that analyzes gas prices nationwide. While Ms. Lunberg, as far as I can tell, hasn’t got a political bone in her body, she does have a few opinions about the possibility for oil companies to manipulate prices on a grand scale. Of price gouging she says, “It would be a comedy because it is impossible” and “oil companies have no interest in helping each other and instead want to increase their sales at the expense of the competition.” She goes on to say, “They all have no mercy.”
So, while some on the left criticize oil companies and business in general for being “greedy” and “merciless,” it is these very traits that prevent businesses from colluding. Ask Trilby Lundberg, the “guru of gas prices!”

Misguided Attack on Charter Schools

One of New Mexico’s few groups of educational innovators came under attack recently when the National Center for Education Statistics released a study that argued, in part, that students in charter shools lagged behind their peers in regular public schools. Unfortunately, as is so often the case when the results of studies fail to make common sense, the analysis used government data that failed to fully account for the socio-economic differences between charter school and public school students.
The charter school concept is a compromise between those who would like to see significant educational reform that goes far beyond the limits presented by the public schoos and those who grudgingly view some forms of school choice as essential tools for improving existing public schools. It is, nonetheless, hard to believe the results of a study that finds students doing worse at schools that are targeted to their needs and interests than similar students who remain in traditional public schools where socialist-style mass production is the name of the game.

New Mexico, Destination Location or Outmigration?

According to the August 17 article, about 4.1 percent of New Mexicans moved here from another state within the last year. This puts New Mexico at No. 9 in the nation for the percentage of its residents who had moved from another state within the previous year.
Although New Mexico’s increased popularity is a good sign, it is hard to tell whether the state is actually becoming a more attractive place to live or whether greater numbers of native New Mexicans are leaving the state for greener pastures. The Rio Grande Foundation recently studied the issue and found that at least historically-speaking New Mexico has tended to lose population to other states as a result of poor tax policies.

Richardson’s Eminent Domain Task Force Hears from Rio Grande Foundation and other Eminent Domain Experts

The Rio Grande Foundation and others knowledgeable of the uses and abuses of eminent domain recently presented before Governor Richardson’s eminent domain task force. Aside from presenting a variety of information relating to eminent domain laws in other states and how New Mexico property owners could best be protected, the experts all criticized Rio Rancho’s recent uses of eminent domain.