Tipping Point NM Episode 458: Rent Control Bill in NM Legislature, Post-election Questions, Capital Outlay Scandal, Education Spending vs. Achievement

The City of Albuquerque rejected rent control legislation, but a bill will be introduced in the upcoming session.

My opinion piece which ran in papers around the state over the last several days asks some pertinent questions.

A scandal recently exposed by KRQE’s Larry Barker involving New Mexico’s capital outlay process illustrates why passing Amendment 2 was a bad idea and highlights other issues in state/local governance.

Once upon a time Arizona trailed New Mexico in education outcomes (4th grade reading NAEP scores). According to Statista, New Mexico now spends 19th-most among US states on K-12 education (More than $15,000 per-student).

NM education spending fails to improve results

We at the Rio Grande Foundation may sound like a broken record repeatedly highlighting the disconnect between New Mexico’s education spending and the results of its education system.

Sadly, according to data from Statista (linked and below), New Mexico now spends an astonishing $15,338 per-student on K-12. That is the 19th-highest above states. According to this same chart, both Arizona and Mississippi spend approximately 2/3rds the amount New Mexico spends per-student.

But, as the charts below that show both Mississippi and Arizona have dramatically moved the “needle” on education results including the all-important 4th-grade reading (according to the latest NAEP results).

The case is clear. Arizona and Mississippi are reforming their systems and improving results. New Mexico is spending more money and, if anything, seeing worse results.

Wal Mart joins Rio Grande Foundation with StoryFile technology

As reported in the Albuquerque Journal (via the Washington Post) recently, retail giant Wal Mart unveiled a hologram version of (deceased) founder Sam Walton. The technology, called StoryFile, is the same as that released just one month ago with New Mexico Attorney General candidate Jeremy Gay.

The major difference is that you can physically go to a Wal Mart and see/interact with a hologram as opposed to interacting with the “virtual” representation of the interviewee online.

Regardless of the mechanics, this new technology is sure to become a popular way to give average people the ability to engage in a more realistic-feeling way with public figures (dead or alive).

Several questions for NM’s Blue Majority (and one for the Red Minority)

The following article appeared in Las Cruces Sun-News on November 27, 2022.

This Election Day a majority of New Mexico voters seemingly ignored the State’s manifest failures of governance. Instead, voters prioritized abortion rights while penalizing anyone who could plausibly be painted as “election deniers.”

Thus, New Mexico, one of America’s “bluest” states for decades, became even more Democrat dominant. Democrats now control every office of significance in State government as well as all five seats in Congress.

Whether the results are a sign of satisfaction with the status quo or just animus towards Republicans, the fact is that New Mexico’s governing Democrats faces serious challenges. Here are some that need to be addressed in the next few months:

  1. PNM (the State’s largest utility) has repeatedly expressed concerns about having enough electricity during the summer of 2022. The San Juan Generating Station coal plant was allowed to continue operating for an additional three months during this past summer due to fears of blackouts and brownouts. That will not be an option next summer. In fact, there has been little improvement in New Mexico’s electricity supply situation since then. What will the Gov., her new PRC, and the Legislature do to keep the lights on for New Mexicans? Waiting until the heat of next summer is not an option. Decisions need to be made right away.
  2. Speaking of the PRC, the Gov. now has a chance to mold New Mexico’s powerful regulatory body into something of her choosing. Will she prioritize geographical and ideological diversity or make the body a rubber stamp for her California-style policies? And, will they push through the Avangrid/PNM merger (rejected by the elected PRC but supported by the Gov.) as one of their first acts?
  3. New Mexico is one of just 11 states still in a COVID 19 emergency. It has been in a an “emergency” since March of 2020 (more than 2.5 years at this point). Will the new Legislature demand a “seat at the table” or continue to allow the Gov. to keep control until she sees fit? What does this mean for “democracy?”
  4. Voters approved Amendment 1 which taps into New Mexico’s permanent fund to boost education spending. With an expected $2.5 billion surplus, education spending is likely to rise even further. The State’s recent NAEP scores placed New Mexico at the very bottom across all four grade levels and subjects tested. Will New Mexico simply continue increasing education spending or will needed reforms be enacted?
  5. Speaking of that budget surplus, the Gov. and Legislature undertook a series of tax cuts in the 2022 session in anticipation of the election. Can New Mexico taxpayers expect further tax relief? If so, will those tax cuts be superficial, or will they address the State’s knotty economic challenges like “pyramiding” of the gross receipts tax?

Most of these questions are for New Mexico’s (even more) ascendent Democrat majority, but there is one question for the GOP: what can be done to boost voter turnout (and overall political engagement) in New Mexico’s most conservative areas? Overall voter turnout was 52 percent. In liberal Santa Fe County that number was over 63 percent. But, in conservative bastions like Lea, Eddy, Chaves, San Juan, Otero, Curry, and Roosevelt counties, turnout lagged the statewide average, sometimes by double-digit margins.

Many conservatives feel like their vote doesn’t make a difference either due to the State’s “blue” status or allegations of election fraud. Either way, New Mexico’s GOP must figure out how to engage its base through grassroots activism to become relevant.

No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, New Mexicans of all political stripes face more questions than answers.

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

Have Democrats ever held all of New Mexico's seats in the U.S. House?

Gladiators field scandal highlights folly of Amendment 2

KRQE’s Larry Barker has uncovered an example of corruption in both the City of Albuquerque and State of New Mexico governments. Ironically, while what happened is clearly illegal under current State law, voters’ (misguided) decision to pass Amendment 2 on Election Day seems to allow for future deals like this one.

The Duke City Gladiators may be named after Albuquerque, but they play in Rio Rancho. That didn’t stop the City of Albuquerque (seemingly just Mayor Keller) from using City and State capital outlay dollars meant for use in the City ($239,622) to fund a turf field for the team.

Using Albuquerque $$ for a Rio Rancho project is problematic enough, but the spending is clearly for private use (Gladiators) of public property (Gladiator’s field) without compensation which is a violation of the “Anti-Donation Clause” of the State Constitution.

Ironically, State voters JUST decided to weaken New Mexico Constitution’s anti-donation clause (which disallows the use of tax dollars for private benefit). The Rio Grande Foundation argued against the change in advance of the vote due to the very real potential for corruption as sign in this example.

Duke City Gladiators field

Rent control legislation to be introduced in 2023 Legislature

In October the City of Albuquerque Council on a bipartisan 7-2 vote rejected an initiative that would have placed the City on record as supporting rent control. We applauded the move at the time.

But, in “progressive” and poorly governed New Mexico no bad idea is ever totally dead. So, pro-rent control activists seem to have convinced powerful Democrat State Senator Linda Lopez to introduce legislation that would eliminate the State’s ban on the practice.

Some supporters claim this is all about “local control,” but the reality is that the Legislature makes economic policies that cities must adhere to all the time, including 2019 legislation that was adopted to prevent local governments from adopting “Right to Work” laws.

The truth is rent control won’t solve the problem of rising rents. Only expanding the housing supply (with a side of reducing inflation) will bring housing/rent prices down. But, it’s easier for the economically-illiterate to simply demand a legislative “fix.”

RGF talks to KOAT Channel 7: City Taxpayers have spent $1 million on field transformations

The Rio Grande Foundation worked hard to make sure that City taxpayers didn’t have to foot the cost of a soccer-only stadium for the New Mexico United soccer team.

But, as KOAT Channel 7 notes in a recent story in which RGF’s president was interviewed, local taxpayers are STILL on the hook for expenses associated with the soccer team. In this case according to recent data requested by KOAT taxpayers have spent $960,000 since the United started playing games.

Is this better than building a brand new stadium? Yes. Has City Council ever voted on this? No. It would seem that at the very least our elected officials should be voting on this. Americans and New Mexicans are often asked to subsidize sports franchises, but that doesn’t make it right.

New Mexico remains among “Least Free” US states in latest Index of Economic Freedom

The 2022 edition of the Canada-based Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America 2022 is out and for yet another year New Mexico remains at the very bottom among US states in terms of economic freedom. Economic freedom is the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions
about what to buy, where to work and whether to start a business.

Unsurprisingly, New Mexico performed particularly poorly in:

  • Government spending as a percent of personal income (49th);
  • Sales tax revenue as a percent of personal income (48th); and
  • Government employees as a percent of overall employees (49th).

New Mexico DID get high marks for having relatively low property taxes (7th).

“When governments allow markets to decide what’s produced, how it’s produced and how much is produced, citizens enjoy greater levels of economic freedom,” said Fred McMahon, the Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom at the Fraser Institute and co-author of this year’s report, which measures government spending, taxation and labor market restrictions using data from 2020, the latest year of available comparable data. Florida was the top performing state in the index followed by New Hampshire. Rounding out the top five freest states are South Dakota (3rd), Texas and Tennessee (tied for 4th ).

The very worst performing states were New York at 50th followed by California.

Tipping Point NM episode 456: Fred Nathan, Think New Mexico – A Roadmap for Rethinking Public Education in New Mexico

On this week’s interview Paul talks to Fred Nathan the Founder and CEO of Think New Mexico which describes itself as a “results-oriented think tank whose mission is to serve all New Mexicans.” The organization recently published a detailed and ambitious plan to reform New Mexico schools. While Rio Grande Foundation and Think New Mexico don’t always agree on policy solutions for New Mexico, Paul and Fred both want very much to improve New Mexico’s dismal education system. This conversation really digs into the details of Think New Mexico’s education plan and its pluses and minuses from RGF’s perspective.

Parents Rights win at APS school board

The Rio Grande Foundation would like to extend a big THANK YOU to everyone who called, wrote, emailed, and spoke in favor of parental rights in education alongside RGF at last night’s APS school board meeting.

We would also like to thank the five APS School Board members that voted to support parental involvement in the classroom.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick summary of what happened:

KB1, also known as the Parent Rights and Responsibilities policy, passed the APS School Board in a 5-2 vote.  KB1 consolidates education rules into a clear and concise format, making it easier for parents to see exactly what’s going on inside the classroom.

Opposition from special interest groups showed up in force, including numerous paid activists.

Regardless of the heckling and boos from the special interest groups, several brave parents stood up for Parental Rights and bravely took their turn at the mic to show the real local parent support for KB1.

We could not be more proud!

You can read the Albuquerque Journal’s highly biased coverage of the meeting here.

Parental Rights were up for a vote in Albuquerque today, and the clear winners are families.