Tipping Point NM episode 583: A Look Back and Ahead for the New Mexico Legislature with Rep. John Block

On this week’s interview Paul sits down with Rep. John Block. Block has been a consistent voice for conservative principles in the Legislature since he took office in 2023. He also manages the Pinon Post, a political news site dealing with New Mexico politics.

Block wound up coming in 2nd overall in the Foundation’s Freedom Index this year. We discuss what happened and didn’t happen in the 2024 session and how New Mexicans can work together to improve their state with the entire Legislature up for election later this year.

More taxpayer $$ seem to be heading to United Stadium

When the City of Albuquerque approved a plan for a new United soccer stadium at Balloon Fiesta Park, we believed that taxpayers would be “on the hook” for cost overruns and other expenses. After all, in 2021 taxpayers voted down a $50 million bond for a stadium expected to cost $65-$70 million near downtown.

Now, under the new agreement and after a doubling of construction costs (according to the LFC) the agreement moving forward is for the team to put up $30 million and the City to put up $13.5 million in state capital outlay dollars for a total of $43.5 million towards a stadium at Balloon Fiesta Park.

We knew something was fishy. Well, as it turns out we were right. Thanks to the massive revenue surplus generated by the oil and gas industry (and some shady dealings in the capital outlay bill) the State of New Mexico is putting up what appears to be AN ADDITIONAL $16 million for the United Stadium (see page 1).

Sadly, the exact nature of the $16 million is impossible to discern, but what else would the State spend $16 million on? NM’s capital outlay system is widely seen as a disaster and this is one of the ways the process is abused by politicians (likely the Gov. in this case).

So, in case you are wondering, the  current tally is $30 million from the team and approximately the same amount from State taxpayers. That doesn’t include opportunity costs associated with other uses of the prime real estate, the Industrial Revenue Bonds, and more.

There MAY still be more to come, but a $60 million stadium is at least plausible.

Taxpayers will have to pay for new soccer stadium

Thanks to an alert friend of RGF for alerting us to this expenditure.

 

Now we’re directly subsidizing New Mexico marijuana industry w/ our tax dollars

At the Rio Grande Foundation we have never opposed marijuana legalization. Our view is in line with the libertarian perspective that people should not be tossed in jail for buying, selling, or using pot.

On the flip side, marijuana is not an industry that is going to support overall economic growth and it shouldn’t/won’t be a big source of government revenues (relative to other industries). Policymakers should not be promoting legalized pot as “economic development.” 

And with all the taxes paid to the State by the marijuana industry and the fact that marijuana isn’t being legally sold across state lines (due to federal restrictions), it is absurd for tax dollars (LEDA) to be used to subsidize the marijuana industry. But, according to news reports LEDA $$ just went to a Clovis-based marijuana “manufacturing and processing” facility. 

Support or oppose legalization, our tax dollars shouldn’t be used to subsidize it. 

Forward-thinking' New Mexico goes from legal marijuana to  taxpayer-subsidized weed | New Mexico | thecentersquare.com

Tipping Point NM Episode 582: Seinfeld, Freedom Index, Biden’s EV Overreach, Cannabis LEDA Funding, president ranking

Paul and Wally both attended the Seinfeld show. They have numerous thoughts:

1) The City did a poor job with logistics. 

2) The media didn’t condemn the protests for simply targeting a Jewish comedian (same with Meow Wolf):

3) While Paul and Wally believe that protestors have the right to share their beliefs, they should be doing so with their elected officials.

Freedom Index votes are finalized for the 2024 New Mexico legislative session.

As Paul noted in a recent blog post moderate Democrats came to the rescue of sanity in the 2024 session.

Just in time for the election President Biden appears to be backing away from his EV overreach. MLG shows no signs of backing off. Meanwhile the ABQ Journal finally covered the adoption of costly new mandates requiring EV chargers.

The State is giving a cannabis business funds through the State’s LEDA corporate welfare program.

Yesterday was President’s Day. Here’s our take on some of the best and worst.

RGF opinion piece: Legislature chose to grow government instead of the economy

As Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, told the floor as debate over this year’s budget wrapped up: “You’re not a poor state. Quit telling other people you’re a poor state.”

He’s right. The state of New Mexico is not poor. But what about the people of New Mexico?

Among the citizens poverty remains high. According to World Population Review, New Mexico has the third-highest poverty rate in the U.S. Crime remains troubling and the education system is in dire straits.

The state of New Mexico — meaning the government itself — has had massive surpluses in recent years. Sadly, the government has either held onto or spent a majority of those dollars. The Legislature and its policies keep New Mexicans poor while the state retains massive wealth. A 2023 report stated that New Mexico’s permanent funds amount to $43 billion.

That number is only going to grow. Heading into the 2024 session New Mexico was blessed with a $3.5 billion surplus. A similar surplus existed last year. This session the Legislature adopted a 6.8% budget increase spending about $659 million. Furthermore, the Legislature adopted a “tax omnibus” that contained various tax cuts, credits and hikes, which will reduce state revenues by approximately $220 million.

I might wish to see less spending and a more aggressive approach to tax cuts than that pursued in the budget, House Bill 2, and tax bill, House Bill 252, but the two combined amount to “only” $880 million or about 25% of the available surplus. Where is the other $2.6 billion?

The fact is that money, and other surplus revenues like them in recent years, has been stashed away in various government funds. Call them whatever you want, but they amount to future government spending.

Instead of keeping our money, New Mexico’s leadership should be using these dollars to diversify and grow the economy in the here and now. There is bipartisan agreement that we are too dependent on oil and gas and federal spending. This session the Legislature had opportunities to use that surplus to spur economic growth.

In the House, an amendment was offered to the tax omnibus bill, HB 252, by Rep. Townsend, R-Artesia, that would have moved New Mexico’s personal income tax to a flat 1% rate. That’s the kind of bold economic policy reform that puts a state like New Mexico “on the map” for businesses and people considering relocating. It would mean real economic diversification and quickly.

Better still, the amendment would have only reduced revenues by $1.75 billion, leaving $1.75 billion available to spend or save. Sadly, it died along partisan lines on the House floor.

Another amendment, this one offered to the “tax omnibus” by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, would have simply indexed New Mexico’s tax on Social Security to the rate of inflation at a negligible “cost” to the state. Two years ago New Mexico reduced this tax, but it remains one of just 10 states to tax Social Security at all.

Over time, because it is not indexed to inflation, New Mexico’s tax code would catch greater numbers of people in the tax. That is especially true as inflation has increased rapidly in recent years. Sadly, the amendment failed 20-15 with all Republicans supporting it and several Democrats avoiding voting, but enough of them opposed the idea to kill it.

Sen. Muñoz is right. New Mexico is not a “poor” state. But our state government is obese and gluttonous while it remains dependent on oil and gas and federal spending. New Mexico is poorly led and it continues to miss opportunities to diversify and grow its economy right now to instead grow government now and into the future.

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

List of U.S. states and territories by poverty rate - Wikipedia

Happy President’s Day! Who is best/worst?

Here are some candidates for the best presidents in American history from a limited government perspective with influence of Ivan Eland’s excellent book Recarving Rushmore.

1. John Tyler:

2. Coolidge

3. Harding

4. Cleveland

5. Reagan

Here are some of our candidates for the very worst presidents who increased the size and scope of the US government.  Your thoughts in the comments please!

1. Wilson

2. FDR

3. Biden

4. George W. Bush

5. LBJ

RGF’s Freedom Index: results are in!

Unlike other vote tracking organizations which come out months after the fact, the Rio Grande Foundation’s “Freedom Index” vote tracking tool is finalized and out now. You can find out how your legislators (and others) voted on critical issues of individual freedom.

Every vote relating to financial/economic freedom, education freedom, and your constitutional freedom was rated between -8 for an awful bill and +8 for a great bill and points were assigned in real time as votes occurred. This session there were 3 floor amendments included:

House votes on preserving 4 day school weeks, reducing the personal income tax rate to 1% were included and a Senate vote that would have indexed the Social Security tax to inflation.

Important bills included the paid family leave: SB 3/HB 6 and the “Clean Fuels Standard” HB 41.

Our House winners were: Rep. Candy Ezzell of Roswell followed by John Block of Alamogordo, and Randall Pettigrew of Hobbs.

Winners in the Senate were: Sen. David Gallegos of Hobbs and Greg Schmedes of Albuquerque’s East Mountains who tied followed by Greg Baca of Belen.

   

 

 

Seinfeld and the City of Albuquerque

Rio Grande Foundation’s president and his wife attended Jerry Seinfeld’s standup comedy event on Friday, Feb. 16 in Albuquerque. While this would typically be nothing more than a fun date night (Seinfeld was great and totally worth seeing), like nearly everything these days, it is political with some relevant concerns relating to the City of Albuquerque.

  1. There were dozens of anti-Israel protesters. Seinfeld is Jewish and has expressed support for Israel, but he’s also a private citizen and decidedly NOT in charge of American foreign policy toward Israel. I can only imagine how differently the media would report on these protests if conservatives were protesting Jews or other groups.
  2. The protesters were blocking the ONLY entrance to the event (2nd street entrance to the Convention Center). Thankfully no serious altercations occurred, but this situation is completely unnecessary as the 3rd street entrance could have been used as an alternate entry point.
  3. Unrelated to the protestors specifically, it is clear the City is not equipped or at least used to hosting major events. The Civic Plaza Parking Garage uses machine payment mechanisms and there simply are not enough of them for a crowd the size of the one that attended Seinfeld. It took a VERY long time to get out of the parking garage (and we attempted to let the crowd thin out).

New Mexico’s moderate House Democrats to the rescue

The 2024 legislative session was destined to be a challenging one for RGF and other supporters of limited government. And, while the New Mexico Legislature is as progressive as it has ever been and must be considered a failure for its lack of interest in addressing basic economic, crime, and education issues, this session may be remembered for the rise of rural, moderate House Democrats as a political check on the “progressives.”

The New Mexico Senate, on the other hand, acted much more as a “rubber stamp” for MLG’s policies. You can check the performance in both houses at our Freedom Index. 

Specifically on HB 41 Clean Fuel Standard which unfortunately passed and SB 3 Paid Family Leave, moderate Democrats pushed back against “progressive” overreach. The floor vote rebuffing the Gov.’s plan to force school districts to adopt 5 day school weeks was another vote that split House Democrats.  Several rural Democrats ALSO opposed HB 129, the 7-day waiting period on gun purchases.

Days vs hours: Behind the budget amendment bringing together Democrats and  Republicans - Source New Mexico

 

Business and Employee funded paid leave fails in narrow House vote

In what can only be described as a massive victory for taxpayers and the New Mexico economy, paid family leave has failed once again in the New Mexico Legislature. This time, the bill failed on the House floor after having comfortably passed the Senate.

If adopted business and employees would have faced higher taxes and there would have been massive challenges in replacing workers who take leave. RGF argued against the plan focusing particularly on the need to not burden businesses at a time of a massive $3.5 billion surplus that COULD be used to fund such a program.

All Republicans opposed the bill and numerous Democrats did as well. You can see from our Freedom Index vote tracking tool that there is a significant ideological rift between moderate Democrats in the House and “progressives.”

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