Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 146: Election Recap, Oil, ART and Soccer

On this week’s episode, Paul and Wally recap the local elections as well as a big national vote that took place up the road in Colorado.

Further data points to just how big New Mexico’s oil boom is, but when it comes to job growth, New Mexico is only on par with its neighbors and its cities lag.

Finally, ART appears to finally be ready to go by November 30 meaning it should beat the Spaceport into service, but also that traffic patterns on Central will change once again.

Finally, the New Mexico United are looking to Santa Fe for money for a new soccer-only stadium. While details are scarce, what does this mean?

ABQ’s bus disaster (and we’re not talking about ART)

While the Rio Grande Foundation worked VERY hard and achieved a big victory recently over “Democracy Dollars,” the Albuquerque election in particular was rather disappointing. The issue of transportation showed voters’ propensity to “blindly” approve ill-advised spending projects.

The starting point was the 1/4 cent transportation tax, 38% of which will be spent on buses and other transit. Another $6 million in tax-financed bonds were approved by voters for transit projects.

But what are we getting for that money in terms of transportation services? The answer is not a whole lot. As Dennis Domrzalski points out in his new report, Albuquerque bus traffic is plummeting Using data provided by the City, Domrzalski found that bus ridership dropped 7.5 percent this year and is down an astonishing 31 percent since 2012.

Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that the percentage of operating costs covered by bus riders has dropped from 10% to 7% since 2013 alone. That’s a 30 percent decline.

With the widely-derided ART boondoggle about to get running, we will see yet another massive investment in transit. But, if transit ridership trends in Albuquerque and elsewhere hold, the bus system will continue to lose riders AND gobs of money.

How New Mexico’s Personal Incomes Stack Up

Is the Rio Grande Foundation attempting to throw some “cold water” on the narrative that New Mexico’s economy is booming due to oil production and that we can just spend the money on new government programs without concern to adopting long-overdue free market reforms? Yes, that is the case.

Here’s the latest data set which shows that New Mexico has a lot of work to do before it becomes as economically-successful as its neighbors. The data below are from the St. Louis Federal Reserve.  While it compares New Mexico with its neighbors, the State has the 3rd-lowest average personal income in the nation (only West Virginia and Mississippi are lower). Notably, while each of our neighbors has its own pro-growth policies in place, Colorado’s recent vote to preserve the Taxpayers Bill of Rights is a lead contributor to that State’s incredible performance.

New Mexico economy IS booming, but only to levels already experienced in neighboring states

Driven by unprecedented oil and gas production, New Mexico’s economy is doing quite well. That is definitely good news for the State, but at the Rio Grande Foundation we understand that commodity-driven booms don’t last forever. It is sound, pro-growth public policy that ultimately makes a state or nation economically-successful.  And New Mexico has never been a pro-growth state.

The Rio Grande Foundation put the chart showing year-over-year job growth together using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are a few salient points:

1) The economy is generally good all over and jobs and economic growth continue to move to states in the South and West with whom New Mexico shares a border. So, after years of New Mexico lagging behind, the oil boom happening in the State has propelled overall job growth to…about the same level as our neighbors.

2) While the State as a whole is doing VERY well economically, New Mexico’s four major cities are not leading the charge in terms of job growth. Obviously much of the growth is centered in the oil and gas regions of New Mexico, but considering the money flowing into our State and the overall economy, growth rates outside of Albuquerque are pretty anemic.


Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 145: Fred Nathan – Think New Mexico – Retirement Proposals

On this week’s interview, Paul sits down with Fred Nathan, the head of Think New Mexico, a think tank based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The group has proposed a series of reforms for the upcoming 2020 legislative session centered on the issue of retirement. The three-pronged approach includes proposals that attempt to attract more retirees to our State, reform public employee pensions, and to help more private-sector workers access retirement plans.
Find out more at: www.thinknewmexico.org

Image result for fred nathan think new mexico

More thoughts on the 2019 Election

At the Rio Grande Foundation we were VERY pleased with one major result from Election Day: the defeat of “Democracy Dollars.” If a group of out-of-state conservatives had brought more than $600,000 into a local campaign you’d never hear the end of it from the media and the left in general. But, with the shoe on the other foot and the big-spending left being sent home, it’s down the memory hole we go! 

To be fair, the election was a mixed bag. Candidates largely “held serve” although Republicans are in for a dogfight over Brook Bassan in the old Brad Winter Council district. The left also got their way on numerous other issues on the ballot including all of the bonds, the expansion of campaign financing, and renewal of the transportation tax. But it is the bond issues that truly represent a failure of “democracy.” Let’s review the facts:

1) The summaries and information provided for voters on the ballot was minimal. The City also (strategically???) lumped good and useful projects in with probable boondoggles. And, the Mayor himself used YOUR tax dollars to campaign on behalf of the bonds and vast City resources were used to support them as well. This is hardly a fair fight;

2) Albuquerque/NM voters are a compliant lot. Despite repeated failure of government at ALL levels (ART, Rail Runner, Spaceport, education system, and film subsidies to name a few) they tend to vote the same people back in. Unfortunate, but you don’t get to 50th overnight;

3) If the left (or City) want to improve “democracy” they should put a provision in like the 1% for the arts (maybe call it “50% (or even 25%) for the opposition”) that for every speech by the Mayor or elected official or use of public dollars, the opposition needs to be given equal media time or money. That won’t solve the left’s overall financial advantage (see above), but at least it will prevent the City from using taxpayer dollars to roll the opposition in bond elections.

Democracy Dollars Defeated!

The putative effort to “get big money out of local politics” spent more than $500,000 of left wing cash from every source imaginable (Planned Parenthood?) and the endorsement of not one but THREE Democrats running for president (Bernie, Warren, and Castro at least) it was going to be tough to convince Albuquerque voters to turn down a “mom and apple pie” proposal like “Democracy Dollars,” right?

Thankfully, the Rio Grande Foundation and a small group of ideologically-diverse opponents which included the New Mexico Business Coalition, former mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli, former Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, attorney Pat Rogers, and a few other individuals and groups worked hard and kept education voters on this terrible idea.

And, as of 10:30pm on Election Night 2019, the “no” side appears to have carried the day: 51.25% to 48.75%. Albuquerque voters may elect liberal candidates and vote for too many bonds for my taste, but they rejected APS’s cash grab back in January and seem to have come through yet again by turning down the left’s attempt to control local elections….Will they try again? Who knows, but for now we celebrate a victory.

Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 144: State Policy Network Conference, Education Progress, Fracking Funds and More

Paul spent the past week with hundreds of free-market think tank leaders in Colorado Springs at the State Policy Network Conference. What is happening in the state-based policy movement as a whole?

New Mexico’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results are out. What do they mean about our educational performance?

And, there’s another Yazzie lawsuit on the adequacy of New Mexico’s education system despite a cash infusion of $446 million to public schools this year, a 16% annual increase.What gives?

NBC News story covers New Mexico’s efforts to fund progressive policy through fracking.

ABQ City elections: candidate Maureen Skowran receives $50,000 from out-of-state environmental groups;

Also, Mayor Keller says “vote yes” on bonds! Wait, is this legal/ethical?


Lack of progress: The real problem with NM’s pitiful NAEP scores

It is no secret that New Mexico kids don’t perform well relative to their peers on tests like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (2019 results were just released last week). The latest NAEP results are no exception. New Mexico is right at the very bottom in overall results (yes, we recognize that 2019 NAEP data represent data accumulated during the Martinez Administration, but the Legislature wasn’t exactly pushing big reforms either).

I can’t go through ALL the various subject areas, but RGF has long been concerned with 4th grade reading results because up to 4th grade students are learning to read, but after that they are reading to learn. So, let’s see where New Mexico stands:

New Mexico’s reading score stands at 208. A few ups and a few downs, but no real progress over the last few decades.

Neighboring Arizona has struggled with many of the same challenges that New Mexico has, but over the years has enacted numerous choice-based reforms to great effect.

And then there is Mississippi. Remember the old New Mexico standby, “Thank God for Mississippi.” Don’t look now, but Mississippi adopted a charter school law in 2013 and has enacted a number of other reforms and it is leaving New Mexico in the dust.

  New Mexico DOES have a charter school law on the books, but charters are under attack in the Legislature and the laws is somewhat outdated .  If New Mexico is going to improve its educational performance there are plenty of successful models to look at. Unfortunately, more spending is all we can likely expect from the current crew in Santa Fe. Will another eight years pass without student progress?

Albuquerque Mayor uses our tax dollars to lobby for more of our tax dollars

Taxpayer-funded lobbying has been a long-time concern for the Rio Grande Foundation. The forces of limited government are nearly always outmatched in terms of overall funding (for example, the pro-“Democracy Dollars” groups have spent nearly $500,000 in support of that ballot measure while opponents have spent less than $250).

But at least those lefty groups have spent THEIR OWN money. The City of Albuquerque and Mayor Tim Keller are using taxpayer dollars to support various bond issues on the ballot. This goes beyond the Mayor using his office and access to the media to argue in support of bond passage. In fact, the City of Albuquerque website itself includes a plea form Mayor Keller to vote for the bonds on the ballot. You can see the screen shot below if the City changes the site:

Regardless of whether you think all the bonds are great and should be passed or not, government resources should not be used to lobby on ballot measures. Remember, government is SUPPOSED to serve us, not the other way around. You can read about our ethics complaint here.