Kudos to Carmichael Dominguez, a city councilor, and Adam Johnson, finance director, for questioning the value of Santa Fe’s membership in the New Mexico Municipal League (NMML). Dominguez is performing “due diligence,” asking, “Hey, what’s the value of this? What’s the value to the city of Santa Fe?” Johnson told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the council wants to know if $75,000 in annual dues are “being well spent for initiatives affecting Santa Fe’s challenges.”
The issue of governments lobbying governments is long overdue for serious scrutiny by taxpayer advocates and fiscally responsible elected officials. Villages, towns, cities, school districts, counties, and “public” universities pay big bucks to influence policy at both the state and federal levels. Governors and lawmakers get in on the action as well, demanding that their concerns are recognized by Washington.
The NMML is one of hundreds of similar organizations that claim to represent local governments. Occasionally, the entities pursue policies that limit public spending, boost transparency, and foster accountability. But for the most part, they push for more subsidies and greater taxing authority. Promising reforms that constrain government and cut taxes aren’t of much interest.
Errors of Enchantment searched the NMML’s website for words and terms such as “privatization,” “competitive contracting,” “competitive sourcing,” and “contestability.”
Results yielded: zilch.
Not surprisingly, the NMML is a fan of the failed corporate-welfare scheme dubiously titled the “Local Economic Development Act,” defends the overly generous healthcare benefits showered on local-government employees, and is a steadfast supporter of the Roundhouse’s corrupt and expensive pork-bestowing mechanism known as “capital outlay.”
Sadly, the NMML has plenty of company. Last year, an investigation by New Mexico In Depth found that “New Mexico cities, counties, colleges and other public entities spent nearly $7.2 million in 2014 and 2015 to lobby the state and federal government.”
In the Land of Enchantment, and throughout the nation, if city councilors, school-district officials, county commissioners, and state lawmakers wish to influence higher levels of government, they should pay for it out of their own pockets. Not one thin dime of taxpayers’ earnings should be used to push for any public policy — be it liberal, conservative, centrist, populist, or libertarian.
Jefferson said it best: “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”