NM’s unemployment rate highest in nation for 5th month in a row (since December, 2021)

New Mexico’s unemployment rate seems to have stagnated at a post-pandemic 5.3% rate, the highest in the nation. That is a reasonable rate by historical standards, but in a time of extreme inflation it seems to indicate that more New Mexicans than in any other state in the nation are able to continue filing for unemployment benefits even has jobs remain available.

And, of course, as we always remind our readers, unemployment rates are only part of the equation. New Mexico has always had and (this trend has both continued and worsened post-pandemic) to have a far lower workforce participation rate than do our neighbors.

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Episode 404: Carol Swaim deconstructs Critical Race Theory

On this week’s conversation Paul sits down with author and speaker Dr. Carol Swaim. Swaim is an academic, author, and writer who has taken on the issue of “critical race theory,” what it means, its “intellectual” beginnings, and why it is harmful to Americans of all races and classes. Swaim was recently in Albuquerque recently to give a talk and Paul jumped on the chance to sit down with her to discuss these important and timely issues. You don’t want to miss their conversation.

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Unintended consequences of policy efforts to abandon natural gas include starvation

We have often disagreed with Sen. Martin Heinrich’s big push to eliminate use of fossil fuels, including natural gas. But natural gas is not just used for home heating and cooking, it is a leading feed stock in food production.

A new report quoting a leading food economist, Máximo Torero, the chief economist at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “has warned against moving away from natural gas production too soon, arguing more people will starve to death if the consequences are not thought through.”

Mr. Torero continued, saying, “If you switch the energy mix too quickly, you will increase the price of energy, then you will increase the price of fertilizers, you increase the price of food, more people dying of hunger. So what do you want?”

Natural gas is a key ingredient in the process used to make nitrogen-based fertilizers used on a range of crops, including corn and wheat. Natural gas accounts for 75% to 90% of operating costs in the production of nitrogen.

Fertilizer prices are hammering farmers: What does that mean for  agricultural prices? | FocusEconomics

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City of Albuquerque can’t cut taxes, instead grows city government by 20%

The City of Albuquerque may be “new and improved” as of last November, but a majority on City Council seem to believe that spending more money is the path to success. On Monday night the Council on a 7-2 vote passed a budget with an increase of 20%. Only Dan Lewis and Rene Grout voted “no.”

As the Journal article points out, “The budget includes 5% pay hikes for city workers – plus additional one-time incentives of up to $2,000 per employee – and significantly ups spending on rental support.”

Councilor Brook Bassan cited inflation as one of the causes of the massive budget uptick, but the final budget passed by Council is a shocking $15 million higher than the fiscal year 2023 proposal Mayor Tim Keller. The total city budget will total about $1.4 billion. The Keller administration estimates having over $100 million more in gross receipts tax to spend in 2023 than it budgeted for this year.

Alas, in February on a 1-8 vote, Council rejected a minimal 1/8 cent gross receipts tax reduction which would have reduced GRT taxes by $20 million dollars annually. Simply adhering to the Mayor’s budget outline and eliminating “free” bus service at a “cost” of $3 million would have nearly generated enough savings to reduce taxes.

Unfortunately, Albuquerque’s City Council seems more concerned about taking care of its own rather than helping average New Mexicans.

UPDATE: While not a large portion of the overall bill, the Council saw fit to add $250,000 to the budget to fund abortion provider Planned Parenthood through a “Council-directed sponsorship.” This has not been done in the past and the seemingly no-strings-attached nature of the grant raises all kinds of concerns from both moral and policy perspectives.

Spending Chart Graph Shows Increasing Expenditure Purchasing Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 26961701.

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New Mexico’s “energy transition” is already failing

We at the Rio Grande Foundation genuinely HATE saying “I told you so” when the schemes of New Mexico politicians fail. The Rail Runner, Spaceport, and ART bus system are just a few of the schemes that have clearly not worked out for our State.

But all of those pale in comparison to the disaster that is potentially unfolding in our electrical grid. Unfortunately, the makings of the impending disaster were sowed in 2019 with passage of the Energy Transition Act (MLG’s top priority in that session). But, we all know that the PRC recently decided to extend the life of the coal-fired San Juan Coal-fired station to keep the lights on THIS summer.

Recently, PNM reported that  HALF of the replacement solar power/battery storage for the summer of 2023 won’t be available in time.

In addition to slowing delivery of “renewable” projects, prices have risen dramatically. According to UtilityDive.com, “A shortage of new renewable projects available to interested buyers has caused prices for power purchase agreements to rise 9.7% since the beginning of 2022, and 28.5% since the beginning of 2021, according to an analysis by PPA marketplace LevelTen Energy.”

Tariffs on Chinese solar panels are also driving prices up and there is seemingly little willingness among domestic producers to ramp up production.

Inside Clean Energy: Wind and Solar Costs Have Risen. How Long Should We  Expect This Trend to Last? - Inside Climate News


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Episode 402: Daniel Suhr – Vaccine Mandates and Roe Leak

Daniel Suhr is a Managing Attorney with the Liberty Justice Center, a conservative non-profit legal firm. Paul and Daniel discuss vaccine mandates, the judiciary’s performance during COVID, and numerous other issues relating to COVID and the government’s use of emergencies. They also discuss the Roe v. Wade leak (and apparent decision) and their implications for the Court.

Daniel spoke at a Rio Grande Foundation luncheon on May 5, 2022. Podcasts of the interview with Paul Gessing and a radio appearance with Bob Clark are below.

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More Biden/Haaland price hikes at the pump due to canceled leases

The Biden Administration’s Department of the Interior (led by former New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland) has struck another blow on behalf of higher gas prices with their decision to cancel leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

While some news stories claim there was a “lack of interest” by industry in the Alaska lease issue, it is hard to understand what that could be driven by given record-setting gasoline prices across the nation.

The decision likely means the Biden administration will not hold a lease sale for offshore drilling this year. Environmental groups (naturally) praised the decision while Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of the American Petroleum Institute noted that “the administration talks about the need for more supply and acts to restrict it.”

While not DIRECTLY impacting New Mexico, Biden/Haaland have already slashed New Mexico lease sales.

FILE - Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks during a Tribal Nations Summit during Native...

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Federal government land management has long been a problem

The forest fires now raging in Northern New Mexico are tragic. As with any tragedy the causes are myriad and there is ample blame to go around. However, we DO know that the largest fire was a result of a “controlled” burn by the US Forest Service.

And, we know that federal land management practices have left a lot to be desired for decades in New Mexico with needed management having been abandoned in favor of simply letting the forest grow.

RGF’s Paul Gessing wrote the following in an opinion piece back in 2014:

Our efforts to restore state control over certain federally-managed lands are by no means based entirely on economics. Climate change is often cited in the media as the cause of recent forest fires that have raged in New Mexico and throughout the West. The reality is that poor federal management (or the lack thereof) is a major contributor to rampant fires. Going back to the Native Americans, lands were intensely managed. That ended when environmental zealots took control of Washington’s land management bureaucracies, eventually putting a stop to timber production and engaging in aggressive fire suppression that has caused a buildup of flammable material on forest floors.

We have further written about the issue here and here. Here is an even more detailed analysis from the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC).

Climate change, drought, and numerous other issues all play a role in the fires we are seeing, but improved land management remains an important tool in preventing the tragic situation we are seeing unfold in our State.

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Finalized paid sick leave (law takes effect on July 1) rules STILL not ready

New Mexico’s mandatory paid sick leave law was passed in 2021. We know many of the policy details such as:

  • The Act applies to all businesses even those with a single employee;
  • The Act requires businesses to give full time employees up to 64 hours of sick leave per year;
  • Leave is accrued at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked;
  • Leave must be paid at the employee’s regular hourly rate. Employees may carry over any accrued, unused leave; however, “an employer is not required to permit an employee to use more than [64] hours in a [12]-month period.”

But, with less than two months to go, the final rules have not been issued. you can go to the Department of Workforce Solutions website and find a link to “draft Healthy Workforce Act rules” but not final rules.

Those rules will define a number of important aspects of the law including how businesses must communicate with their workers. Small businesses in particular will struggle with this which the Legislature and Gov. seem unconcerned about.

Update: NM Department of Workforce Solutions will conduct a continuation of the public hearing to obtain input and public comment on proposed regulations for implementing and enforcing the Healthy Workplaces Act on May 24, 2022. More information available here.

Paid sick leave will help protect us in this pandemic - CalMatters

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Episode 401: Clean Car Rule, “Living Lots” for Albuquerque, Virgin Galactic Delayed Again and more

New Mexico’s unelected Environmental Improvement Board has adopted a new “clean car rule” at the urging of Gov. Lujan Grisham. California’s (and New Mexico’s)  standards will require roughly 7% of new cars sold to be zero emission in 2025. In the 3rd quarter of 2021 zero emission vehicles amounted to just 2.29% of new vehicle sales in New Mexico. So, those sales will need to just more than triple from Q3 of 2021 to 2025. The rule could get much more restrictive soon as California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an  executive order ordering the end the sale of gas-powered cars in California by 2035. California’s own unelected board is expected to hold a vote on final adoption of that in August.

If California enacts this rule, 35% of new cars, SUVs and small pickups sold in California (and thus New Mexico) must be zero-emission starting with 2026 models, then increasing yearly, reaching 51% of all new car sales in 2028, 68% in 2030 and 100% in 2035. Of those, 20% can be plug-in hybrids.

Another delay for Virgin Galactic as their stock market continues to drop.

New Mexico’s loan ban was based on false information. A new report from Illinois which adopted a similar law show the number of lenders and loans available to low-income customers has dropped dramatically. 

Questions remain for New Mexico’s future electricity reliability. PNM had proposed to build a 280-megawatt “peaking” natural gas plant – which can rapidly ramp up and down as needed – alongside new renewable generation but that has not been built due to PRC opposition. The Avangrid/PNM merger remains alive with an appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court, but the real strategy seems to be to wait for MLG to put pro-merger people on PRC before she leaves office.

ABQ City councilor proposes “living lots” for local homeless, Paul and Wally have some thoughts.

New Mexico’s new sick leave mandate takes effect on July 1, but we STILL don’t have a final rule. 

According to a new Tax Foundation report New Mexico’s sales tax is very broad, 2nd most broad among US states (to Hawaii).

Early voting at county clerk offices begins (today) May 10. Paul has recently interviewed the four main GOP candidates for Gov. and both candidates for CD 1 here and here (all of which are contested).

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