New Report: New Mexico residential electricity rates rose 10.1% over past year

As New Mexico’s Legislature, Gov., and PRC push forward to implement New Mexico’s “Green New Deal” Energy Transition Act, a new report from shows that New Mexico electricity users saw a 10.1% increase in electricity rates over the past year. That is the 2nd-biggest increase among US states and seems inevitably tied to the State’s looming transition to “renewables.”

At this link you can see more data (such as that New Mexico’s 13.8 cents/kWh rate is the highest among its neighbors.

Is the 10.1% increase in electricity rates a sign of things to come? Will we soon join California with rates hovering near 20 cents/kWh (not to mention poor reliability)? We certainly believe it is possible.

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Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 232: Rob Nikolewski – California Fires and Energy Policy

On this week’s interview, Paul talks to Rob Nikolewski. A few years back Rob worked for Rio Grande Foundation as a reporter in Santa Fe. Now, he reports on energy for the San Diego Union-TribuneRob and Paul discuss the ongoing wildfires in California, the electrical grid, the shutdown of nuclear energy there, and the challenges of eliminating CO2 emissions from the State’s electrical grid.

You don’t want to miss this timely and informative podcast!

Rob Nikolewski - The San Diego Union-Tribune

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San Juan County attempts to overcome economic woes…by raising taxes

At the Rio Grande Foundation we have covered the economic challenges faced by the Four Corners region and San Juan County. Primarily this involves the long term decline in natural gas prices combined with the closure of the region’s coal-fired power plants. 

Due in part to these economic challenges, tax revenues at San Juan County are down significantly and the County faced a $4.6 million gap next fiscal year. So, the County Commission just voted to raise taxes (1/8th cent on the GRT).

This isn’t a long-term solution. The Four Corners area needs some good economic news, but when two of your largest job-creating industries face extinction options are limited. We have consistently urged change in the Legislature and approaches by our State to bring more economic freedom to the State as a whole with benefits accruing to the Four Corners and every other part of New Mexico. Unfortunately, COVID 19 and the Gov.’s intense lockdown has caused the State’s unemployment rate to jump dramatically with Farmington’s rate even higher at 16 percent.

Unless something dramatic happens in Santa Fe this fall there don’t seem to be many bright spots on the Four Corners’ economic horizon.


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Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 231: Polling data, ABQ rejects gun control, and considering Respect NM’s proposals

On this week’s podcast discussion Paul and Wally discuss the latest COVID 19 update from Gov. Lujan Grisham. According to her latest pronouncements, theaters, entertainment centers, and bars in New Mexico are not likely to open until there’s a COVID vaccine.  The Gov. also begs Congress for more COVID aid in her recent testimony. There were not many specifics or details, just “send cash!”

In a bit of good news, the City of Albuquerque Council rejected an ordinance that would have “requested” the Legislature place a constitutional amendment on the ballot giving local governments the ability to enact gun control measures.

APD police chief Geier has resigned (or been fired). Paul discusses what Albuquerque residents should hope for on KOB TV Channel 4.

Wally and Paul discuss the policy proposals put forth by the pro-GOP umbrella group Respect New Mexico.

Finally, the Albuquerque Journal over the past week released polling numbers seeming to indicate strong support among New Mexicans for the Gov.’s mask mandate and the policies being implemented by both Gov. Lujan Grisham and ABQ Mayor Tim Keller. As Paul and Wally note, the only poll that matters happens in November.

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New Mexico Should Not Cut Programming At Corrections Facilities

The following piece by Patrick Brenner of the Rio Grande Foundation appeared in the Los Alamos Reporter on September 11, 2020:

As the country begins to re-open and we assess what the future will look like post-pandemic, states will have to take a hard look at where to allocate funds knowing there will undoubtedly be budget concerns for the foreseeable future. While budget cuts are imminent, and in New Mexico they are needed, that does not mean indiscriminately eliminating programs or services that provide real benefit to New Mexico residents who need them most, especially when they ultimately save taxpayers money in the long run.

Before everything shut down, I toured the New Mexico Men’s and Women’s Recovery Academies near Albuquerque where I met with both the residents and the staff who run both of these facilities. Not only did the residents and staff provide glowing reviews of the programming and facilities, but also the Department of Corrections official who toured with us said that she fights for this type of programming across New Mexico and spoke about how effective it has been. These types of programs are on the chopping block. But it is these same programs that serve as alternatives to incarceration and are incredibly effective in treatment, saving taxpayer money, and better outcomes for participants of these programs.

The New Mexico Men’s and Women’s Recovery Academies are both managed by the GEO Group, a private contractor that manages detention and corrections facilities. While often vilified in the media, this private contractor has spent $10 million last year alone on programming around substance abuse counseling and cognitive behavioral treatment. Rehabilitation programming like this provides care, compassion, and effective tools to help people and reduce recidivism rates.

When you visit, the most surprising element is the sense of community and pride that has been fostered among the residents and staff where the more tenured members act as mentors for the newer residents and they truly pull for one another through this tough transition. The graduates of this program see this as a new opportunity for their lives and they are less likely to fall back into their old ways. Funding these types of programs will not only help residents overcome their addiction and other issues, but they will also help New Mexico’s bottom line.

This programming in New Mexico is new. But inmates who participated in this same programming in facilities in Florida had a recidivism rate 30 percent lower than their peers that did not have the same programing. Assuming this trend holds and recidivism is reduced by one third of the average in Florida after participation in these programs, this could be a major cost saving measure for the state. In 2019 alone, this would roughly provide $8 million in cost avoidance for Florida because they will no longer have to house these reformed inmates. There is every reason to believe the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs will see the same drop as Florida experienced and New Mexico could have the same experience with “cost avoidance”.

Corrections funding was already reduced during the recently-completed special session. When cutbacks occur in the 2021 session, programs like these should be among those preserved. The expertise of private sector providers can provide such services at a high quality and reasonable price, but the ultimate benefit is to the State and taxpayers of New Mexico who are desperately searching for ways to reduce crime and recidivism in their communities.

There is no “silver bullet” to solving crime. The COVID 19 epidemic will have unpredictable consequences for our society as well as crime rates and the criminal justice system at large for years to come. Even in times of tight budgets, New Mexico needs to continue investing programming, especially the kind that can be provided by private providers at a reasonable cost in our prisons and treatment facilities to ensure that we support inmates and residents. Short-sighted decisions now may have a negative impact on New Mexico for years to come.

Patrick Brenner is a policy analyst with the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s free market think tank. 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.

New Mexico Women's Recovery Academy (NMWRA) - GEO - 2nd Chance Jobs -  Albuquerque, NM

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NM’s new $300 million early childhood fund isn’t growing & could be reallocated (but MLG still wants a federal bailout)

A recent article from the Santa Fe New Mexican notes that New Mexico’s new early childhood permanent fund is unlikely to grow as much as the advocates would like.

Quoted in the piece is Rep. Javier Martinez, one of the most left-wing members of New Mexico’s far-left Legislature. Martinez is and an advocate of “ending reliance on fossil fuels” but he sure loves the money they generate. Unfortunately, oil/gas revenue is down since the pandemic so the fund isn’t growing as fast as he’d like.

And, while Gov. Lujan Grisham cries about Republicans in Congress and the President not passing yet another massive bailout, she refuses to reallocate the $300 million early childhood “permanent fund” to more pressing needs. This fund was created in the 2020 session but apparently it is Washington’s job to fund NM government, not hers.

NM early childhood fund could get oil-powered takeoff - New Mexico Oil & Gas Association

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The latest on NM oil production: a slight bump in June, but down 20% since March

While Gov. Lujan Grisham continues to plead for more federal money to shore up New Mexico’s finances, we are taking the longer and more New Mexico-centric view of looking at the leading systemic challenge facing our State: low oil prices combined with dropping production.

The data do lag, so we are using the best info available from Oil Conservation Division, but as of June 2020, oil production in New Mexico has dropped about 20% since March. That is a slight rebound from May and the June data is also the latest available.

Prices on the global market have dropped somewhat to below $40 a barrel. Will production rebound in such a price-depressed environment? Only time will tell. If not for the Gov’s Virus policies and the myriad ongoing election controversies, this would be the number one issue facing our State.

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RGF president Paul Gessing discusses Albuquerque Police on KOB Channel 4

The Rio Grande Foundation is avowedly NOT an expert on the nitty-gritty of policing, BUT when asked about the general role of what a new police chief for New Mexico’s largest city should do, we definitely have a perspective. We shared that with KOB TV Channel 4.

1) Police MUST protect property including businesses downtown AND statues. Waiting and simply watching vandals destroy businesses and public property is a bad strategy and it undermines the very role of policing. This includes doing more to move homeless encampments out of parks and other public areas.

2) Politicization of policing is a problem. The Mayor should set goals and standards and let the professionals work to achieve them.

3) “Defunding” the police is simply not going to happen, nor should it. Reforms must be considered to both encourage proactive law enforcement AND respect for individual rights, but even substantial budget cuts are likely NOT helpful in high-crime Albuquerque.

You can watch what we have to say below:

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Analyzing the NM GOP’s “Fair Deal”

The Fair Deal | Respect New MexicoAdmittedly, when we at the Rio Grande Foundation first heard of the Fair Deal, a raft of public policies proposed by Republican candidates for the New Mexico Legislature,  we were pretty skeptical.

After all, the original Fair Deal was a 21 point plan proposed by President Harry Truman that would have resulted in a massive expansion of the federal government. Then it was reported in the media that the plan was a “moderate agenda.” The term “moderate” is not necessarily a bad, but it doesn’t mean anything. So, what IS the Fair Deal agenda? We looked and it is actually pretty good. Here are the most substantive parts:

ECONOMY: Protect people’s right to retain more of what they earn (presumably by holding the line on or reducing taxes). Eliminate taxes on Social Security, stop unfair double and triple taxation of small business (presumably by reforming the GRT), and reduce or eliminate the income tax on working families.

Professional licensure reform, streamline mandatory disclosure requirements (unclear what these are or this means in practice), regular and mandatory review of all regulations, and the elimination of at least one old regulation for each new one added.

CRIME: Protect the 2nd amendment; redo bail reform, ensure mandatory sentencing, and require short-term confinement and counseling for drug criminals.

There are other policies discussed in the plan which can be found here. Some of them are written vaguely more as statements of principle than as specific agenda items. We’d like to see issues like “right to work” and New Mexico’s “prevailing wage” laws addressed and “school choice” or “education $$ follow the student.” Also, it is imperative that New Mexico’s laws governing public emergencies be addressed in order to restore balance of power.

Overall, as far as they go, the specific policy proposals laid out in this “Fair Deal” would definitely move New Mexico in the right direction.

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