Tipping Point NM Episode 426 Carol Wight – Challenges for New Mexico’s Restaurant Industry

According to Carol Wight of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, more than 1,000 New Mexico restaurants shut down thanks to Gov. Lujan Grisham’s COVID lockdowns.

Paul talks with Carol Wight of the New Mexico Restaurant Association about the current state of the restaurant industry.  They discuss how the industry fared through the challenges of COVID-19 as well as the post pandemic challenges of inflation, difficulty in finding workers, the impact of new regulation and more. They also discuss federal and state programs that restaurants were able to use to help survive in tough times as well as future policy changes that could benefit the industry including expanding the elimination of New Mexico gross receipts tax on food to include restaurants.

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Education poll shows support in New Mexico for school choice, concern for education system

The group EdChoice does polling on various education issues on an ongoing basis. You can find details on their New Mexico and national polling here.

Here are two particularly interesting items. Simply put, anywhere between 2/3rd and 3/4ths of New Mexico adults/parents support money following the children. And, vast majorities of people feel the education system is headed in the wrong direction.

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New Mexico’s pitiful workforce participation rate…updated

The Albuquerque Journal is one of the few media outlets to have caught on to the fact which we’ve been discussing for years, that New Mexico’s workforce participation rate is terrible…and, it got much worse during COVID. The Journal and its sources cited an increase in New Mexicans on SSDI or “disability.”

Here’s the raw data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As you can see from the chart below, since January of 2020, shortly before the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, Colorado has actually increased its workforce participation rate from 66.7% to 67.1%; Utah’s rate has stayed the same at 66.7%; Texas’ rate dropped slightly from 61.4% to 61.2%; Arizona’s rate also dropped slightly from 59.1% to 58.9%; and Oklahoma’s rose from 58.9% to 59%.

New Mexico not only went into the Pandemic with the lowest workforce participation rate (by far) at 55.6%, but that rate dropped rather significantly down to 54.2%

This cartoon highlights the fundamental problem facing New Mexico. We need more New Mexicans pulling the cart and fewer people in the cart. Alas, we have moved in the opposite direction under Gov. Lujan Grisham.

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Opinion piece: Government boondoggles shouldn’t be New Mexico way

This article first appeared in the Las Cruces Sun News on Sunday, July 31, 2022.

New Mexico is always ranked among the “poor” states in the United States. But, as anyone who lives here or has taken stock of New Mexico’s abundant natural and cultural resources can tell you, we have no business being “poor.”

Sadly, much of our poverty is self-inflicted. It is the obvious result of bad public policy. While there are all manner of bad tax and regulatory policies that often wind up being “in the weeds,” one of New Mexico’s fundamental problems is the result of politicians’ misguided belief that the path to success involves more government spending or another big government project.

The Rio Grande Foundation has long had its concerns about two Bill Richardson-era projects of this kind: the Rail Runner and Spaceport America. Starting with the Rail Runner, the latest ridership data just came out and, over the past year the train saw 319,635 riders board the train. The train was fully operational throughout the last 12 months which included a few months of fares having been discounted to $2.50 a day.

One might think that with gas prices these days the Rail Runner would be a cost-effective alternative. Sadly, the train’s current ridership is about 25% of peak years of 2010 and 2011 when more than 1.2 million people boarded the train. Sadder still is the fact that taxpayers continue to pay tens of millions of dollars in debt service on construction of the train and nearly $20 million annually to operate it.

Shockingly, Las Cruces Sen. Bill Soules recently pledged to reintroduce legislation in the 2023 session that would theoretically create “high speed rail” from Denver to Chihuahua. The fact is that population density numbers don’t justify commuter rail between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Now Soules wants to spend tens of billions on “high speed” passenger service spanning more than 850 miles, three states, and two countries?

Sadly, Spaceport America has proven itself to be another Richardson-era boondoggle that hasn’t lived up to its promise. Spaceport America has been open for business for more than a decade and it has yet to fulfill its mission of hosting commercial space flights.

Last July Richard Branson and a team of Virgin Galactic employees did make it to weightlessness, but the company’s stock has tanked in the meantime and their latest prediction is for flights to begin the first quarter of 2023.

Plans for those manned commercial space flights have been delayed time and again. We’re not holding our breath for flights to begin in earnest early next year.

Worse, Virgin Galactic recently announced plans to build its future fleet of spacecraft in Mesa, Arizona. Sadly, spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to provide a spaceport for Virgin Galactic was not enough for them to build ships here.

With massive oil and gas surpluses flowing into the state’s coffers, politicians like Soules will again be looking for new “opportunities” to waste money. But big government spending schemes have repeatedly failed to truly diversify our economy or bring sustainable growth to our state.

Instead, the governor and Legislature would better serve our state by considering why companies with a New Mexico presence (like Virgin Galactic and Intel to name two) continue to choose neighboring Arizona over us.

It might be Arizona’s school choice which has improved educational results and workforce preparedness, not to mention a willingness for families to locate there.

Or, perhaps it is Arizona’s lower taxes which has dropped to 2.5% for nearly all Arizonans under a new tax cut law.

Finally, it could be that Arizona has a “right to work” law which gives private sector workers the right to opt out of membership or the payment of dues and fees in labor unions.

No matter, it is high time for New Mexico to abandon our government-driven model and consider what states like Arizona and others do that has worked so much better.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation.

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New Mexico pension plans among most underfunded

According to a newly-published report from Pew Center on the States New Mexico’s pension systems are among the worst funded in the US.

You can find the full report here. RGF president Paul Gessing offered comments on the issue for The Center Square here. You can see how New Mexico’s pension obligations stack up below:

One quick note, in 2020 Rio Grande Foundation worked with a bipartisan coalition in support of GOOD PERA reforms. In 2021 the Legislature decided to prop up ERB with more tax dollars. Regardless, it would seem that with record levels of oil and gas revenues putting our pension systems on firm footing and making them work for taxpayers and educators/public employees who might want to manage their own retirement $$ would be a wise thing to do.

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Why Americans and New Mexicans shifted to private K-12 options during COVID

It has been widely reported that Albuquerque Public Schools is one school district that is losing large numbers of students. We don’t know how many students other districts throughout New Mexico lost during COVID, but have heard similar numbers.

The following chart is from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It highlights that in 2021 Catholic and other private schools remained in-person more than 90% of the time while government-run schools hovered anywhere from 50% in-person to 62%.

Further below that we re-post the Burbio report which highlights the fact that under Gov. Lujan Grisham New Mexico students were out of their classrooms more than students in all but 5 other states. It’s pretty easy to see why New Mexico families accelerated their move to schools of choice.

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Tipping Point NM episode 424: Audrey Trujillo – Candidate for New Mexico Secretary of State

On this week’s Tipping Point conversation Paul talks to GOP Secretary of State candidate Audrey Trujillo.

Paul and Audrey discuss the role of Secretary of State in New Mexico and what the occupant of that position can/should do with and without the Legislature. They discuss the Secretary’s role in elections and preventing election fraud, address recent elections in 2020 and the primary election in 2020, and her plans to improve election integrity.

Finally, Audrey and Paul talk about other parts of the Secretary’s job and how it can make New Mexico more attractive as a place to do business.

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American “renewables” won’t fuel our world OR stop climate change

American politicians from President Biden on down to Sen. Martin Heinrich and Gov. Lujan Grisham and many in the New Mexico Legislature are positively obsessed with “renewable” energy. They all pledge massive subsidies, mandates, and all manner of policies for the “transition” regardless of economic impact or the futility of actually moving the needle on CO2 emissions.

The following chart highlights just how small wind and solar are on a global energy use basis. You can see them on the chart which is better than prior to 2010, but to claim that wind and solar will result in the end of traditional energy sources is simply ridiculous and there is nothing that we can do about it barring total economic destruction. Even a crash shift to nuclear power would take decades to pull off.

And then there is China. China is already (far and away) the global leader in CO2 emissions, but China continues to expand its coal powered energy production as the July 20, 2022 article describes. 

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Another study, another dead last education ranking for New Mexico

New Mexico is certainly consistent when it comes to K-12 education performance. A new study from Wallethub places the State’s education system 51st overall. The map below shows the overall ranking, but the bubble chart below is more important because it highlights the fundamental problem of New Mexico’s education system: moderate spending for abysmal results.

As seen below, New Mexico spending ranks 28th overall, but performance ranks 51st. Clearly, New Mexico’s spending on education hasn’t moved the needle on results. It is time for bold, innovative reforms. We recommend school choice, but there are many ways to do better without spending more.

Source: WalletHub
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Talking New Mexico economy in Clovis

RGF president Paul Gessing traveled to Clovis, NM recently to discuss the State’s economy and education systems and what can be done to improve them. You can see the slides from the powerpoint presentation here and if you are part of a civic group that would like to hear a similar message, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at: info@riograndefoundation.org to schedule something.

Paul’s remarks were well covered by the Eastern New Mexico News.

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