Webinar: the importance of restraining state spending, NM vs CO

RGF president Paul Gessing recently gave a webinar (lasting 20 minutes with 30 minutes left for questions) for the Freedom Hub Working group. The discussion centered around comparing New Mexico and Colorado from the perspective of government spending. To make it simple, New Mexico spends a great deal more as a percentage of its economy relative to Colorado.

The webinar shares some data illustrating the stark differences between the otherwise similar states.

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Tipping Point New Mexico Episode 159: Daniel Suhr – Liberty Justice Center

On this week’s podcast, Paul talks to Daniel Suhr, an attorney with the Liberty Justice Center. 

LJC is a non-profit law firm that litigates against governments for overreach. They successfully represented Mark Janus at the US Supreme Court and won “Right to Work” (the ability to work for their employer without paying union dues or fees) for all government employees throughout the United States. Paul and Daniel discuss this decision and its future ramifications including cases the LJC is bringing around the country.

Then, Paul and Daniel discuss the Rio Grande Foundation’s suit against New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.  The new suit involves free speech and efforts by organizations like the Rio Grande Foundation to engage in it without being unduly hindered and regulated. It is in some ways similar to the Foundation’s ongoing suit against the City of Santa Fe.

Daniel Suhr Photo

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A quick look at the Albuquerque Public Schools budget

The Albuquerque Public Schools budgets are always worth a close look. The District which failed to convince voters of the need for a big tax hike back in February was able to get its scaled back bond passed in November. But there are several points worth considering about New Mexico’s largest school district as we move forward to the 2020 legislative session and more discussion of education policy at the State and local levels.

  1.  As explained on page 18 of the budget, APS plans to spend $1,475,755,646 during the 2019/2020 school year;
  2. On page 27 we are told that APS expects to have 79,400 students that year.
  3. Simple math gives us total annual spending of $18,586 per-student by APS.
  4. To say the least APS is hemorrhaging students. Back in FY 2014 (six years ago), the district had 86,700 students. But spending continues to rise and the trend seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Will APS reallocate resources by closing unneeded schools and getting rid of bureaucrats? The district shows no signs of this. And, with both a union-dominated board and Legislature (also flush with oil and gas cash), the District’s day of reckoning appears to be a few years away.

The following are a few of the critical charts taken directly from the APS budget document. 

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Left-wing group ignores reality (or do we repeat ourselves)?

Recently, we wrote in this space about an LFC report on the tremendous growth in childcare assistance spending in New Mexico, but the finding that the increased spending “did not impact educational outcomes for children.”

Leave it up to the uber-left “Voices for Children” to make the implausible argument that we are “nickel and diming” these child care programs. As you can plainly see (the chart is lifted directly from the LFC report), spending on child care has risen dramatically in recent years, nearly doubling since 2014 (so the increases have come under both Republican and Democrat governors).

As usual, the left takes a government program of questionable effectiveness, pushes for rapid expansion (often with Republicans embracing it) with no end in sight. How much do we have to spend before we are not “nickel and diming” child care? We are never told this by the Voices writer.

Finally, the idea that new government programs are the key to improving outcomes for New Mexico’s children is never questioned. Restoring 2 parent families, reforms to the existing K-12 system, and broader economic reforms (to name a few) are not part of the play book.

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New environmental law would cripple New Mexico

The following article appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News on December 23, 2019.

Times are tough for New Mexican business owners — and government regulations aren’t helping.

At a recent town hall meeting in Farmington, attendees worried that new state rules would harm small oil and gas firms. The owner of one such firm said that these regulations put him “on a death train, economically.”

These folks could soon face an even bigger threat, this time from Washington. Congress is considering the Methane Waste Prevention Act, a plan to reduce the amount of the potent greenhouse gas emitted from oil and gas wells.

Reducing methane emissions is an excellent idea, but this plan misses the mark. This bill would do little to help the environment. And it would drown New Mexico’s energy firms in red tape, robbing the state of crucial economic benefits.

This bill takes a one-size-fits-all approach to methane reduction. It would require all energy producers operating on federal and tribal lands to recapture 85 percent of methane their operations release within three years, and 99 percent within five.

That means small energy producers operating on Navajo tribal lands have to meet the same target as ExxonMobil’s $5.6 billion operation in Lea County. That doesn’t make sense — especially considering firms of all sizes already recapture methane.

After all, methane is a major component of natural gas. Recaptured emissions can be converted into valuable energy and sold to consumers. Firms don’t need regulations to tell them that.

That’s why America’s leading oil and gas companies formed the Environmental Partnership to share best practices on reducing leakage and waste. Thanks in part to industry-led efforts like this, methane emissions from natural gas dropped 14 percent between 1990 and 2017, even as natural gas production increased by more than 50 percent.

The Methane Waste Prevention Act does nothing to bolster these efforts. Its bevy of regulations could actually make it harder for the industry to continue its successful methane reduction strategies.

These new regulations would also raise costs on energy firms. For instance, increasing the mandatory comment period that accompanies applications for new oil and gas operations would cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars in compliance costs each year. That could put many small firms out of business. One report found that a proposal like this could lead to the closure of up to 40 percent of wells on tribal and federal lands.

Such closures would be devastating for our state. In 2017, the energy industry funneled over $820 million to New Mexico public schools and over $240 million to state colleges and universities. All told, revenue from oil and gas firms makes up over 14 percent of the state economy and supports more than 100,000 jobs.

If New Mexican oil and gas operations shut down, our state will lose this crucial revenue source. Just a 1 percent decline in royalty payments from these firms would cut millions of dollars in revenue the state could spend on schools, roads, and health care.

Undermining New Mexico’s energy industry would also compromise national security. Our state’s energy-rich Permian Basin plays a major part in making the United States the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. Our domestic energy supply has reduced our reliance on oil from Russia, Venezuela, and hostile nations in the Middle East.

The Methane Waste Prevention Act would compromise this progress, and force us import energy from hostile nations. It would also increase global methane emissions, since oil-rich countries around the world have subpar environmental regulations.

Domestic energy production supports New Mexico’s economy, keeps America safe, and protects the environment. The Methane Waste Prevention Act would compromise all three. If Congress wants to reduce methane emissions, they need to find a better plan.

Paul Gessing is president of the Rio Grande Foundation.

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Tipping Point NM Episode 158: Labor Law Rankings by State and United States Mexico-Canada Agreement

The following “News of the Week” discussion was released right before the Christmas Holiday. We will release our next episode of Tipping Point NM on Thursday, January 2nd.

In their Merit Shop Scorecard, the Associated Builders and Contractors ranks states on their labor laws and other ways in which the construction market is based on merit as opposed to political favoritism. How did New Mexico fare? Paul gives an update on issues related to energy from his recent trip to Farmington. Paul and Wally explore how New Mexico may benefit from the United States Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement.

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KRWG Radio interview: Previewing the 2020 New Mexico Legislature

After a disastrous 2019 session for economic liberty in New Mexico, the Legislature will convene in January for the 2020 Legislative Session. There are a lot of issues to be discussed and even some good potential reforms for New Mexico’s economy (like gross receipts tax reform and pension reform). Of course, there is a lot of money available as well and plenty of ambitious plans for bigger government and more wasteful spending.

Check out Paul’s interview with KRWG radio in Las Cruces here.

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Radio interview: talking education in New Mexico

The Rio Grande Foundation regularly appears in a variety of news and discussion forums. One venue that we have recently been sharing our message with is KNKT Radio 107.1 FM in Albuquerque. You can find out more  about the station here. 

Jim Williams is the host of ABQ Connect, the show on which we typically appear. Recently Paul sat down with Jim to discuss education in New Mexico and more broadly the United States. Does the system really make sense as it exists now? What incentives and disincentives are inherent in the system that make it more or less successful? How much money is really spent and will “free” college really do what the Governor and others are hoping?

Listen to the full show here.




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Tipping Point NM Episode 157 Patrick Brenner – Public Records Laws and Year End Giving

On this week’s interview, Paul talks to Patrick Brenner. Patrick is Director of Giving with the Foundation, so they talk a bit about end of year opportunities to support the Foundation and its work in New Mexico. Of course, at a small organization like RGF, Patrick wears more than one hat and Patrick has personal experience working with New Mexico’s public records laws both independently and with the Foundation. Paul and Patrick discuss these and many other issues in the final interview episode of 2019.

Donate Now!

Did you know that the Rio Grande Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and contributions you make are tax-deductible for income, gift and estate taxes?

That means we can help with your end-of-year tax planning!

As we near the end of the year, we’re especially grateful to our friends that support our work. However you give, the Foundation is indebted to you. We are indebted to you.

Between now and December 31st, make sure you get those last-minute donations out the door to support your favorite free-market think tank.

Moving into 2020, if you’d like to support the Foundation through smaller, recurring gifts, we can accommodate that, too!

We’re also a beneficiary of the AmazonSmile program. If you’re planning some last minute holiday shopping through Amazon, make sure you specify the Rio Grande Foundation as the beneficiary of your purchase without adding any additional cost. Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase to the Rio Grande Foundation.



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New Mexico rises to 34th in Merit Shop Scorecard, still trails neighbors

In their Merit Shop Scorecard the Associated Builders and Contractors ranks states on their labor laws and other ways in which the construction market is based on merit as opposed to political favoritism.

New Mexico remains hobbled by lack of a “Right to Work” law and the lack of public-private partnerships, but workforce development and job growth have helped New Mexico get out of the bottom of the Index. The State continues to trail behind ALL of its faster-growing neighbors like Arizona, Texas, and Utah.

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