Larry Craig, Bill Richardson, and the “Libertarian West”

No, Richardson is not accused of any of the antics of Larry Craig…but I found this article over at Reason interesting in its use of Craig and Richardson as foils for very different visions of the relatively libertarian interior West stands for.
As the author points out, these differing perspectives are much better played out and against each other in a genuinely-federalist government (as the Founders intended) where as many decisions as possible are made at the state level than in Washington.

Rio Grande Foundation President Weighs in on Misleading Column in ABQ Journal

A few weeks ago I blogged a Washington Post story on the supposed trend of voters in Western states moving from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. In a recent column for the Albuquerque Journal, recently added columnist Ned Farquhar made the same point and cited Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights as an important reason for Colorado’s shift from red to blue.
Unfortunately, Farquhar ascribes too much credit to the Republican Party for its role in adopting TABOR in Colorado and he completely fails to account for the fact that Governor Owens led the charge on behalf of weakening the spending limit in 2005. As I point out in a letter to the editor responding to Farquhar’s column that appeared in today’s Albuquerque Journal, it was not Republicans’ “rigid ideology” that cost them votes. Perhaps it was the other way around?
Text of the letter appears below:
I ENJOYED reading Ned Farquhar’s commentary outlining why he believes the Republican Party is losing the West, but many of his facts are simply wrong and in other cases he ascribes trend status to mere political fluctuations.
His focus on Colorado is particularly telling. He argues that Republicans “painted themselves into an ideological corner” and cites that state’s spending limit known as the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. What he fails to mention is that voters, not Republicans or Democrats, adopted the law in 1992.
And, while voters did suspend part of the law for five years starting in 2005, Colorado voters— unlike New Mexicans— have the final say on any and all tax increases at both the state and local level.
Specifically regarding the politics of the situation, his subsequent mention of then-Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, is interesting. Owens actually led the campaign on behalf of the referendum that ultimately suspended a portion of Colorado’s spending limit. The Republicans did indeed lose Colorado, but it was hardly the result of their supposedly rigid ideology.
Ultimately, elected officials should try to put political calculations aside to do what is best for their states. Cutting taxes and restraining government have been shown to work everywhere they’ve been tried. Western politicians have historically heeded this, and that is why our states are among the fastest-growing in the nation.
President, Rio Grande Foundation, Albuquerque

New Mexico Water

Very interesting article in the Journal today regarding the fact that the San Juan/Chama project may not be the panacea our friends at the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Authority may think due to the Colorado River’s propensity for drought conditions.
The report by the National Resources Council does bring up one interesting point about that I have been considering with regard to water in the West and that is the inherent conflict between agriculture and population growth. The report points out that 75 percent of water in the state of New Mexico is used for agriculture (I have heard as much as 90 percent). It seems to me that this situation could be resolved by creating an actual marketplace for water in which prices are set by the market as opposed to government fiat. Only when the economic benefits of agricultural usage are weighed against urban usage will water be allocated effectively.

West Going Democrats Direction?

According to most political analysts and this Washington Post article, western states including New Mexico are moving towards the Democratic Party. While this could help Governor Richardson in his bid for the nation’s top office, there are differening opinions as to why the west is turning blue. Author Ryan Sager has written a book called “Elephant in the Room” in which he makes the case that the Republican Party lost the west by turning their backs on limited government. No matter what is really happening, it is a trend that will be interesting to track. If the west indeed does turn blue, New Mexico may be considered a trendsetter as it has been blue (as far as state politics are concerned) for many years.