Errors of Enchantment

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Opinion piece: State should stop hoarding taxpayer dollars

06.19.2024

The following appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican (and other media outlets).

Occasionally, the evening news reports on people keeping more animals than they can handle. Other times, children of deceased parents are astonished by how much “stuff” their parents or grandparents hang on to only to leave piles of unwanted things to be thrown out.

The state of New Mexico is a hoarder. It hoards cash. One might think this is a good thing because, after all, isn’t keeping cash for a “rainy day” (such as a downturn in oil and gas) a good thing?

Not really. Government is not an individual. People work and save for a future when we cannot work anymore. Government “lives” forever, and massive pots of money under government control do not serve the interests of its citizens.

In fact, basic metrics associated with New Mexico have failed to improve after a decadelong oil and gas revenue boom that has largely fueled government spending and “saving.”

  • New Mexicans suffer the third highest poverty rate among U.S. states.
  • Our crime rate is among the very highest in the nation while our education outcomes are among the very worst.
  • New Mexico remains mired in 50th (last place) in the Kids Count index.
  • There are zero Fortune 500 companies headquartered in New Mexico.
  • Our basic infrastructure (including roads like Interstate 40) is deteriorating.
  • New Mexico’s population is aging fast while overall population growth is the slowest in the American West.

At the beginning of 2024, New Mexico’s various permanent funds managed by the State Investment Council were valued at a whopping $50 billion. That is the third-largest fund among U.S. states and among the largest in the world. Thanks to its arcane capital outlay process, the state has an additional $4.5 billion sitting unspent in various capital outlay accounts.

And, of course, the last two years, New Mexico has had $3.5 billion annual budget surpluses. The oil and gas boom generating those surpluses shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it was just announced that oil and gas brought in a mind-blowing $15.2 billion in fiscal year 2023 alone.

Rather than hoarding cash, New Mexico should return a bulk of the money to its people and businesses in the form of significant reductions to gross receipts and personal income taxes while corporate, capital gains and Social Security taxes could all be eliminated with ease. Government programs have failed to solve our social ills. It is time for a different approach.

Even “blue-state” Hawaii just embraced bold tax reforms by dramatically reducing income tax burdens in the Aloha State. If Hawaii’s Democrats (operating without the benefit of oil and gas revenues) can embark upon serious tax reform, New Mexico certainly can when blessed by a massive oil and gas bounty.

In recent years, New Mexico has spent amply and even tapped into its permanent funds to address the state’s serious issues through new spending. That has failed miserably. The Legislative Finance Committee has stated that the $10 billion spent annually on welfare programs to fight poverty has not moved the needle.

The size of New Mexico’s surplus this coming year is unknown, but it will be large, even as state spending continues to rise rapidly. New Mexico should stop hoarding our money and instead return it to the people of New Mexico.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization.

MLG Environment Secretary: flying in comfort (and against state rules) to Australia

06.18.2024

Recently Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Environment Department Secretary James Kenney traveled to Australia with other members of the Administration. The trip, taken at taxpayer expense, wound up costing New Mexicans $15,000 (instead of $2,000) because the Secretary wanted to fly Business Class. This was a violation of New Mexico’s rules according to the Auditor’s office (check out the story from KOAT 7 here).

RGF’s president was asked to comment and discussed both the financial aspect of the trip as well as the fact that MLG is possibly the most anti-traditional energy Gov. in New Mexico history and yet neither Zoom nor even an economy class ticket were deemed adequate. As is typically the case MLG and her “green” agenda only apply to average New Mexicans, not herself and her own staff.

Celebrating 100 year of oil and gas in New Mexico

06.17.2024

You may not hear about it from Gov. or liberal media outlets, but 100 years ago was arguably the most important economic event in modern New Mexico history: discovery of oil. One can argue that the creation of Los Alamos/the Atomic bomb and the military-industrial complex in New Mexico trumps oil and gas, but they are neck and neck.

Anyway, this weekend in Artesia they are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of oil and gas in Eddy County in the Permian Basin. Energy expert Alex Epstein is speaking and it seems like a fantastic event. Check it out if you are anywhere near Artesia on Saturday.

Oil and gas not only generate much of New Mexico’s budget, but they provide the US energy security and affordability that are simply not available in many areas of the world. If our politicians supported the role of energy in making America a great nation and used the money to improve life for New Mexicans we’d all be better off. Happy 100 oil and gas! We believe the industry has at least another 100 years here in New Mexico.

ACCOilGas100YearsCentennial 2024 Web Header

Pew: New Mexico population growth slowest in the Western US

06.14.2024

The Pew Center on the States does great work tracking American patterns of population growth. Their most recent report is worth a close look for New Mexicans and elected officials in the state.

You can see from the map below that New Mexico’s low population rate since 2008 lags the nation as a whole.

What is truly stunning, however, is that New Mexico actually lags every state West of Kansas in population growth over the 15 year time span considered.

Perhaps the scariest thing Pew considers is their projection that by 2040 New Mexico is expected to see a net population decline. New Mexico is not the only state projected to begin losing population by 2040, but we ARE the only state West of the Mississippi projected to do that. Of course, the future is not set in stone. New Mexico COULD use its oil and gas wealth to bring long-overdue policy changes to the State. But, we need change in the Legislature to make it happen.

New Mexico’s amazing oil/gas boom continues

06.13.2024

According to the latest data from the Legislative Finance Committee (discussed in the Albuquerque Journal) New Mexico piled up an astonishing $15.2 billion in oil and gas tax revenues in FY 2023.

Here are a few details:

Oil and gas revenue to New Mexico has more than quadrupled over the past five years, according to the LFC.

In a bit of good news, the LFC has even acknowledged that “New Mexico could still reap gains from high oil production for nearly a decade.” Some analysts have predicted imminent shortfalls.

Sadly, the same economic ignorance among policymakers and analysts DOES continue when the topic turns to potential uses of the massive windfall. When analysts claim that,  “(The windfall) makes it difficult to grow more independent from the volatile oil and gas industry” that highlights a serious lack of vision. New Mexico shouldn’t be this dependent on oil and gas forever because the revenue available should be used to lower taxes and bring new businesses and industries to New Mexico.

Of course, such thinking requires common sense and logic (both of which are in short supply in Santa Fe these days) so we continue to pile more money into a combination of government “permanent” funds, corporate welfare, and new spending (none of which do much for the state economy).

 

Another year, another 50th place for NM in Kids Count

06.13.2024

The latest Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation is in and (yet again) New Mexico remains dead last. As we noted last year, the partner organization in New Mexico which publishes the report Voices for Children, continues to back away from their own report because it only highlights the failure of “progressive” economic and education policies in New Mexico. Voices has one paltry quote in the Albuquerque Journal regarding their report and even THAT quote is an obvious attempt to cast doubt on the findings.

“Even though the results aren’t showing up this year or next year, we have a lot of faith that they will show up over the long term. So we should not be discouraged.”

Other advocates argue (without merit) that New Mexico’s “economic reality” prevents the State from performing well in the report. But, even with New Mexico’s massive oil and gas surplus and rapidly-growing spending the State has continued to struggle. The model of economic reform (lower taxes, deregulation, education reform) advocated by Rio Grande Foundation has sadly NOT been attempted in “blue” New Mexico.

In this year’s report New Mexico improved on 7 metrics and declined on 7 metrics. Yet again, New Mexico ranks dead last in education.

 

Electric buses yet another waste of money

06.11.2024

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-Radical environmental groups) is back at it. His latest “accomplishment” is bringing $6.9 million in federal dollars to purchase 20 new electric school buses for Albuquerque’s Public Schools (see embedded tweet below). Quick math tells us that these buses cost at least $345,000 each while a quick Internet search found that a diesel version of the same bus can be purchased for about $100,000. 

We don’t know what the additional chargers and other potential facilities will be needed for the new EV buses, but we DO know that numerous districts that have received these subsidized buses have had serious problems from manufacturing defects to poor performance in cold weather to “a lot of downtime.”

While Heinrich’s desire to “electrify” everything truly knows no bounds it is amusing that several “studies” purport to show that diesel buses cause issues for children. One would think that with generations of American kids having ridden diesel buses that finding a control group would be rather easy. Also, if there really ARE problems, perhaps something ought to be done to address diesel fumes rather than embarking upon a foolhardy switch to an inferior technology. But, we already know the Biden/Heinrich EV bus craze is about politics, not the environment and certainly not our kids’ health.

More evidence of negative impact of MLG’s COVID lockdowns

06.10.2024

According to a new report (details from KRQE Channel 13) children across the United States face serious developmental challenges thanks to COVID lockdowns. As a reminder, New Mexico had some of the harshest and longest lockdowns of any US state. These lockdowns failed to achieve any positive

As KRQE reports:

The survey by Education Week showed 94 percent of teachers of young children say their students have a challenging or much more challenging time listening and following instructions. Eighty-five percent said their kids are struggling more with sharing and cooperating with their peers.

In terms of fine motor skills, 77 percent of educators found young students are having greater difficulties handling pencils, pens and scissors, while 69 percent saw their charges struggling to tie their shoes at higher rates than five years ago.

Critics of MLG’s lockdowns said as much at the time. We AT LEAST would’ve liked to see some legislative debate on the impacts of COVID lockdowns, but MLG took it upon herself to dictate policies and her Democratic flunkies in the Legislature have been unwilling to restore a seat at the table for themselves.

And, while the recent crime spree in Albuquerque  undertaken by an 11 year old undoubtedly has numerous causes, this kid was undoubtedly impacted by COVID. The left which tries to blame everything BUT the perp when it comes to crime simply won’t call out COVID lockdowns as having negative impacts on our children.

Impoverished New Mexico invests millions overseas

06.10.2024

According to the Census Bureau New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the nation.

It has zero Fortune 500 companies headquartered within the state. Oil and gas are responsible for about 15% of the State’s economy (GDP).

But, recently, New Mexico’s State Investment Council(SIC) announced  $550 million in investments, much of which will be invested in Europe. The SIC recently announced that IT is having trouble investing all the money available to it due to the flood of oil and gas revenues.

New Mexico has both massive general fund surpluses AND massive “permanent funds” which are outlined in the New Mexico Constitution and provide additional money to public schools and the like. Simple policy decisions made in Santa Fe could reduce/eliminate taxes on citizens and businesses alike, address New Mexico’s flagging education outcomes, improve roads, reduce crime, and more. Sadly, this is not happening.

The money is being spent (often wasted) by government or being held onto by government in the form of future “investments.” New Mexico government is being flooded with cash but you would have no idea if you lived here or visited from another, better-run state.

Op-ed: New Mexico Betting on Losers

06.09.2024

The following opinion piece appeared at KRWG and in several other publications.

Left, right, or center, economists tend to agree that “corporate welfare” is not good public policy or good economics. A recent Rasmussen poll found that approximately 65% of Americans (regardless or political philosophy or affiliation) oppose corporate welfare. Definitions of what constitutes such “welfare” vary, but generally relate to policies that involve politicians picking winners and losers in the economy.

Sadly, New Mexico has a long history of picking “losers” and one of those losers appears to be in its death throes. Specifically, New Mexicans have spent hundreds-of-millions to construct, expand, staff, and maintain Spaceport America in Southern New Mexico.

While the facility has been used for other space-related purposes, it was expressly built to house Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic for its space tourism business. Few examples of corporate welfare in American history have been more speculative. Sadly, after having been open for nearly 15 years and with just a handful of space tourism launches under its belt, Virgin Galactic laid off 185 workers and ceased tourism launches in November of 2023 pending development of a new fleet of vehicles that will (hopefully) help the company turn a profit.

Wall Street is not optimistic about the company’s prospects and the share price (SPCE) which at one time hit the $60 mark per share has plummeted to below $1 per share. An extended period at below $1 could get Virgin Galactic’s stock delisted. In the absence of Virgin Galactic at the facility Spaceport America takes on all the trappings of a costly “white elephant” in the New Mexico desert.

Sadly, there is not much that can be done regarding the “world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.” Viable uses for the facility which (by design) is far from New Mexico’s population centers are limited.

While this is an example of past corporate welfare gone bust, it is not alone. Under then-Gov. Bill Richardson New Mexico spent $100 million on Eclipse Aviation only to see it go bankrupt. New Mexicans must work to prevent future losses from future corporate welfare schemes.

The next big “loser” in the making is Maxeon Solar. The Singapore-based solar cell manufacturing company is in line to receive a mind-blowing $2.4 billion industrial revenue bond and $20 million in LEDA funding for the facility (courtesy of New Mexico taxpayers). This is in addition to myriad federal subsidies and state/local mandates that favor the solar industry.

Even with Joe Biden in the White House shoveling billions of dollars at the “renewable” industry, Maxeon Solar’s stock price (MAXN) has plummeted. In early 2021 the company touted a stock price of nearly $58 per share. Maxeon’s share price as of early May 2024 is about $2.00.

It is hard to imagine the “renewable energy” gravy train getting any more generous in a second Biden term and it will likely be reduced if Donald Trump makes it back to the White House. Is New Mexico setting itself up for yet another costly corporate welfare failure? It certainly seems like it.

Sadly, corporate welfare is attractive to politicians of both parties. But in Democrat-dominated New Mexico it seems that Democrats will not call their own out on these unpopular giveaways. Recently, the New Mexico Environment Department announced it was giving United Parcel Service (UPS) nearly $500,000 for the company to buy “clean” delivery trucks.

UPS is one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies. They can certainly afford to buy their own delivery trucks without the help of New Mexico’s taxpayers. Sadly, our politicians are busy spending our money on their priorities rather than working to improve our State.

New Mexico is the third-poorest state in the Union. Our politicians’ propensity to support corporations with our money (instead of returning it to us and improving our state’s business climate) is one of many reasons for this. Only the voters can force change in New Mexico that brings wealth and prosperity.

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

Corey DeAngelis Is Heading to Alamogordo for school choice event/book signing

06.06.2024

School choice is sweeping the nation. Arguably the most prominent national spokesperson and expert on allowing education dollars to follow students is Corey DeAngelis.

DeAngelis has a new book, The Parent Revolution: Rescuing Your Kids from the Radicals Ruining Our Schools.

Better still, Corey DeAngelis is coming to Alamogordo. The Rio Grande Foundation and its education project Opportunity for All Kids NM is hosting a talk and book signing on the evening of Monday, June 17.

Corey DeAngelis
Monday, June 17
6PM-7:30PM
Flickenger Center for Performing Arts

Reserve your seat today. Boxed meals are available for sale ahead of the event, and Corey’s books are available for purchase online and on-site. New Mexico is in desperate need of education reform and school choice. Find out what is and what needs to happen in Alamogordo and New Mexico at this important event.

Author and school choice evangelist Corey DeAngelis to speak at Albuquerque event June 17!

06.06.2024

School choice is sweeping the nation. Arguably the most prominent national spokesperson and expert on allowing education dollars to follow students is Corey DeAngelis.

DeAngelis has a new book, The Parent Revolution: Rescuing Your Kids from the Radicals Ruining Our Schools.

 

The Rio Grande Foundation and its education project Opportunity for All Kids NM is hosting a talk and book signing on Monday, June 17.

Corey DeAngelis
Monday, June 17
12PM-1PM
Greater Association of Albuquerque Realtors (GAAR)

Reserve your seat today. Boxed meals are available for pre-sale, and Corey’s books are available for purchase online and on-site. New Mexico is in desperate need of education reform and school choice. Find out what is and what needs to happen in Alamogordo and New Mexico at this important event.

Another rough night for sanity in NM’s Legislature

06.06.2024

For nearly a decade and for MANY reasons, New Mexico’s Legislature has moved considerably to the political left. New Mexico has been controlled by Democrats since 1930 and there has NEVER been a “conservative” majority over that time period. In fact, there has only been one Democrat that I’d even consider an economic “conservative” in my 18 years at Rio Grande Foundation.

So, with 10 moderate Democrats having opposed paid family leave in 2024 and Gov. Lujan Grisham and a host of “progressives” coming after them, voters decided to move the Legislature even further left.

As Marjorie Childress at NM Indepth writes, “Four of the 11 Democratic state representatives who voted against the Paid Family and Medical Leave act this year — Anthony Allison, Ambrose Castellano, Harry Garcia, Willie Madrid — won’t be returning to the Legislature, with the winners of their seats in the primary election all endorsed by progressive organizations.

The losses of those moderates (under no circumstances are they economically “conservative”) includes further losses for moderates like former Sen. Clemente Sanchez to a “progressive.” Further losses include heterodox senators Daniel Ivey-Soto and Bill O’Neill. Neither of these men would be considered anything but “progressives,” but they sometimes bucked the establishment in their party which was enough for them to be targeted.

So, based on these results (and unless the GOP eats into Democrat majorities in November) New Mexicans (thanks to Democrat voters and various well-funded left-wing candidates) New Mexico’s Legislature will be even FURTHER to the left next year than it already is.

A look at MLG’s remarks on economy/education/crime at NAIOP

06.03.2024

The Gov. recently spoke to a business group (NAIOP) luncheon. You can find an article from the Santa Fe New Mexican discussing her remarks.

For starters, MLG LOVES to tout all the things New Mexico government is doing. She LOVES to take the credit even if the oil and gas industry is what is supplying the financial largesse. She doesn’t like to discuss the fact that all of her priorities are the result of oil and gas money. Sadly, MLG reiterates the “New Mexico is poor” canard. The people are poor, but the state has plenty of money.

The Sun Zia line is a fascinating item. The power lines are designed to transport NM produced wind to Arizona and California. There will certainly be construction jobs created, but the idea that this is some kind of win for New Mexico’s economy is half-baked at best.

New Mexico’s education system is indeed terrible, but MLG has completely refused to own up to her serious mistakes during COVID (like keeping schools closed for over a year). Nothing she is doing now will have major positive impacts on education outcomes, that’s why she transitions the discussion to “free college.”

The Gov. discusses the need for housing and (to her credit) even mentions permitting and zoning issues, but offers no specifics. What she fails to address is how her own policies are raising housing costs.

Finally, MLG addresses crime. To date she has done nothing to address crime, but has attempted a well-documented gun grab. We’ll see what her agenda looks like for the special session in July. She seems to be talking about some reasonable ideas, but we won’t know until we see the particulars (and whether “progressives” in the Legislature will go for them).

The Gov. SHOULD be talking about serious tax reforms like shifting the GRT to a sales tax and reducing rates, reducing income taxes, eliminating Social Security taxes and taxes on military pensions. She SHOULD be embracing school choice AND Mississippi-style education reforms. Sadly, she won’t do any of those things.

 

RGF op-ed 40% threshold is reasonable and cost-effective

06.03.2024

The following appeared in the ABQ Journal on June 2nd, 2024.

A proposal now moving through Albuquerque City Council put forward by councilors Dan Lewis and Klarissa Peña would, if adopted Monday, put a measure on the ballot allowing voters to decide whether to revamp the procedures for electing candidates in the city.

Instead of an outright majority, candidates for city offices would simply need to get above 40%.

The idea is to eliminate most of the special elections we’ve seen in recent years where candidates don’t get an outright majority in a three or even four-way race. Those runoffs are expensive with a recent runoff election in a single council seat costing $750,000.

A May 15 Journal article by Democrat Sen. Katie Duhigg attacks the idea as “anti-democratic,” but it is hard to see why. Rather, it seems like liberals and their aligned groups simply want to preserve their own political power and not have another RJ Berry election (see below).

Runoff elections achieve much lower overall vote totals than do regular elections. For example, in the District 6’s 2023 general election the results were:

Nichole Rogers: 2,974 votes

Jeff Hoehn: 2,400 votes

Kristin Greene: 1,329 votes

Abel Otero: 706 votes, even though he’d dropped out of the race

Total votes cast: 7,409

In the runoff Rogers received 2,416 votes and Hoehn received 2,209 for a total of 4,629 votes cast.

So, there were just over 60% of the votes cast in the runoff relative to the general. Rogers achieved 40% in the initial round of voting anyway. So, by eliminating the runoff election, in this case, you’d wind up with a candidate that receives a larger number of votes. That is the epitome of “democracy.”

And the cost to taxpayers for the additional round of voting was three-quarters of a million dollars. Those are dollars that could be used for other city priorities or returned to Albuquerque taxpayers.

Strangely, but not surprisingly, Duhigg and the “progressive” Democrats prefer the current system since it maximizes their power. That’s because in local politics there are many strands of Democrats from moderates to left-wing “progressives.”

The current system allows the various factions of the local Democratic Party to battle for power — on the taxpayers’ dime.

Duhigg does correctly note that RJ Berry, a Republican, won his first election, 2009, without hitting 50% in his first election in a three-way race — his win spurred Democrats to change the system.

Of course, Berry won reelection with more than 68% of the vote, which Duhigg fails to mention. While Berry’s record as mayor is in retrospect tarnished by police misconduct and his ill-advised ART bus system, Berry’s win with less than 50% of the vote only caused problems for Democrats annoyed that a Republican won the mayor’s race.

The proposal is P-24-1 and is being voted on at Monday’s City Council meeting. If it passes voters will have the final say.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

New Mexico Maxeon deal a mess even before ground broken

05.31.2024

Back in mid-April in this space I wrote about the solar company Maxeon which is receiving massive subsidies from both the Biden Administration and New Mexico taxpayers and how the company’s stock price had been plummeting. Maxeon stock has continued its downward trajectory. Its 52-week high was $32.58 per share, and its 52-week low was $1.71 per share. The company’s stock was trading at $2.02 on Thursday.

There have been numerous other developments with the company that is set to receive $600 million in government incentives. According to the ABQ Journal, China has recently decided to invest $200 million in the company. Remember, the Biden Administration JUST placed 50% tariffs on Chinese solar panels. Also, according to the article, “Maxeon earlier this month announced it received a noncompliance notice from Nasdaq for delaying the release of its annual report. This week, two shareholder rights law firms announced they were investigating the company for potential violations of federal securities laws.”

Is Maxeon the next Solyndra? At Rio Grande Foundation we believe that businesses should rise and fall on their own merits, not subsidies and mandates (in this case from both the federal government and New Mexico). And, while Maxeon and solar MAY be Joe Biden’s “baby,” is there any reason to believe that their likelihood of success will rise under a prospective Trump Administration?

Rather than pouring money into failing businesses New Mexico should be returning those tax dollars to New Mexicans and New Mexico businesses in the form of tax cuts.

Tipping Point NM episode 610: Good News/Bad News on Jobs, Proposal to Shift Vote Threshold in Albuquerque to 40%, $1.4 Billion Albuquerque Budget and more

05.30.2024

Virgin Galactic battling to maintain stock listing

05.30.2024

Are we nearing the end for Virgin Galactic (the company for which New Mexico taxpayers built and maintain Spaceport America). The brainchild of then Gov. Bill Richardson and costing NM taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, the Spaceport was “purpose built” to host Virgin Galactic’s space tourism operations.

Now, according to The Telegraph UK

On Wednesday night it said it had received a notice from the New York Stock Exchange that its shares had traded at an average price below $1 – the Wall Street minimum – for 30 days, putting it in potential breach of listing rules.

It means Virgin Galactic is at risk of being kicked off the New York Stock Exchange unless it can boost its share price.

The company last month asked shareholders to approve a “reverse stock split”, in which shares are merged to increase the value of each individual unit. Investors will decide whether to approve the measure at the company’s annual meeting in June.

RGF recently highlighted the fact that New Mexico’s elected officials continue to spend our tax dollars funding losers

 

RGF applauds ABQ Journal for indepth reporting (but we have ideas)

05.29.2024

The Albuquerque Journal should be commended for its in-depth series on abandoned oil and gas wells throughout New Mexico. This kind of journalism is a dying breed. The bad players past and present in oil and gas need to be held to account, but if plugging and remediating these wells (some of which have been around for decades) is a priority for the State, the industry has generated plenty of money to address the issue.

According to the article there are 1,600 wells that need to be plugged in New Mexico. The total cost of plugging all the wells that need to be plugged is $240 million. That’s a lot of money, but the industry has paid taxes for decades to pay for remediation and restoration of the land. Of course, for the past two years oil and gas has generated surpluses of $3.5 billion. And the industry paid a total of $13.9 billion in taxes in FY 2023 alone. 

So, we applaud the Journal, but we think there are even more pressing needs for in-depth journalism. Here are a few:

  1. Why are New Mexicans so poor when they have so much natural wealth around them?
  2. Why is New Mexico’s education system an unmitigated disaster despite massive infusions of funding? Are there real solutions?
  3. What would it actually take to successfully achieve MLG’s EV mandate? How many chargers? How much electricity? What will the added weight of EV’s do to the roads?
  4. How much is the “Energy Transition” really going to cost (including subsidies) and will “renewable” replacements be able to keep the lights on? What are the environmental impacts of those “renewables?”
  5. How does the gross receipts tax impact New Mexico businesses and those that might locate here?
  6. What could be done with the billions in oil and gas money tied up in numerous government funds? How could those funds be used to bring prosperity to New Mexico?
  7. Why does New Mexico perform so poorly on nearly all social and economic measures relative to our neighbors?

What questions do YOU wish New Mexico media outlets would explore? Email us at: info@riograndefoundation.org

Why Should Leaders Ask Questions? - Bob Tiede

Biden Administration considering regulations to impose higher home costs

05.28.2024

Housing costs have risen dramatically since Joe Biden became president. The monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home has more than doubled, from $979 to $2,075. Now, it appears that the Biden Administration (and his allies like Sen. Martin Heinrich) may be pushing for even further price hikes.

According to this article from ClimateWire:

“The Biden administration is considering a new federal mandate that would require millions of newly built homes to have efficient heating and cooling systems, in a policy shift that could transform the nation’s housing market.

The administration has said it will decide within weeks whether to require a large number of homes to be built according to the latest international standards for energy efficiency.”

This is nothing new for so-called “progressives” like Biden and New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham. In fact, earlier this year Lujan Grisham imposed new regulations which will increase the cost of housing.

You can bet that Heinrich whose number one priority is “electrifying” our economy is in the background cheerleading for the Biden Administration’s latest economically-destructive policy.

8,200 New Mexico Home Stock Photos, High-Res Pictures, and Images - Getty  Images | New mexico house, Southwest yard

Food stamp reform one step toward boosting workforce participation?

05.28.2024

At Rio Grande Foundation we talk about New Mexico’s abysmal workforce participation rate regularly. The Legislative Finance Committee has also addressed the issue with some regularity and has touted increasing participation as helping reduce crime, increase economic growth and productivity and drive expanded tax revenues while lowering expenditures on supplemental income programs and other kinds of government assistance.

The problem is that reducing government benefits is tough. It’s certainly not the kind of policy Rep. Melanie Stansbury would support:

But, as a new report from the Economic Policy Innovation Center notes, a majority of able-bodied food stamp (SNAP) recipients don’t work. 

Furthermore, just under half of all recipients remain on the program for more than 20 months.

It is one thing to go on food stamps if you cannot work or as a temporary stopgap between jobs. But most Americans and New Mexicans don’t want food stamps to be a way of life. Unfortunately, food stamps and other so-called anti-poverty programs seem to be preferable to work for many.

Tipping Point New Mexico episode 609: Update from Gallup with Sammy Chioda

05.24.2024

On this week’s Tipping Point interview Paul talks to Sammy Chioda. Sammy is a leader of the Gallup community. He owns a fantastic sports bar (Sammy C’s Rock N’ Sports Pub & Grille) with one of the largest memorabilia collections in America. Paul and Sammy discuss the challenges he has in finding workers, the hard-hit area’s recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic, deteriorating road conditions on I-40 and more.

Good news/bad news on jobs for New Mexico

05.24.2024

Our friends at the Center to Unleash Prosperity have put together this excellent chart (below). It shows whether states have increased/decreased/stayed constant (those at 1) in terms of jobs since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic in March of 2020.

The good news for New Mexico is that after lagging badly on jobs during much of the pandemic and recovery New Mexico has more jobs today than it did in February of 2020. It is also right in the middle when it comes to jobs created over that time frame.

The bad news is that New Mexico’s middling result comes as the State is benefitting from a massive boom in oil and gas. This boom is happening only in New Mexico, not its neighbors. Yet, New Mexico lags behind ALL of its neighbors. Here are the rankings:

Utah: 2nd
Texas 3rd
Arizona 6th
Colorado 12th
Oklahoma 16th
New Mexico 25th

Generally speaking “red” states (those controlled by the GOP) continue to outpace “blue” ones. Colorado outpaces all of the other “Democrat trifecta” states (including NM).

New Mexico SHOULD be close to leading the nation in job growth considering its favorable geography and weather. Unfortunately its political leadership is unwilling and unable to use the unique opportunity created by the oil and gas boom.

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Altering city vote thresh hold to 40% sensible

05.23.2024

A proposal now moving through Albuquerque City Council put forward by Councilors Dan Lewis and Klarissa Peña would put a measure on the ballot allowing voters to decide whether to revamp the procedures for electing candidates in the City. Instead of an outright majority, candidates for city offices would simply need to get above 40%. This would eliminate MOST of the special elections we’ve seen in recent years where candidates don’t get an outright majority in a 3 or even 4 way race. Those runoffs are expensive with a recent runoff election in a single Council seat costing $750,000.

A recent article by Democrat Sen. Katie Duhigg attacks the idea as “anti-democratic,” but it is hard to see why. Rather, it seems like liberals and their aligned groups simply want to preserve their own political power and not have another RJ Berry election (see below).

Generally speaking, runoff elections achieve much lower overall vote totals than do regular elections. For example, in the District 6 2023 general election the results were as follow:

Nichole Rogers: 2,974 votes,
Jeff Hoehn 2,400 votes
Kristin Greene 1,329 votes
Abel Otero 706 votes (even though he’d dropped out of the race)

Total votes cast: 7,409

In the runoff Rogers received 2,416 votes and Hoehn received 2,209 for a total of 4,629 votes cast. So, there were just over 60% of the votes cast in the runoff relative to the General. Rogers achieved 40% in the initial round of voting anyway. And, the cost to taxpayers was 3/4ths of a million dollars.

Strangely, but not surprisingly, Duhigg and the “progressive” Democrats prefer the current system since it maximizes their power. Duhigg even claims that the plan is some kind of attack on “democracy.” She correctly notes that RJ Berry (a Republican) won without hitting 50% in his first election in a three-way race (his win spurred Democrats to change the system). Of course, Berry won reelection with more than 68% of the vote which Duhigg fails to mention. Clearly, while Berry’s record is tarnished now by police misconduct and his ill-advised ART bus system, Berry’s win with less than 50% of the vote only caused “problems” for Democrats annoyed that a Republican won the Mayor’s race.

The proposal is P-24-1 and is being voted on at the June 3, 2024 City Council meeting. You can contact council here.