Errors of Enchantment

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RGF’s Freedom Index: results are in!

02.19.2024

Unlike other vote tracking organizations which come out months after the fact, the Rio Grande Foundation’s “Freedom Index” vote tracking tool is finalized and out now. You can find out how your legislators (and others) voted on critical issues of individual freedom.

Every vote relating to financial/economic freedom, education freedom, and your constitutional freedom was rated between -8 for an awful bill and +8 for a great bill and points were assigned in real time as votes occurred. This session there were 3 floor amendments included:

House votes on preserving 4 day school weeks, reducing the personal income tax rate to 1% were included and a Senate vote that would have indexed the Social Security tax to inflation.

Important bills included the paid family leave: SB 3/HB 6 and the “Clean Fuels Standard” HB 41.

Our House winners were: Rep. Candy Ezzell of Roswell followed by John Block of Alamogordo, and Randall Pettigrew of Hobbs.

Winners in the Senate were: Sen. David Gallegos of Hobbs and Greg Schmedes of Albuquerque’s East Mountains who tied followed by Greg Baca of Belen.

   

 

 

Seinfeld and the City of Albuquerque

02.19.2024

Rio Grande Foundation’s president and his wife attended Jerry Seinfeld’s standup comedy event on Friday, Feb. 16 in Albuquerque. While this would typically be nothing more than a fun date night (Seinfeld was great and totally worth seeing), like nearly everything these days, it is political with some relevant concerns relating to the City of Albuquerque.

  1. There were dozens of anti-Israel protesters. Seinfeld is Jewish and has expressed support for Israel, but he’s also a private citizen and decidedly NOT in charge of American foreign policy toward Israel. I can only imagine how differently the media would report on these protests if conservatives were protesting Jews or other groups.
  2. The protesters were blocking the ONLY entrance to the event (2nd street entrance to the Convention Center). Thankfully no serious altercations occurred, but this situation is completely unnecessary as the 3rd street entrance could have been used as an alternate entry point.
  3. Unrelated to the protestors specifically, it is clear the City is not equipped or at least used to hosting major events. The Civic Plaza Parking Garage uses machine payment mechanisms and there simply are not enough of them for a crowd the size of the one that attended Seinfeld. It took a VERY long time to get out of the parking garage (and we attempted to let the crowd thin out).

New Mexico’s moderate House Democrats to the rescue

02.15.2024

The 2024 legislative session was destined to be a challenging one for RGF and other supporters of limited government. And, while the New Mexico Legislature is as progressive as it has ever been and must be considered a failure for its lack of interest in addressing basic economic, crime, and education issues, this session may be remembered for the rise of rural, moderate House Democrats as a political check on the “progressives.”

The New Mexico Senate, on the other hand, acted much more as a “rubber stamp” for MLG’s policies. You can check the performance in both houses at our Freedom Index. 

Specifically on HB 41 Clean Fuel Standard which unfortunately passed and SB 3 Paid Family Leave, moderate Democrats pushed back against “progressive” overreach. The floor vote rebuffing the Gov.’s plan to force school districts to adopt 5 day school weeks was another vote that split House Democrats.  Several rural Democrats ALSO opposed HB 129, the 7-day waiting period on gun purchases.

Days vs hours: Behind the budget amendment bringing together Democrats and  Republicans - Source New Mexico

 

Business and Employee funded paid leave fails in narrow House vote

02.15.2024

In what can only be described as a massive victory for taxpayers and the New Mexico economy, paid family leave has failed once again in the New Mexico Legislature. This time, the bill failed on the House floor after having comfortably passed the Senate.

If adopted business and employees would have faced higher taxes and there would have been massive challenges in replacing workers who take leave. RGF argued against the plan focusing particularly on the need to not burden businesses at a time of a massive $3.5 billion surplus that COULD be used to fund such a program.

All Republicans opposed the bill and numerous Democrats did as well. You can see from our Freedom Index vote tracking tool that there is a significant ideological rift between moderate Democrats in the House and “progressives.”

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Taxes and spending in the 2024 session

02.15.2024

For details on the tax omnibus bill we rely on the Legislature’s fiscal impact report. Here is our breakdown of the bill that passed the Senate, has been concurred with by the House, and is on the Gov.’s desk:

In terms of government, the income tax reductions would reduce state revenue by approximately $159,000,000.  That’s a genuine tax cut.

Between the corporate and capital gains tax hikes there $77,000,000 million in tax hikes contained in the bill.

There are also about $140,000,000 worth of targeted tax credits in the bill (this is up dramatically from the $25,000,000 in the House-passed version. Sadly, most of the credits added by the Senate are poor public policy (like $45,000,000 million in EV subsidies, $25,000,000 for the “advanced energy” tax credit, and $20,000,000 for the “solar market development tax credit.”

Overall, the bill reduces taxes by about $82 million annually. That’s a paltry  2 percent of the $3.5 billion surplus returned to New Mexicans.

The final budget bumps spending by 6.8%. That’s $659,000,000 in new spending. That’s more than triple the amount allocated to tax reductions and credits and more than five times the amount dedicated to actual tax reduction (once tax hikes  are factored in).

Based on the “final” budget (pending potential vetoes), here is the spending growth we’ve seen since Gov. Lujan Grisham took office.

 

NM Senators go “on the record” on indexing Social Security Tax to inflation

02.14.2024

In the 2022 legislative session New Mexico dramatically reduced the number of people in the State that pay taxes on their Social Security. This improved upon the previous situation, but according to Money.com, “Only 10 states will still tax benefits: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.”

Completely eliminating the Social Security tax would be easy given the State’s $3.5 billion surplus, but with inflation having run rampant since 2022 it is only a matter of time before middle class New Mexico retirees will have to pay the tax.

Sadly, the Senate voted to reject an amendment offered by Sen. Cliff Pirtle (R-Roswell) that would have simply indexed New Mexico’s tax on Social Security to inflation. The following list is the vote on indexing Social Security taxes to inflation which is rated +6 for a Y vote in our Freedom Index (the vote was 20-15). All 15 Senate Republicans voted Yes. 20 Democrats voted “No.” 7 Democrats refused to vote. 

You can watch the floor debate and check the votes for yourself around the 3:50 mark of this video from Feb. 12. Unlike the House, the Senate simply records a roll call vote which we transcribed.

Senate adds EV and other “green” subsidies to tax package, House complies and sends to Gov.

02.14.2024

We recently broke down the House-passed tax omnibus package and its minor benefits for New Mexico taxpayers in the form of tax reduction along with tax hikes and various credits. Based on the entirety of the bill, we rated it a “zero” on our Freedom Index.

We didn’t have high expectations that the Senate would improve the bill and we were not disappointed. The Senate (sadly) added in the Gov.’s EV tax credit to further subsidize electric vehicle purchases (a subsidy of $50 million annually). Numerous other “green” tax credits were added into the legislation by the Senate.

Now, the Gov. has mandated EV’s and charging stations and pushed the Legislature to subsidize them.

Are Electric Vehicle Subsidies Efficient? – IEDM/MEI

Bills of concern still in flux as session hits home stretch

02.13.2024

New Mexico’s legislative session ends on Thursday at noon. Any bill not passed by both houses before then is considered dead for the session. Here are a few bad bills we’re watching:

SB 3 the Paid Family Leave bill which would raise taxes and make doing business in New Mexico harder for businesses could be up on the House Floor for final passage at any time.

HB 41 Clean Fuel Standard: This bill would force various “clean” fuels like ethanol and other biofuels into your gas tank. You can listen to our brand new podcast all about the issue here.  It is currently in Senate Finance Committee before a possible Senate vote for final passage.

HB 48 Raise Royalty rates (taxes) on oil and gas: is up in Senate Finance Committee today. If it passes out it can then be heard on the Senate Floor for final passage.

Find a list of Senate Finance Committee members here. 

Schoolhouse Rock: I'm Just a Bill Painting - Etsy

Tipping Point New Mexico episode 579: Oil and Gas Industry: Impacts and Attacks with Jim Winchester

02.09.2024

On this week’s interview Paul interviews Jim Winchester. Jim is Executive Director of the Independent Petroleum Association of NM. Jim’s group specifically works with smaller oil and gas producers.

Paul and Jim discuss the various ways in which his industry is under attack in the 2024 legislative session. They discuss the economic impact of his industry and whether these attacks are new and what they actually would do to his industry and the environment.

Legislature should standardize rules for online testimony

02.09.2024

Long before the COVID 19 pandemic we at the Rio Grande Foundation advocated for remote testimony at legislative hearings. Continuation of remote testimony is one of a small number of positives in the post-COVID era.

Alas, as the email traffic below plays out (read top to bottom) we attempted to testify before the Senate Conservation Committee on the morning of Feb. 8 regarding HB 41 (Clean Fuel Standard). Even though Gessing emailed the appropriate contact the day before to testify and was in the Zoom meeting during the public comment portion of the meeting, he was not allowed to participate.

The Legislature should ideally create some basic standards for testimony (both in-person and remote). It is already intimidating enough for people unfamiliar with Zoom to use the technology appropriately.

Attempt to return more of surplus to New Mexicans fails on party-line vote

02.08.2024

The following is the vote on an amendment (made to the tax omnibus bill) that would have taken New Mexico’s personal income tax rate to 1% (down from the current top rate of 5.9%).  This is the kind of legislation that New Mexico’s Legislature SHOULD be considering as a means of using the $3.5 billion surplus to grow New Mexico’s economy. It would spur economic growth while providing tax relief to all New Mexicans.

The Personal Income Tax generates about $2.4 billion annually (p. 65). This proposal would NOT eliminate the tax. But, taken as a whole New Mexico has plenty of money to enact REAL tax reform that would unleash New Mexico’s growth potential.

It will be the highest rated vote “+8” in our Freedom Index.  Did your Rep. vote in favor or against?

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The tax omnibus bill has dropped and it’s a dud, but left EV credits and alcohol taxes out

02.07.2024

We’ve been waiting for the tax committees in the Legislature to come together and here it is. We’re working on a more in-depth analysis (for purposes of our Freedom Index), but here are some of the top-line items relating to the bill:

Income tax brackets (not rates) are adjusted in a way that is a slight tax cut. We analyze the concept here. It amounts to good, not great tax policy especially at a time of massive budget surpluses. This is a tax cut. 

Capital gains tax deduction is limited. If adopted it would dramatically limit New Mexicans’ ability to deduct capital gains from the sale of homes, businesses, and stock. The concept was analyzed here. This is a tax hike.

A slight increase in NM’s corporate income tax by removing the lower rate. This concept was introduced in 2023 and we discussed it here. This is a tax hike. 

Other relevant policies included in the bill include: single sales factor, a tax deduction for energy storage, a rural health practitioner tax credit, and extension of the duration of the Angel Investor Tax Credit (to name a few of the big ones).

You can find a detailed analysis of the various provisions in the tax bill here.

Some proposals that DID not make it into the bill included EV tax credits (as outlined in HB 140) and tax hikes on alcohol. We’re glad about that.

On the other hand, the capital gains and corporate tax hikes hold the bill back from being a worthwhile bill.

Thanks to Curtis Segarra of KRQE 13 for the graphic. 

Tipping Point NM episode 578: Legislative session, “Clean Fuel”, Paid Leave Update, Oil and Gas, and Another EV Issue

02.07.2024

Paul and Wally begin with a discussion of the most important issues being discussed in the Legislature.

The big alcohol tax hikes aren’t getting much traction, but the tax hikes contained in them are insane.

The Gov. wanted $110 million to eliminate 4 day school weeks. Rep. Armstrong got an amendment successfully adopted to allow districts to continue 4 day weeks. Here’s the vote.

14 states cut personal income taxes in 2024. New Mexico is not one of them despite its massive surplus.

Paul had an opinion piece that ran throughout the state regarding attacks on the oil/gas industry.

Nearly 3 years ago Albuquerque purchased land known as the Poole Estate. Since then it has sat collecting graffiti.

An issue with EV’s that even WE are surprised about.

NM Environment Department advertises in support of legislation currently before Legislature

02.07.2024

HB 41 is known as the Clean Fuel Standard. It recently passed the NM House on a narrow vote with bipartisan opposition. But, in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal (page A6) there was the following ad placed by the New Mexico Environment Department. Another version of the ad below can be seen on their site.

Using our tax dollars to advertise on behalf of higher gas prices is in line with New Mexico’s unwillingness to rein in government.

Breathe New Energy Into New Mexico picture

Track your legislators’ votes with our Freedom Index (and new website)

02.07.2024

The Rio Grande Foundation is engaged with the Legislature in Santa Fe working to push this “progressive”-dominated Legislature to avoid doing harm to New Mexico’s economy and possibly do something positive with the $3.5 billion surplus it has available.

With about 1 week to go in the 30-day session there have been a number of House bills voted on and that is reflected in the scores. The Senate has taken fewer substantive policy floor votes (with a week left in the session)

You can check out our Freedom Index here. Check back as more votes are taken and after the session.

The Rio Grande Foundation has also created a brand new website. You can see a screenshot of that below. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Happy Ronald Reagan Day!

02.06.2024

Feb. 6 is Ronald Reagan’s Birthday and in New Mexico it has been proclaimed “Ronald Reagan Day” per a proclamation by Gov. Lujan Grisham. You can read that astonishingly good proclamation below (and wonder why MLG and President Biden seem dead set on ignoring Reagan’s successful policies.

In the meantime, watch and laugh/weep at the following interview Reagan did with late night host Johnny Carson. You can laugh at Reagan’s wit while crying about the lack of similar discussions on modern news outlets (let alone late-night TV) and you can also cry about the lack of such strong and “happy warrior” political leaders in our state and nation.

Legislative update: 2/5/24

02.05.2024

With 10 days left in the 2014 legislative session here is the latest on some bills that we’ve been tracking (and rating at our Freedom Index where we are rating and tracking the bills and legislators based on their votes).

HB 41: Over the weekend this bill passed the House (albeit with bipartisan opposition on a 36-33 vote). The so-called “Clean Fuel Standard” which would raise gas prices by empowering the Governor’s unelected Environmental Improvement Board to manage what goes into your gas tank.

HB 6/SB 3: Paid Family Leave: The House version has stalled in the House Commerce Committee (which killed it last year). SB 3 moved out of Senate Finance over the weekend. If leadership wants to pass a bill they seem likely to push SB 3 and will avoid potentially hostile committees.

HB 133: Imposes harmful new regulations on NM’s oil and gas industry. It awaits action on the House floor.

HB 129: Was amended and then passed on the House floor to include a 7-day waiting period on gun sales. Here’s the vote. 

There are other potential good and bad bills moving. We are especially watching to see what the tax omnibus package looks like.

Opinion piece: New Mexico’s left comes for oil and gas

02.05.2024

The following appeared in the Las Cruces Sun News on Sunday, February 4, 2024.

In recent years the “left” including most, but not all in the Democratic Party have turned sharply against traditional energy sources. Despite New Mexico’s status as a leading energy state, it has not been exempted from this trend.

In fact, while New Mexico has seen an unprecedented oil and gas boom (which has unlocked unprecedented government revenues) New Mexico’s political leadership has become virulently anti-energy. This is true for all five members of its congressional delegation which all reflexively support anti-energy policies that are contrary to the State’s interests.

But the Legislature, especially since Gov. Lujan Grisham became Gov. in 2019, has turned against traditional energy sources. The first step was the Energy Transition Act of 2019. Among other things the bill shut down the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station and eliminated nuclear from the list of “green” replacement power sources. Instead, the State has now embarked upon a plan to derive 100% of its electricity combination of wind, solar, and battery backup by 2045.

The Gov. doubled down on rammed her electric vehicle mandate through her appointed Environmental Improvement Board this past fall. The plan is to radically increase the number of EV’s sold in New Mexico from the current 4.8 percent of vehicles sold to 43 percent in less than three years.

But the Gov. and Legislature had generally left the oil and gas industry alone, at least until now. The oil and gas industry have created a flood of revenues for the State. A $3.5 billion surplus last year is followed by a similar surplus this year.  New Mexico’s annual state government income has swelled by nearly 50% over just the past three years.

But, after decades of Democrat-run New Mexico politicians largely leaving oil and gas alone (while gladly spending the tax revenues the industry generates), the 2024 legislative session has seen more direct attacks on the industry.

Here are some of the bills introduced in the current session that would directly affect the oil and gas industry in New Mexico:

  • HB 133 opens the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act which has governed the industry for decades and enacts language pushed by environmental groups that will have the effect of increasing regulations to the point where small operators can’t do business in New Mexico.
  • HB 41 would impose a so-called “Clean Fuel Standard” directing the Environmental Improvement Board to impose regulations to regulate the “carbon impact” of gasoline. This will raise gas prices for consumers.
  • HB 30 demands use of only recycled water in oil and gas operations. Using recycled water is exciting new technology, but the industry simply can’t use only recycled water at this time.
  • HB 32 would require numerous onerous new regulations on most oil and gas facilities within a mile diameter of schools.
  • HB 48 would dramatically increase “royalties” (taxes) on the oil and gas industry which already generates huge amounts for New Mexico.

Advancing such momentous legislation during a 30-day legislative session is a challenge. While Republicans are generally united in support of oil and gas, the industry splits New Mexico Democrats. After getting the Energy Transition Act and pushing EV’s Gov. Lujan Grisham clearly seems willing to “kill (or at least wound) the golden goose” that funds New Mexico.

This is likely only the newest front in the battle over even more restrictive policies that, if adopted, could do great damage to New Mexico’s economy.

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

Oil rep: Fracking opposition hurting New Mexico oil industry

Where things stand in NM Legislature

02.02.2024

There are less than two weeks left in New Mexico’s short 30-day legislative session (it ends at noon on Thursday the 15th. A lot can happen over the next few weeks, but here are a few points:

1) Most of the solutions to New Mexico’s problems aren’t being seriously discussed in the Legislature. GRT reform, broad based tax reductions, onerous regulations, serious reforms to New Mexico’s failed education system, and legislation to curtail crime have either not been introduced or have already been killed.

A few minor tax reforms (and some unnecessary tax hikes) have been introduced. We await the tax package. Overall, this Gov. and Legislature are incapable of big-picture, positive economic reforms.

2) To date the most notable issues this session have been paid family leave (HB 6 and SB3) and guns. There WILL be a tax omnibus bill (HB 547 was last year’s and it was largely vetoed). That tax bill (and whether it has pro-growth tax cuts or anti-growth hikes OR mostly subsidies) will have a major impact on the overall success or failure of this session as a whole.  The Clean Fuel Standard (HB 41) and some other oil and gas bills like HB 133 could also negatively impact New Mexicans and the economy.

3) The saddest and most notable part of the session seems to be the abject lack of vision. Considering that the Democrats have held power in New Mexico for nearly a century, they seem to prefer the status quo. No major economic, education, or crime reforms means their lock on power continues (with more money available thanks to oil and gas).

Intel invests in New Mexico, but far more in Arizona

02.01.2024

Gov. Lujan Grisham was recently crowing about the $3.5 billion investment in Rio Rancho’s Intel facility. This is a big deal for New Mexico which has no Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state and has struggled for decades to attract private sector business outside of the oil and gas industry.

The Intel plant has been around since 1980 and after it was widely feared about 7 years ago that Intel was planning to leave Rio Rancho entirely, the latest investment in the plant is most welcome.  But it is worth noting that Intel is currently investing $20 billion in Arizona. That’s almost 6 times their investment in NM.

Arizona (while similar in many ways, but lacking NM’s oil and gas) has long had a more business-friendly political culture than has New Mexico which has led to AZ growing much faster.  We’re happy to have any private sector investment in New Mexico, but the gap between us and Arizona remains vast.

Intel to invest $3.5 billion in New Mexico plant for microchips

RGF president participates in panel discussions on regulations and EV mandates in New Mexico

02.01.2024

RGF president Paul Gessing recently traveled to Ruidoso, NM to participate in the Grassroots Conservative Conference put on by “One Name, One Banner” and Ben Luna.

Paul appeared on a panel with a few ranchers who are dealing with the federal government, but appearing alongside James Lindsay (self-described professional troublemaker) was a special treat.  Paul discusses regulations (and taxes) at the State level and in the Legislature.  The video below provides highlights from the presentations lasting just over 7 minutes.

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The following is the full-length conference video. You can find Gessing’s full regulation comments at 2:45 and a panel discussion on electric vehicle mandates with Johnny Johnson of the New Mexico Trucking Association which starts at the 3:25 mark and lasts for about 50 minutes.

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ABQ purchases property for “open space” and lets it sit accumulating graffit

02.01.2024

From federal lands to national monuments and even city parks and open space, government is often seen as an ideal protector of lands and the environment. So often left-wing environmentalists (there are free market environmentalists like the author) believe that giving the government more control and power will result in better outcomes than market forces.

One example (of many) of government failure involves the Poole Estate on the West Side of Albuquerque. As the sign below (marked by extensive graffiti) notes, nearly three years ago the City purchased the Poole Estate on the West Side, just East of Coors.

Sadly, nothing has really been done with the place. So, while it sits, graffiti “artists” get to work. The photos below are a tiny portion of the graffiti that has taken over the walls that once outlined the Poole property.

The City could remove all the graffiti tomorrow (a start), but why after three long years has nothing been done with the property?

ABQ purchases property for “open space” and lets it sit

02.01.2024

From federal lands to national monuments and even city parks and open space, government is often seen as an ideal protector of lands and the environment. So often left-wing environmentalists (there are free market environmentalists like the author) believe that giving the government more control and power will result in better outcomes than market forces.

One example (of many) of government failure involves the Poole Estate on the West Side of Albuquerque. As the sign below (marked by extensive graffiti) notes, nearly three years ago the City purchased the Poole Estate on the West Side, just East of Coors.

Sadly, nothing has really been done with the place. So, while it sits, graffiti “artists” get to work. The photos below are a tiny portion of the graffiti that has taken over the walls that once outlined the Poole property.

The City could remove all the graffiti tomorrow (a start), but why after three long years has nothing been done with the property?