Errors of Enchantment

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Rail Runner ridership remained 22 percent below pre-COVID levels in 2023


It’s no secret that transit ridership collapsed With the return of government  workers to their offices in Santa Fe one might assume that ridership on the train would have returned to previous levels.

Sadly, it has not. 2023 ridership remains 21% below 2019’s pre-pandemic levels (which were in turn well below those levels achieved in the train’s early years). When NPR is calling transit ridership a “death spiral” due in part to the rise of remote work, ANY new investment in mass transit SHOULD be avoided and current ones should be reevaluated as well.


NM’s State Land Office is more reliant on oil/gas than it was before Garcia Richard took office


Shortly after taking office in 2019, New Mexico’s Democrat Commissioner of Public Lands created a new logo for her office in which she emphasized the role of her office in “renewable” energy. See that logo here.

Recently we posted in this space that “renewables” amounted to just 0.16% of the Land Office’s revenues, but even more ironic is the fact that (as can be seen from the chart and article below) oil and gas actually generate a higher overall percentage of the Land Office’s revenues than they did back in FY 2018 when Garcia Richard took over.

RGF quoted in Stateline: “Markets drive wages, not government mandates”


After years of phased-in rate hikes, raising New Mexico’s minimum wage doesn’t appear to be on the table for serious discussion in the 2024 session (you never know, however).  The rate was upped to $12 an hour on January 1, 2023. 

But, with rampant inflation and a dearth of available workers, this round of wage hikes has been relatively unnoticed. Making the situation more interesting is (as Stateline reports and quotes RGF’s president) that for relatively low-wage “hospitality” workers across the nation, wages have increased and have even increased faster than those for workers at the upper end of the wage scale. This has happened especially in states without high minimum wages.

Here’s a quote from the article:

The highest wage increases for hospitality workers were in Maine (up 41% over four years), New Jersey (35%), Florida (34%) and Virginia (33%). All are states with a higher minimum wage than the federal floor.

But increases were nearly as high, about 33%, in states without minimum wage boosts, including Idaho, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Simply put, in an inflationary environment with a tight labor market wages are destined to rise.

New Mexico lawmaker proposes $16 minimum wage -

Episode 570: EV Mandate Update, Paid Family Leave Legislation, Budget Surplus and PNM Merger Failure


On this week’s conversation Paul and Wally discuss the Foundation’s ongoing work regarding electric vehicle mandates in New Mexico. The Foundation has also been requesting public records from various governments regarding EV deployment and costs.

New Mexico’s 30-day legislative session is right around the corner. One of the big issues RGF will be working to oppose is tax hikes to create a system of paid family leave. Paul and Wally discuss issues with this proposal which was narrowly defeated last year as SB 11.

NM has another mammoth budget surplus ($3.4 billion) again which means there will be plenty of new spending. Sadly, neither the LFC nor the Gov.’s budgets have any tax reductions/reform or even rebates.

PNM’s merger has fallen through. Paul explains why RGF didn’t engage on either side.

NM’s alcohol taxes are NOT low!


There has been a sustained effort by left wing New Mexico legislators, Common Cause, and New Mexico Indepth (to name just two). Last session’s tax hike failed (partially due to mistakes made by the bill sponsors), but the advocates are back again and they are pushing a massive 25 cent PER DRINK increase.

The following data are from the Tax Foundation.

For starters, NM’s $6.06 per-gallon tax on distilled spirits is ranked 24th-highest nationally.

New Mexico’s 41 cent per gallon tax on beer is ranked 15th-highest nationally

Finally, New Mexico’s tax on wine of $1.70 per gallon is 5th-highest nationally.

NM Highlands and NMSU EV charger status


As we have discussed in this space the Rio Grande Foundation has been requesting public records from several state institutions regarding the existence of EV chargers. Here is information from NM Highlands.

How many total EV Charging stations are at Highlands University’s various  campuses?

The university only has one EV at this time, and it is located on the main campus. It is a level 1 unit (the slowest type).

What was the cost of each unit?

The unit cost was $11,181.47.

According to a records request received from NMSU: “New Mexico State University does not have EV charging stations installed on our main campus or branch campuses.”

About Us | New Mexico Highlands University Online

RGF op-ed: When it comes to 2024 session: First, do no harm


The following opinion piece appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News on January 6, 2024.

With yet another massive budget surplus awaiting the New Mexico Legislature as they convene in Santa Fe for the 2024 30-day legislative session, this column should rightly be replete with ideas for how the Gov. and Legislature can use that surplus to diversify the State’s economy and bring New Mexico out of poverty. Alas, if we learned nothing from last year’s 2023 session, it is that even at a time of surplus, the Legislature can still harm our economy.

As the Legislature convened last year with a $3.6 billion surplus, the tax “omnibus” bill included provisions that would have raised the personal income tax, “sin” taxes on alcohol and tobacco, and would have raised capital gains and corporate income taxes as well. All tax hikes must come from somewhere and they always come out of the pockets of businesses and consumers. Gov. Lujan Grisham (thankfully) vetoed the tax hikes contained in last year’s “omnibus” bill.

With another massive surplus this year all tax hikes should be dead on arrival. Ideally, Lujan Grisham would simply tell the Legislature that New Mexico state government has plenty of money and that it needs to diversify its economy, not make it harder for businesses and citizens to do business here.

While the concept of “do no harm” prevails in the medical profession, it should apply as well to New Mexico’s current economic situation. Advocacy groups are lining up to push “Paid Family Leave” legislation like last year’s SB 11. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque and passed the Senate only to be narrowly killed in the House.

As proposed, paid family leave legislation would require employees to pay $5 for every $1,000 of income and employers with five or more employees would pay $4 for every $1,000 of income into a paid family leave “trust fund” administered through the Department of Workforce Solutions. When taking paid leave, the employee who makes more than minimum wage would not receive their entire salary but a percentage of it.

The first issue is that concerns have been raised about the viability of this fund. The Legislature’s own Fiscal Impact Report cites “potential fund insolvency risk.” Of course, it is hard to predict how many workers would use paid leave each year, but solvency is likely to be a serious issue as we have seen in funds set up by the government (Medicare and Social Security come to mind but are hardly alone).

The biggest question that must be asked is why all New Mexico workers (and their employers) should be forced into paying for a one-size-fits-all paid family leave plan. If this is such a great idea, the State has more than enough money to fund such a scheme.

After all, while paid leave will benefit those who use it, to those who don’t (and their employers) it is nothing but a tax increase (or wage reduction). This comes at a time when wages have not kept up with the rate of inflation.

But, the State of New Mexico has plenty of money! The solution is simple, rather than imposing more economically harmful regulations on average New Mexicans, if the Legislature wishes to make paid leave benefits a priority, they should set aside a portion of the oil and gas surplus to do it.

I wish we were having more substantive discussions in New Mexico about how to use this amazing surplus to lower tax burdens and diversify our economy. Sadly, that’s not what is happening. But, at the very least when it comes to taxes and proposals like paid leave, at a barre minimum the Legislature should “do no harm.”

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

Western New Mexico University’s EV charging status


In our ongoing efforts to shed light on issues relating to electric vehicles (EV) and EV charging stations at public facilities across New Mexico, here is the response from Western New Mexico University:

How many total EV charging stations are there at WNMU’s various campuses?

Western New Mexico University will have a total of four (4) EV charging stations at our Main Campus in Silver City, NM.  None of the chargers are operational at this time as final installation is set to be completed by this spring. There are no EV charging stations at any of our other sites.

What “level” are these stations (1, 2, or 3)?

The EV charging stations are level 3 (the fastest type).

What was the cost of each unit?

The cost of each unit, to include installation, is $101,682.91.  Of the project total cost ($406,731.64), $200,000 was covered by a donation from Freeport McMoRan.

Western New Mexico University | Home

Update: No love for taxpayers in state budget


With yet another mammoth budget surplus ($3.4 billion) facing New Mexico’s Legislature next week when it convenes for a 30 day session, there will be plenty of new spending. Sadly, neither the LFC nor the Gov.’s budgets  have any tax reductions/reform or even rebates.

The LFC is the slightly more reasonable budget with “only” a 5.9% annual increase. Unsurprisingly, MLG’s budget is more aggressive with a 10% annual increase.

Updated item: The LFC has $200 million for some kind of tax policy reforms and the Gov. has $500 million, but we have no idea what those set-asides will contain at this point. 

Since Lujan Grisham’s first term in office in 2018 (passing the FY 2019 budget) New Mexico’s budget has grown from $6.3 billion to (a proposed) $10.5 billion. That’s growth of 66.67% or 9% annually. During that time the State’s myriad “permanent” funds have grown dramatically, but taxpayers have received minimal tax relief and no significant reforms have been adopted.

The John Trever cartoon below highlights the situation nicely although Republicans have negligible power in the Legislature.

Sign petition in opposition to massive new federal land grab in Southern New Mexico


A coalition of environmental groups left-wing politicians is pushing for 245,000 acres in Luna County near Deming to be locked up as a “national monument.” Such a designation could negatively impact the livelihoods of thousands of local residents by severely limiting use of those lands.

Worse still, the process for declaration of national monuments allows the President of the United States to personally declare monuments with just a stroke of a pen. This is due to a broad interpretation of the Antiquities Act which was signed into law more than a century ago by President Teddy Roosevelt.

A group of local activists is distributing a petition against the monument via here. Please sign and share. All New Mexicans are welcome to add their names to the list of opponents.

Tipping Point NM Episode 569: Donna Illerbrun, Benefits of Catholic Schools in New Mexico


On this week’s Tipping Point New Mexico interview Paul sits down with Donna Illerbrun, Superintendent of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s schools. Donna and Paul discuss the benefits of the Catholic education model, the shuttering of one school recently, New Mexico’s “birth dearth” and outmigration of families, and how the Legislature could leverage Catholic and other non-public schools to improve outcomes for New Mexico children and families.

RGF shares concerns about EV charging station mandate (and 750 petitions in opposition)


Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing took the opportunity to share his opposition (and the opposition of 750 signatories of our petition at KeepYourCarsNM) to the Gov.’s proposed regulations mandating costly EV chargers and “charger readiness” be added to new homes and commercial developments (including commercial ones) in New Mexico. 

The gist of Gessing’s remarks was that the proposed mandates are “one-size-fits-all” policy that will negatively impact those in rural areas and those that cannot afford to pay more for more expensive housing that complies with these regulations. EV’s may work for many who live in New Mexico’s big cities, but they don’t necessarily work in rural New Mexico and for those who drive long distances every day.

The CID Board will vote on the proposal in a few weeks. Sadly, a majority of those speaking were from environmental groups supporting the regulations.

We will post video once it is available.

Tipping Point NM Episode 568 Happy New Year!, MLG’s latest EV mandate, NM Land Office revenues, US Census, & NM/Ohio


Happy New Year! On this week’s conversation Paul and Wally discuss the holidays and some of their activities over the last few weeks.

The Gov.’s EV charger mandate will be heard by CID on Wednesday, January 3rd.

With all the subsidies for wind and solar, the State Land Office took in just 0.16% of its revenue from those sources. The State did generate record revenues from oil and gas, however.

The latest Census data offers mixed news for New Mexico. Paul and Wally share the details. 

Now for something different: NM historical ties to Ohio.

Thoughts on collapse of the PNM/Avangrid merger


According to news reports the proposed merger between PNM and Avangrid has collapsed and will no longer take place.  The Rio Grande Foundation never took a position on the issue one way or the other (we’ll explain why here), but considering that PNM is by far the State’s biggest publicly traded company and given the ongoing push for “renewables,” this is momentous news.

Pros (why the merger would have been a good thing): Given the push for an “energy transition” Avangrid is likely better equipped from an expertise perspective to handle this.

Also, having an outside company invest in New Mexico represents a vote of confidence for the State’s economy and the ability to make money even in a heavily-regulated sector.

Cons (why the merger would have been negative):

Several stipulations within the agreement would have been nothing more than giveaways to various special interests (inevitably paid at taxpayer expense).

PNM will continue to be HQ’d and run locally with a focus on New Mexico.

In summary, there were arguments on both sides. RGF never saw a clear and convincing case that one side had a clear and convincing case based on free market principles. What do you think? Let us know in the comments. 



Why Americans aren’t excited about “Bidenomics”


Major media outlets and some politicians question why Americans don’t like the economic conditions facing their families and the nation as a whole. While Biden correctly notes (albeit sneakily) that the inflation RATE is down, the fact is that under Biden (unlike Trump) overall WAGES have dropped and dropped rather significantly for ALL employees. This happens regardless of numerical wage increases when inflation outpaces wage gains.

Biden could easily solve this problem by reducing federal spending and putting a stop to the myriad new regulations coming out of Washington (and the states), but that would require a complete revision of his economic approach.

The chart above is from the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

Latest economic freedom report places New Mexico in worst quartile (again)


A lack of economic freedom (and dynamism) is among New Mexico’s defining characteristics. The latest (2023) edition of the Canada-based Fraser Institute’s “Index of Economic Freedom of North America” again places New Mexico in the “least free” quadrant.

In fact, after a modest improvement to 43rd in the 2022 edition of the Index, New Mexico slid back two spots to 45th overall.

This is no surprise to us at the Rio Grande Foundation as New Mexico is in the midst of a once-in-history oil and gas revenue boom. Sadly, rather than reducing tax burdens and working to grow New Mexico’s private sector, the Gov. and Legislature have mostly just grown the size of government.


After big push wind & solar contribute 0.16% of Land Office revenues


Perhaps you missed it in all of the pre-Christmas shuffle and other news, but New Mexico’s Land Office recently announced its revenues for FY 2023 and, despite Commissioner Garcia-Richard’s general skepticism of oil and gas and support for so-called “renewables,” the Land Office generated a record-breaking $2.75 billion in revenues for the year with $2.66 billion of that total coming from the oil and gas industry.

Wind and solar provided a combined $4.4 million to the Land Office or 0.16% of the total. Whatever you think of the so-called “energy transition,” New Mexico is going to be MUCH poorer IF it happens.

We gave her a hard time about her to-say-the-least “aspirational” logo (below) a few years back.

NM State Land Office | Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard

CNM: EV chargers cost $45,000 per unit


We had heard a rumor that there were some faulty/malfunctioning EV charging stations on campus so we recently submitted a detailed request for public records relating to CNM’s EV charging stations. Here they are (along with CNM’s responses in bold):

1) How many functional EV charging stations does CNM have on its campuses and where are they located (distribution by campus)? CNM has 4 functional EV charging stations, all located on Main Campus.

2) Are there any non-functional EV charging stations at any of CNM’s various campuses (if so, where are they located)? No

3) What was the cost to install each charging station? $45,000

Based on the specs, these are “level 2” charging stations. RGF’s president recently had an opinion piece in the ABQ Journal in which he stated that the cost per EV charger was $18,000. It is hard to say why CNM’s are more expensive, but it is also worth noting that New Mexico is hardly the only state mandating and subsidizing EV’s. As that is done their price will inevitably rise.

CNM Receives Grant to Install New Electric Vehicle Charging Stations on Campus



Something different: the close ties between New Mexico and Ohio


Normally this space is dominated by political/policy news, analysis, and commentary, but this post is more of a discussion of interesting history quirks: specifically the unique relationship between New Mexico and Ohio. Full disclosure: RGF president Paul Gessing was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH but his family has ties to New Mexico dating back to WWII.

We at RGF are ALWAYS looking for patterns in the data so we don’t believe the unique ties between NM are by chance. Here are some of them:

  1. New Mexico became a state in 1912 with the stroke of President William Howard Taft’s pen. Taft was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  2. Did you know that New Mexico has 5 counties named after presidents? Those presidents/counties are: McKinley, Grant, Harding, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. What may be most surprising is that all five of those presidents were Republicans (considering New Mexico’s deep “blue” Democratic Party voting history for nearly 100 years. But, for our purposes it is equally interesting that three of those five presidents (McKinley, Grant, and Harding) are Ohioans.
  3. There aren’t many Albuquerque mayors of the distant past that have strong name ID in the City, but Clyde Tingley is likely the one. It helps that he was ALSO Governor during the New Deal which truly shaped New Mexico. Tingley was born in Ohio and his name adorns Tingley Beach, Tingley Hospital, and now a downtown hotel.
  4. The Teapot Dome scandal (the Watergate of its time) involved Ohio-born President Harding and his New Mexico-born Interior Secretary Albert B. Fall. 
  5. Ohio-born William T. Sherman (shortly after the Civil War) helped negotiate the 1868 Treaty with the Navajo that sent them back from the unsuitable Bosque Redondo in Eastern New Mexico and gave them the current Reservation northwestern New Mexico and other neighboring states.
  6. NFL hall of fame quarterback and Dallas Cowboys great Roger Staubach was from Cincinnati, Ohio and played for Roswell’s New Mexico Military Institute before moving on to the Naval Academy.  

Are we missing any connections between New Mexico and and Ohio or other states?

Tipping Point NM Episode 566: NM’s costly/failing welfare programs, cost of EV chargers, IRB’s, PED power grab, & more


RGF was in the ABQ Journal over the weekend discussing the Gov.’s proposed EV charger mandates and how New Mexicans can push back. 

In related news Paul did a request of CNM. They said each level 2 EV charging station cost $45,000.

LFC report says New Mexico’s welfare programs are ineffective despite spending $10 billion annually (they also find the best anti-poverty program is a job).

New Mexico will be blessed once again by a mind-blowing oil driven budget surplus, but the obsession continues over theoretical declines.

I recently sat down with KOAT to discuss IRB’s and their use for the soccer stadium. This is a good time to discuss Industrial Revenue Bonds.

Census data offer mixed news for NM


A few reports have come out from the US Census Bureau which highlight New Mexico’s slow population growth (or even population declines) in recent years. It is important to understand this data for a few reasons:

  1. While a lot of data highlights positive and negative economic and social trends, population growth or decline is the result of people actually moving. Thus, it shows what their actual preferences are.
  2. New Mexico is in the American Southwest, the fastest growing area in the nation which means it should be compared against those states.
  3. New Mexico is in the midst of an unprecedented oil and gas boom and has been for several years. This windfall could be used to make New Mexico a more attractive place for businesses and families. So far, that has not been done.

The good news is that unlike last year, New Mexico DID see a slight population uptick this year (of course none of New Mexico’s neighbors have had declines and some of them have been among the fastest growing states in the nation):

Looking at the data through a longer lens (April 1, 2020 through July 1, 2023) highlights New Mexico’s population challenges with the State experiencing a loss of 6,088 people. No neighboring state lost people over that time period. Shockingly, New Mexico saw states like West Virginia, Vermont, Kentucky, Maine, and Alabama grow, while it shrank.


Thanks to Phil Kerpen (an excellent follow on Twitter) for the information.


RGF president discusses Industrial Revenue Bonds for United Stadium w/ KOAT 7


Industrial Revenue Bonds are one of New Mexico’s myriad economic development incentives. As as a far inferior option relative to reforming New Mexico’s tax and regulatory structure, there ARE worse economic development incentives (film subsidies come to mind).

What KOAT 7 wanted to know in this story is whether IRB’s are effective when used to subsidize development of a soccer stadium. The answer to that is “no.” To the extent that IRB’s are to be used (they technically don’t COST taxpayers money, but provide generous property and GRT breaks), they should be used to bring major businesses like Intel (discussed in the story) to our State.

Check it out below:

ABQ Journal op-ed: Latest EV mandate will drive up construction costs, drive down new housing supply


Fresh off her “victory” in pushing a vast increase in the number of electric vehicles sold in New Mexico through a board appointed by her, on a 3-2 vote of a 7-member board, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is pushing yet another regulation to force EVs on an unwilling public.

The governor’s latest plan is to mandate EV charging stations and equipment for newly built apartment buildings and other commercial real estate.

The “good” news is that while news reports back in September reported that up to 20% of all parking spaces would have to be outfitted with EV charging stations costing $18,000 per unit, the “final” revised proposal limits required EV spaces to 5% of all spaces, with another 15% being so-called “EV capable.”

This rule is going to be voted on by the Construction Industries Division at their Jan. 3 meeting. The Rio Grande Foundation is again asking people to weigh in on this issue at our website. Messages will now be sent to the CID.

This is another way to force the rest of us to pay for the governor’s pro-EV policy. Simply making parking spots “EV capable” will add at least $1,650 per parking space. Considering that the city of Albuquerque and other New Mexico cities have very prescriptive — and significant — requirements for parking, this unfunded mandate will add millions of dollars to the cost of new developments.

The costs, as they always are, will be borne by residents and business owners — and not just those in new construction projects subject to the mandate. Prices will needlessly go up and supply — especially of new apartments which are covered under this regulation — will go down.

Considering that housing prices have skyrocketed all over and several New Mexico cities are facing a housing “crisis,” this mandate couldn’t come at a worse time.

Raising the cost of apartments is a classic “regressive” tax that unduly targets low-income New Mexicans. If EVs are truly the “vehicles of the future,” then the free market will respond to demand for EV charging stations from those who own the vehicles and wish to have charging stations available wherever they go. That’s how we got a nationwide network of gas stations, not through government mandates.

Sadly, Gov. Lujan Grisham believes very strongly in “command-and-control” policies found in socialist nations and the old Soviet Union. Freedom and free markets are not her approach and we’re all poorer because of it.

An in-person hearing will be held on this issue on Wednesday, Jan. 3, at the Regulation and Licensing Department at 5500 San Antonio Drive NE, Albuquerque, in the Sandia conference room starting at 9:30 a.m.

As mentioned, the Rio Grande Foundation is collecting and submitting comments at All written comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 2.

Getting the Construction Industries Division to stand up to the governor on another new regulation won’t be easy, but we need the record to clearly show that most New Mexicans oppose the governor’s latest attack on our freedoms.

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