Turning Las Cruces Around

On Tuesday, Las Cruces heads to the polls to decide who will represent City Council Districts 3, 5, and 6.

The City of the Crosses is facing tough times. It’s a microcosm of the state as a whole — high unemployment, declining incomes, and unsustainable dependence on government spending. In one way, though, the city is unique — despite the Great Recession, its population is growing. Between 2008 and 2016, Las Cruces experienced a net gain of nearly 12,00 residents.

The city-council matchups are:

District 3 (open seat): Beverly Courtney vs. Gabriel Vasquez

District 5: Gill Sorg (incumbent) vs. Steve Montanez and William Fuller

District 6: Ceil Levatino (incumbent) vs. Yvonne Flores

On the fiscal side, restraint hasn’t been impressive. Adjusting for inflation, total expenditures rose from $289 million in 2014 to $375 million in 2017.

One key concern is pensions. In 2016, city taxpayers contributed $7.8 million to workers’ defined-benefit retirement income. But as in the case in many other local-government entities in the Land of Enchantment, the city’s staffers got a mighty sweet freebie, in the form of the city covering $2.0 million worth of “employee” contributions. Council candidates need to explain why that’s the case, and whether they are willing to remove the unjustified perk. In total, the city’s unfunded pension liability is a whopping $104.5 million. What plans do candidates have to deal with that bill? And doesn’t adding “45 new full time positions,” as the fiscal year 2017 adopted budget did, make things worse?

Unquestionably, economic development is the city’s core issue. At 6.8 percent, joblessness is higher than the state as a whole, and much higher than the nation. Real, per capita income is dropping — it fell from $27,080 in 2008 to $21,201.

City councilors, as well as Mayor Ken Miyagishima, haven’t helped the economy with their tax and regulatory assaults. Between the arrival of the Great Recession and the second half of 2017, the GRT rate rose from 7.1250 percent to 8.3125 percent. (Since the dawn of the 2000s, the GRT burden has risen by 30.4 percent.) Las Cruces also imposes an hourly minimum wage — it’s currently $9.20, and in just over a year, it will rise to $10.10. In addition, the city gleefully experiments with central planning — from owning the Rio Grande Theatre to building (and expanding) a convention center to subsidizing downtown “redevelopment.”

Eight of the metro area’s top 10 employers are government entities (e.g., New Mexico State University, Doña Ana County, NASA) or healthcare facilities heavily subsidized by taxpayers (e.g., Peak Behavioral Health Services, Mountain View Regional Medical Center). Without a bold agenda of pro-growth reforms, Las Cruces’s economy will continue to struggle.

Las Cruces, your community is a great place, but it’s in trouble. Get out and vote for liberty, opportunity, and prosperity on Tuesday!

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3 Replies to “Turning Las Cruces Around”

  1. Thanks for this detailed, hard-hitting analysis. Makes me appreciate our business-focused, businessman President.

  2. I retire in just under four years and I will leave this town forever. Can’t wait. It is FAR too liberal for me and it’s getting worse every year.

  3. The percentage of voters in these elections is pathetic! If people do not get out and vote, I guess they get what they deserve: liberals voted in by teacher’s union, and government employees who have a vested interest in feathering their nest.

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