A freedom outlook for New Mexico’s 2015 legislative session
Posted By Paul Gessing On January 20, 2015 @ 1:13 pm
By Paul Gessing | Watchdog Opinion
The 2014 elections represented nothing less than a seismic shift in New Mexico’s political system. Gov. Martinez won re-election handily, but the real story was the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives for the first time in 62 years.
For New Mexico, this political shift is nothing less than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve itself. New Mexico has traditionally struggled with high poverty rates, poor education levels, and an over-reliance on both federal spending and mercurial commodity prices, particularly oil and natural gas.
In recent years, oil and gas alone have generated 31 percent of New Mexico’s General Fund revenues. Also, according to data from the Mercatus Center, New Mexico topped the nation with 32 percent of its workforce occupied in public-sector and federal-contract jobs as a percentage of total jobs.
With federal employment stagnant, natural gas prices continuing to hover at historically-low levels and the recent collapse in oil and gas prices, policymakers in the Land of Enchantment face a dire need to jump-start the State’s weak private sector. An indicator of that weakness is that New Mexico is home to only one publicly-traded company headquarters, those of PNM, the State’s largest utility.
What is to be done?
For starters, the Legislature is going to be considering several labor reforms, most notably “right to work” legislation. Currently, 24 states have such laws on the books. These laws simply prohibit union membership or the payment of union dues as a condition of employment. Recently, “rust-belt” states of Indiana and Michigan have adopted similar laws.
New Mexico’s Senate majority leader – arguably the most powerful elected Democrat in the State – recently laid out some of his views on the upcoming legislative session. He claimed to support “compromise,” but it is clear that what he really means is that he has no plans to support reforms that will boost New Mexico’s struggling private- sector economy.
Sen. Michael Sanchez’s intransigence is not surprising given that he and his allies have controlled New Mexico’s Legislature for many decades and (likely see the new House Republican majority) as a temporary loosening of control as opposed to a decisive break. That big-government ideology, by the way, has driven New Mexico to the bottom of most good lists and the top of most bad ones.
Sanchez, despite his rhetoric of compromise, has stated firmly that he opposes “right to work.” On the other hand, he supports a new $50 million “closing fund” designed to bring new businesses to our state.
The "New Mexico Freedom Hour" is presented by the Rio Grande Foundation. It next airs on Saturday, December 20, 2014 from noon to 1:00pm on 770 KKOB AM.
|Steve McKee||Dax Contreras|
This week, Paul Gessing will be interviewing Steve McKee and Dax Contreras. McKee, an Albuquerque-based businessman, is president of McKee Wallwork & Company and author of Power Branding and When Growth Stalls. He's also a frequent contributor to Businessweek. Contreras is the new Executive Director of the newly-formed "Jobs for All New Mexico."
They'll discuss the New Mexico economy and what we can do to improve it. Listeners are encouraged not only to tune in and listen, but to call in with questions: 505-243-3333. The show is also available streamed online at www.770kkob.com.
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In the wake of the 2014 elections, New Mexico has a unique opportunity to enacted long-overdue economic reforms. The goal of those reforms must be to wean our struggling economy off of an increasingly-unreliable Washington by developing a strong private sector.
At the top of the agenda is a “right to work” law which, far from being “anti-union” would simply prohibit so-called “closed shop” agreements that require workers to pay union dues as a pre-condition of employment. Forcing workers to pay dues for any organization is simply wrong. Private sector unions can and should exist and they would be better advocates for workers if they actually have to prove they are worthy of membership.
It is worth noting that 20 of the 24 current “right to work” states have higher private sector unionization rates than New Mexico. In other words, due to the historical weakness of New Mexico’s private sector, these unions have had relatively few members. If New Mexico can strengthen its private sector with “right to work” and some other pro-growth policy reforms, private sector unions could see real growth.
Union growth took place in “right to work” states between 2011 and 2012 when those states saw an overall increase of 39,000 union members while non-“right to work” states lost 390,000 members, a 3.4 percent decrease.
Robert Bryce is one of America's foremost authors and experts on energy. Specifically, he is an optimist about America's economic future fueled in part by affordable, reliable energy. Bryce is also a skeptic regarding the "politically-correct" sources of energy beloved by environmentalists.
He discussed his book and his views on some important energy issues including the "shale revolution," coal, "renewables," and his optimism about America's future. Video is available below:
New Mexico's political leaders have few tools available to make the New Mexico Spaceport a viable initiative moving forward. We the taxpayers have already dumped $220 million into the facility to build it (sunk costs). The question at this point seems to be whether the facility can at least generate enough revenue to pay for day-to-day operations. I recently sat down with Channel 13 KRQE to discuss the issue (my comments come toward the end of the story):Given the recent crash in the Mojave Desert, there has been an upsurge of interest both nationwide and around the world. I recently discussed New Mexico's struggles with the Texas Tribune and was quoted by a reporter from the UK's Guardian newspaper.
(Albuquerque, NM) — In the wake of the 2014 elections, it appears that New Mexico’s Legislature may consider making the Land of Enchantment the 25th “right to work” state in the United States. The new policy brief, “Top 10 Misconceptions about Right to Work in New Mexico,” Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing corrects some of the popular misunderstandings about what a law will and won’t do for our State.
As a starting point Gessing notes that “right to work” laws are first and foremost about free association. Individuals should be able to join or not join unions as they wish and should not be coerced into joining them or paying dues to them as a condition of employment.
This principle of free association is not “anti-union.” Rather, a “right to work” law means that unions have to provide real, tangible benefits to their members. It is worth noting that, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 20 of the 24 states with existing “right to work” laws have higher private sector unionization rates than New Mexico.
Said Gessing, “Given New Mexico’s historical lack of a strong private sector, adopting a “right to work” law would be a logical first step for economic development.” In the paper, Gessing notes that “right to work” states have seen faster growth in jobs, per-capita income, and overall population than their “forced-unionism” brethren.
Not surprisingly, noted Gessing, “Given the fact that more and more people are voluntarily moving to live and work in ‘right to work’ states, once living costs are accounted for, residents of those states enjoy median incomes that are more than $5,000 higher than those in ‘forced-unionism’ states.” In other words, while median incomes are somewhat lower in “right to work” states, Americans continue to move to those states due to the greater worker freedom and because the reduced cost of living more than makes up for the slightly lower pay.
Lastly, according to polling data collected in August 2014 from Gallup, while Americans support unions by a 53-38 percent margin, they support “right to work” laws by much wider margins and across party lines. While it is difficult to find such widespread agreement on any issue, 77 percent of independents, 74 percent of Republicans, and 65 percent of Democrats support “right to work.”
States that currently are Right to Work are shown in red in the map below:
(Albuquerque, NM) —The Rio Grande Foundation today joined with elected officials and organizations from 50 states representing a wide range of industries to voice strong concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) flawed “Clean Power Plan.”
For more than 70 years, New Mexico has exercised exclusive jurisdiction over its retail electricity markets. With the passage of the Federal Power Act in 1935, the Congress codified New Mexico’s—and all States’—prerogative to oversee their retail electricity markets, unencumbered by federal intrusion. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, by its very terms, would erase this “bright line” in jurisdiction between federal and state governments.
In addition to usurping the state’s authority, the rule adds insult to injury by imposing unreasonable costs on New Mexico ratepayers. Residential rates are projected to increase by 13 percent to 14 percent, while industrial rates are projected to increase by 23 percent. Making matters worse, the rule also poses a threat to electric reliability.
In response to previous EPA rules, utilities already have announced the closure of 633 megawatts of coal-fired electricity in New Mexico. EPA modeling for the Carbon Pollution Rule projects that the regulation would cause an additional 1,001 megawatts of electricity generating capacity in New Mexico to retire.
The Rio Grande Foundation’s comments are available online.
Said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation which organized and submitted the comments, “Reliable and inexpensive electricity is critical to creating a prosperous economy. Working class New Mexicans, small businesses, and those on fixed incomes, cannot afford to see electricity prices skyrocket due to unnecessary and ineffectual federal regulations.”
Gessing further noted that it is not just his opinion that the regulations will be ineffective, in September 2013 testimony before a House committee, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy conceded the agency’s climate-change regulatory regime would not affect the climate, because the preponderance of current and future greenhouse-gas emissions originate in Asia.
In conclusion, the EPA is imposing significant costs on New Mexico businesses and rate-payers for no net reduction in current and future greenhouse-gas emissions.