Rio Grande Foundation Releases Upgraded “Freedom Index” Legislative Tracking Tool for 2015 Session Are your legislators voting for or against freedom?

(Albuquerque) As the New Mexico Legislature moves into its final weeks and several important floor votes have been taken, the Rio Grande Foundation is launching an updated and easier-to-use “Freedom Index” legislative tracking tool. The goal of this tool is to review legislation impacting freedom in our state.

Lawmakers and the interested public can use the “Freedom Index” to get an independent, free market view of pending legislation. Moreover, voters can see whether their legislators are voting for free markets or for bigger government. Votes tallied are “floor” votes.

Users can see:

  • The relative voting performance of legislators according to the Freedom Index;
  • The relative voting performance of each party according to the Freedom Index;
  • The analysis criteria behind the legislation ranking;
  • Links to legislation detail;
  • Links to legislator Information, including contact information;
  • And selections of legislation by relevant categories.

Our analysis will be available before final votes on those bills that are analyzed and can be used by both legislators, legislative staff and interested voters to debate the merits of a bill.

In short, the Index provides an excellent analysis of bills that will come before committees or a vote on the floor as well as tracking a legislator’s Freedom Index score. The public will find our Freedom Index to be a tool to hold elected officials accountable for their vote and to gain a better understanding of the legislation being proposed by the House or Senate members.

Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing said of his organization’s new legislative tracking web site, “We are thrilled to add the freedom perspective to the legislative process in Santa Fe. For too long, the special interests have run wild with the voice of taxpayers and those who pay the bills too often pushed to the side.”

Michigan’s Right to Work Success Story: Join RGF for a reception with Mackinac Center Labor Expert - Albuquerque

Right-to-Work in Michigan:
How the Birthplace of the UAW Gave
Workers Freedom and Improved its Economy!

The Rio Grande Foundation is hosting a reception with Vincent Vernuccio of, Director of Labor Policy with the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy Research.

The reception will be held from 6:00 to 7:30pm on Monday, March 9th in a private room at Scalo Italian Grill.

Entrance to the reception is $15 per person which includes light appetizers and a cash bar. Scalo is located in Albuquerque at 3500 Central Avenue SE in Nob Hill.

Click here for registration form!

Reserve you spot now. Space is limited. Reservations can be made online for this exciting event.

The Mackinac Center is Michigan's free market state think tank. Some 20 years before Michigan adopted a Right to Work law the Mackinac Center was plowing the way for such a law and researching what it might mean for Michigan to have such a law in place. Michigan adopted a Right to Work law in 2012.

The Mackinac Center's research and publicity for the idea were considered both visionary and integral to the ultimate passage of Michigan's Right to Work law.

Vernuccio has published articles and op-eds in such newspapers and magazines as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Investor's Business Daily, The Washington Times, National Review, Forbes and The American Spectator. He has been cited in several books, and he is a frequent contributor on national television and radio shows, such as "Your World" with Neil Cavuto and Varney and Company.

Vernuccio is a sought-after voice on labor panels nationally and in Washington, D.C. A regular guest on Fox News channels, Vernuccio has been described by Stuart Varney as a "top union watchdog."

He has advised senators and congressmen on a multitude of labor-related issues. He testified before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and Labor Policy.

Click here for registration form!

Date: 
2015-03-09 18:00 - 19:30

It's time to fix a flawed tax shift

This op-ed ran in The (Farmington) Daily Times on March 1, 2015. 

On January 1, 2005, food bought at New Mexico's grocery stores was excluded from the gross receipts tax, or GRT. In exchange for the break, the GRT was hiked on all other purchases.

A decade later, it's clear that the tax shift was a mistake.

With several proposals before the legislature to reinstate the GRT on food, it's time for an honest examination of how and why the well-meaning exemption failed.

Many of the state's liberal activists and organizations opposed ending the food tax. In 2003, New Mexico Voices for Children argued that the "very poorest people will not receive the benefits," because most "use food stamps, which are not subject to gross receipts taxes." (A staggering 21.5 percent of our citizens participate in the federal program.) In addition, many household essentials such as soap, paper products, and toothpaste remained taxable. Utility and motor-fuels taxes were not touched, either.

Right to Work and Purchasing Power: Just the Facts Real-World Data Debunks ‘The Right to Work for Less’

(Albuquerque, NM) – New research by New Mexico’s free-market think tank finds that a dollar goes much further in right-to-work (RTW) states.

Legislators in Santa Fe are debating whether to adopt a RTW law for New Mexico. Opponents of the measure charge that residents of right-to-work states are poorer, and that if enacted in The Land of Enchantment, there will be “greater expenditures for subsidized food, housing and health care for newly hired workers who will never make a living wage.”

The Rio Grande Foundation’s research debunks such claims.

The issue brief “Purchasing Power and the Right to Work” finds that once adjusted for the the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s estimate of the cost of living, disposable income, per capita, is equal in the two types of states. Using an alternate calculation developed by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, income in RTW states is 8.5 percent higher.

Many ways that life’s basic necessities are costlier in non-RTW states, including:

  • The list price of a single-family home is 26.5 percent lower in RTW states.
  • Energy is more affordable in RTW states – for example, electricity is a whopping 27.7 percent cheaper.
  • Healthcare is more affordable in RTW states, as are eldercare expenses such as home-healthcare aides and assisted living.
  • RTW is associated with lighter local-and-state tax burdens and residents of non-RTW states labor more than 10 days longer to pay their annual local, state, and federal tax bill.

“These statistics show that union bosses’ favorite argument against RTW is hollow,” said Dowd Muska, research director with the Rio Grande Foundation and author of the new report. “When adjusted for purchasing power, RTW states are at least as wealthy as their compulsory-unionism competitors – and in all likelihood, wealthier.”

“Contrary to the allegations of Big Labor’s well-funded lobbyists and activists,” concluded Muska, “RTW is not a ticket to impoverishment. Life is good where unions must earn their members’ financial support. Little wonder why so many RTW states have strong economies and growing populations.”

RGF comments on license plate proliferation/legislation

The various issue-oriented license plates offered were discussed recently on KRQE Channel 13 and Rio Grande Foundation was asked to weigh in. In the grand scheme of things, there are many more wasteful government programs, but it is hard to see how New Mexico taxpayers come out ahead on the license plate deal. Full story below:

Recent KNME Discussion of Obama "Free" Community College Proposal

I recently sat down with Gwyneth Doland at KNME and CNM President Katherine Winograd to discuss the Obama Administration's proposal for "free" community college. Needless to say, we are not big fans of Obama's proposal. Even Winograd doesn't seem to be fully-convinced that the program is the best use of taxpayer dollars.

And, while RGF opposes the Obama proposal, we do value the educational value of community colleges and emphasized their importance in a 2014 paper outlining needed reforms for New Mexico's lottery scholarship program. Community colleges (like CNM) are one way to get more "bang" for lottery scholarship bucks.

The full interview is below with a "web extra" below that.

Viewpoint: our right-to-work math is not 'kindergarten'


It pleases me to no end that a report published by my organization back in July of 2012 has recently become an object of such criticism and outrage among left-wing critics of “right to work.” It shows that our efforts to put “right to work” at the top of the Legislature’s policy agenda have paid off and that New Mexico may finally be on the verge of adopting some long-overdue reforms that will shake our economy out of its torpor.

Both the union-funded, Washington-based Economic Policy Institute and University of New Mexico sociology professor Tamara Kay made news recently by giving the report an “F-grade” and calling it “kindergarden math.”

To be clear, truly conclusive data are hard to come by in the social sciences. The statistical tool known as regression is useful and it was used in our 2012 report, but the ideal method would be to have two or more experiments running with New Mexico moving forward with or without a “right to work” law in place. After a given period of time you compare notes and draw conclusions. That is impossible in the real world so “proof” is elusive and debates (and name calling, apparently) continue.

New Bill Would End Policing for Profit in New Mexico

(Albuquerque, NM) – Today, Republican Representative Zachary J. Cook introduced a bill designed to end civil asset forfeiture—also known as “policing for profit”—in New Mexico. This unfair practice allows police to seize and keep property of citizens who haven’t even been charged with a crime, never mind convicted. Rep. Cook’s legislation would end the legal fiction of civil forfeiture—that property can be responsible for a crime—and replaces it with criminal forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to the crime.

“Even in cases where a person has not been convicted, or even accused of a crime, the police can seize personal property and keep it for their own gain,” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “This practice should outrage any American who values the property rights guaranteed to them by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”

Bipartisan legislation has already been introduced in both houses of Congress that would dramatically reform federal civil asset forfeiture laws. The Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). In the House, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an identical version of the FAIR Act.

STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT:

The bill to end civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico is supported by an ideologically diverse range of organizations including the Rio Grande Foundation, the Institute for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance.

No one acquitted of a crime in criminal court should lose property through forfeiture in civil court. This legislation ensures New Mexico remains tough on crime. Guilty people will lose the fruits of their crime. Equally important, innocent people will keep the fruits of their labor.

- Lee U. McGrath, Legislative Counsel, Institute for Justice

Policing for profit is very much alive and well in New Mexico. In 2011, the ACLU of New Mexico took legal action after police seized thousands of dollars from a vacationing father and son, even though they were never even accused of a crime. Innocent people in New Mexico should never fear that law enforcement officers will strip them of their property without due process.

- Peter Simonson, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico

For decades civil asset forfeiture practices have robbed innocent people, taking money right out of their wallets—or even taking their home and their car—without even charging them with a crime. Like other drug war programs, civil asset forfeiture is disproportionately used against poor people of color who cannot afford to hire lawyers to get their property back.

-       Emily Kaltenbach, State Director, Drug Policy Alliance

MORE ABOUT PROFILING FOR PROFIT IN NEW MEXICO:

Profiling for Profit? Cops Take $17K From Father, Son (ABQ Journal)

VIDEO: “Police Profiling for Profit in New Mexico” – An interview with civil asset forfeiture victim Stephen Skinner (YouTube)

Institute for Justice report on Policing for Profit in New Mexico

In depth investigation into civil asset forfeiture (Washington Post)

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