We all know that New Mexico has historically lagged behind much of the nation. A just-released study by the U.S.-based National Center for Policy Analysis and the Canada-based Fraser Institute may provide the reason: New Mexico government burdens its citizens with some of the highest taxes and regulatory burdens of any state or provincial government in all of North America.

The study — which took into account such factors as “size of government,” takings (in the forms of property and taxes), and labor market freedom — gives New Mexico low marks. The state’s overall ranking in the study was 50th out of 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces; only West Virginia’s abysmal scores prevents New Mexico from being the least economically-free state in the nation.

Making the findings even starker was the fact that our neighbors performed so well: Colorado came in 3rd, Arizona was 14th, and Texas was 7th.

Two Canadian provinces (Alberta and Ontario) also outscore New Mexico, despite more burdensome taxes and regulations imposed by that nation’s government.

New Mexico politicians, rather than lowering taxes, protecting private property, and protecting worker freedoms, have too often decided to expand government. We have more state and local employees per capita than all but two states, while at the same time two federal tax dollars flow into New Mexico for every dollar we send to Washington, (a higher ratio than any other state). Whether it is federal or New Mexico tax dollars we are spending, our over-reliance on government hurts our economy and reduces our standards of living.

As Election Day and the 2007 legislative session grow nearer, both voters and politicians need to understand that low taxes, strong property rights, and a free labor market allow individuals and businesses to create wealth and raise living standards.

New Mexico must adopt these principles or continue to fall further behind.

Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande FoundationThe Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

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