Right to Work: on the agenda for 2015 session?

In the wake of the Republican takeover of the New Mexico House, the talk has begun over whether or not the Legislature will seriously consider adopting a Right to Work law.

Our friends at the Heartland Institute have some excellent research and information on right to work and its potential impact on New Mexico (including research from RGF).

Lastly, I had a letter to the editor in the Albuquerque Journal's Business section on Monday which may have been missed amid all the election activity:


Letters to the Editor
Albuquerque Business Journal

In his column on right to work laws, Marshall Martin concludes that “there is little question having right to work may signify that a state is business friendly, one cannot be certain that having right to work is the deciding factor…”

That is a true enough statement. In the real world, “scientific” studies of economic systems don’t work. “Proof” that right to work is indeed good for the economy is as elusive as is “proof” that any law or system works.

What we do know is that eight out of 10 of the fastest growing states in 2013 were right to work. We also know that between 1977 and 2008, right to work states produced 44.5% more jobs and saw per-capita personal incomes grow 10% faster than states that do not have such laws in place.

Of course, right to work is not only an economic issue. It is a freedom issue. Workers shouldn’t have to join unions or pay union dues if they don’t want to.

It is true that no single economic policy change made by New Mexico’s Legislature is our ticket to prosperity, but a right to work law – which unlike most other “economic development” schemes won’t cost taxpayers a dime – is a good place to start.

So, the Legislature, whatever its partisan makeup, must embrace a variety of pro-market reforms if New Mexico’s economy is to be turned around, but right to work, a policy which according to Gallup is supported by 65% of Democrats nationally, is a great starting point.

Who's grabbing New Mexico lands?

Recently, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich sounded off in the East Coast liberal establishment's favorite news outlet, The New York Times, about efforts by the Rio Grande Foundation and others who wish to devolve certain lands currently managed by Washington bureaucracies (specifically the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) to state control. Needless to say, he's not a fan.

I responded with an article that ran nationally (shockingly, not in the Times) and generated an interesting column on the situation from the Albuquerque Journal's Washington correspondent Michael Coleman.

I noted in my column that Heinrich (and Udall) enthusiastically supported federal monument designations in both Northern and Southern New Mexico. I was remiss in not pointing out that Heinrich and Udall have introduced legislation to designate an additional 45,000 New Mexico lands as "Wilderness." This bill is unlikely to pass Congress, but it is very possible that Heinrich and Udall will convince a lame-duck President Obama to "use his pen" to designate the land by himself in yet another federal "land grab."

Beer Industry Shows Economic Reforms Can Work

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This link is to a spreadsheet illustrating political control of New Mexico's Legislature over the past 80+ years (since 1931). In summary, Democrats have controlled the House and Senate for a combined total of 160 years between the two bodies with Republicans having controlled one body or the other for a total of 6 years.

Clearly, given New Mexico's economic and education outcomes, liberal, big-government policies have failed. But what works? In a new opinion piece, Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing discusses how reduced taxation on micro-breweries has led to a boom in micro-breweries in New Mexico:

It often seems that New Mexico’s economy is haunted by the ghost of Lew Wallace. Wallace, who also wrote Ben Hur, was territorial governor of New Mexico in the late 1800s. Wallace was apparently confounded by our State and was quoted as saying, “All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico.”

In dealing with New Mexico policymakers and the business community, Wallace’s attitude towards successful initiatives in the other 49 states seems to permeate discussions. Sure, they say, “Right to work states are generating jobs faster than forced-unionism states, but that doesn’t mean it will work here.”

If you like your health care plan, you can’t keep it

Repeatedly in defense of his marquee legislative accomplishment, President Obama claimed that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

I can’t read a man’s heart, so I can’t say with confidence whether Mr. Obama was simply lying or, like then-Speaker Pelosi, he actually hadn’t read the bill, but I can say that my family and I recently learned that under ObamaCare, you can’t keep your health care plan no matter how much you like it.

By way of background, I have had a “individual” health savings account through Blue Cross since I started with Rio Grande Foundation in early 2006. Health savings accounts are the most market oriented of health insurance plans because they provide relatively “bare-bones” insurance policies that are supplemented by pre-tax savings accounts designed to pay for day-to-day health care expenses.

This Saturday on the New Mexico Freedom Hour

The New Mexico Freedom Hour is presented by the Rio Grande Foundation. It next airs on Saturday, October 11, 2014 from 12pm to 1pm on 770 KKOB AM. This week we are very pleased to announce that Albuquerque Mayor RJ Berry will be joining host Paul Gessing for the full hour. The show will be focused on a variety of economic policy issues relevant to Albuquerque residents including the city’s overall economy, the Administration’s proposed bus rapid transit and wi-fi systems, “Innovate ABQ,” and the ongoing fight over “union time.” We’ll also discuss the bigger picture including the struggling state and local economies and what the Legislature and Gov. Martinez can do to help spur economic growth in New Mexico’s largest city. Listeners are encouraged not only to tune in and listen, but to call in with questions: 505-243-3333.

Las Cruces: Rumble by the Rio debate on NM economy between Paul Gessing and Alan Webber

Check out this exciting free debate event taking place in Las Cruces on Tuesday, October, 21. See flier below for details.

Don’t Roll Back Pension Reforms

I'd typically say that the chances of my penning an opinion piece with a representative of the AFSCME government employee labor union would be as likely as my penning an article with the Easter Bunny (Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I don't believe in unionizing government workers). Anyway, the pension reforms passed a few years back are worth defending even if they didn't go nearly far enough.

AFSCME and the Rio Grande Foundation usually have very different positions on a wide range of issues including contentious disagreements over New Mexico’s government pension plans.

Even though we sometimes disagree on the scope and role of government, each of our organizations supports preserving the pension reform that was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both houses and signed by the Governor in 2013. Specifically, we oppose rolling back that reform in the name of recruiting and retention or special treatment for select groups of employees, including opposing the reintroduction of double dipping.

Prior to the bipartisan pension reform, the two funds were looking at a combined $12 billion in unfunded liabilities, and were on a trajectory to have over $60 billion in unfunded liabilities in the next three decades. While there is serious disagreement between us over whether the pension reforms went far enough, there is 100% agreement between us that the reforms were a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, some groups may be trying to cut deals with politicians during election season to give their members special treatment and to worsen the solvency of the funds. There are legitimate recruiting and retention problems across state and local governments, but using the pension funds as a piggy bank to sweeten employee compensation packages is a terribly fiscally irresponsible idea.

Yes, the condition of the funds is improving -- that was the entire point of our bipartisan reform – but we need to let the reforms work before there’s any discussion of undoing even small parts of the difficult and excellent work achieved by leaders in both parties.

Undermining a successful bi-partisan reform for the sake of small political favors during election season would be a disservice to New Mexico's taxpayers and employees alike.

Paul Gessing is president of the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s free market think tank;
Carter Bundy is legislative director at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a union representing primarily government workers in New Mexico.

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