NM Missing out on post-recession gains

The following letter appeared in the Albuquerque Journal Business Outlook section on Monday, June 30.

Another month and another sorry set of job “growth” data for New Mexico right there on page 2. In fact, this is the most important information that appears in the Business Journal. For those of you who missed it, New Mexico is the only of nine Western states that lost jobs year-over year from April 2013 to April 2014.

Nevada led the region with 3.7 percent job growth while Texas grew by 3.2 percent. These states’ economies are quite different. Nevada boomed during the 2000s and was hammered by the recession while Texas’ economy held relatively firm during the recession and has absolutely boomed since then. Both, however, are right to work states (no forced-unionism) and lack personal income taxes at the state level.

In a recent analysis of New Mexico’s performance on a variety of “business friendly” or economic freedom rankings, New Mexico’s average ranking was 33rd while Texas’ average ranking was six and Nevada’s 18. Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Oklahoma also scored consistently and substantially better than did New Mexico.

New Mexico has a unique and wonderful history, but it also has a history of anti-freedom economic policies, poverty, and dependency. Until that mentality changes in Santa Fe and the Legislature and PRC adopt policies that unleash rather than constrict markets, New Mexico’s economy will underperform, poverty will be high, and our most-educated young people will leave the state.

Paul J. Gessing
President
Rio Grande Foundation
PO Box 40336
Albuquerque, NM 87196
505-264-6090

Liberty on the Rocks Albuquerque (new date)

Join the Rio Grande Foundation For an Evening of
Discussion and Fellowship at Liberty on the Rocks!

"Liberty on the Rocks" is a no-host happy hour discussion and information-sharing session.

We recently changed locations for this event. From now on, Liberty on the Rocks will be held at Scalo Northern Italian Grill which is located in Nob Hill at 3500 Central Avenue SE in Albuquerque. A private room has been reserved for this event.

To assure that we have our own private room, Liberty on the Rocks is moving to the third Thursday of each month. In July, this means it will take place on Thursday, July 17th from 6:00 to 7:30PM.

There is no cost for this public event, but attendees are encouraged to have dinner or drinks. Registration is not required but is much appreciated. Click here to register online ... it's fast and it's free!

Come celebrate liberty with us!

Date: 
2014-07-17 18:00 - 19:30

New Mexico’s Incredible Shrinking Workforce

(Albuquerque) What happened to New Mexico’s workforce during and in the wake of the “Great Recession?” The tenor of that question might change dramatically with one look at the chart below. As clearly seen below, New Mexico’s workforce participation rate which had been on a general upward trajectory since the mid-1970s, dropped precipitously during the recent recession.

In a new policy brief (available at the following link), “The Troubling Case of New Mexico’s Disappearing Workforce,” Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing analyzes New Mexico’s workforce participation rate and how it compares to other states, explains why workforce participation is so important, and briefly outlines some ideas for New Mexico policymakers to consider to bring more of our state’s workers back into the workforce.

Federal lands in New Mexico: Recent presentations

Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government and I had a whirlwind tour of New Mexico to discuss federal lands issues in the West and New Mexico in particular. We discussed New Mexico's economy and how it is impacted by federal lands as well as solutions like "Financial Ready" and "Transfer of Federal Lands" (TPLA) legislation.

Carl spoke at a well-attended public meeting in Albuquerque:

Carl Graham of the Coalition for Self Government in the West speaks at Rio Grande Foundation event from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

He and I (my presentation starts at 45:20) also spoke to the New Mexico Association of Counties meeting in Deming (the Association passed a resolution supporting TPLA):

Carl Graham of Coalition for Self Government in the West & Paul Gessing of RGF speak at New Mexico Association of Counties event from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico covered the Albuquerque event and interviewed Graham here.

More information will certainly follow on this important issue.

Federal energy policy regulator could negatively impact New Mexico

Though many New Mexicans may not be aware of it, especially given our state’s ongoing economic struggles, New Mexico is in the midst of a boom in energy development. New Mexico has vast deposits of oil and gas that can help our state transcend its struggling economy, leading to better jobs and higher wages.

Just ask the people of North Dakota, whose oil and gas production has resulted in an unemployment rate of less than 3% and fast-food workers being hired at $15 per hour. How important is New Mexico’s energy development? Nearly one-third of all state funding to public schools, as well as to New Mexico’s higher-education institutions, comes from taxes, royalties and fees paid by oil-and-gas operations around the state.

The main threat to New Mexico reaping this huge windfall is an anti-oil and gas movement in our nation’s capital, the same one that has put the Keystone Pipeline project in limbo. Leading this charge is Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who wants hand-picked energy novice Norman Bay to lead the country’s premier energy agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). With Bay at the helm of FERC, New Mexico’s energy boom can be stopped,

New Mexico sticks out like a sore thumb on economic liberty in the Southwest

Recently, New Mexico saw the following bad jobs news. Specifically, New Mexico is losing jobs while its neighbors are gaining jobs.

But why is New Mexico economically-weaker than its neighbors? We have repeatedly made the case that New Mexico is less economically-free and is less friendly to business. This is not a view isolated to a few reports, rather it is a consistent finding of those who report on such issues. The Rio Grande Foundation recently looked at eight separate rankings of business friendliness and economic freedom (see them below with appropriate links). They measure different things, but consistently find New Mexico to perform worse than its neighbors.

Mercatus Center (personal freedom scores were eliminated from our state rankings): New Mexico's score: 28; regional average: 16.
Fraser Institute Economic Freedom: New Mexico's score: 50; regional average: 12.
Forbes: Best States for Business: New Mexico's score: 45; regional average: 15.
CNBC: Best States for Business: New Mexico's score: 36; regional average: 17.
Chief Executive Magazine: Best States for Business: New Mexico's score: 30; regional average: 11.
Tax Foundation: Business Tax Climate: New Mexico's score: 38; regional average: 17.
Federation of Tax Administrators (Taxes as Percent of Personal Income): (note, since FTA ranks heavier burdens with a lower number, we have inverted the ranking so as to make the lower number "good" or more friendly to business and work and the higher number "less-so": New Mexico's score: 36; regional average: 16.
ALEC Rich States, Poor States: New Mexico's score: 37, regional average: 12.

We put together the following map which illustrates the average scores on these various reports below. Clearly, New Mexico trails its neighbors when it comes to business friendliness and economic freedom.

Federal Lands Discussion - Albuquerque

What Should be Done About Federal Lands in New Mexico?

It seems like not a week goes by without yet another controversy over federal lands in the American West. New Mexico, with 42 percent federal land ownership (as seen in the map below), has been at ground-zero.

To cite just a few very recent or even ongoing situations, there was the Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada, a simmering standoff over ranchers' access to water in Otero County, and the Obama Administration's unilateral decision to place 500,000 acres of New Mexico land "off-limits" to a wide variety of human and economic uses.

You are invited to a discussion of these at once pertinent and controversial issues with Carl Graham, Director of the Coalition for Self Government in the West.

  • When:  6:00 to 7:30pm on Tuesday, June 17, 2014
  • Where:  Room 2401 at the UNM Law School which is located at 1117 Stanford Dr. NE, in Albuquerque
  • Cost:  There is no charge for this event
  • Please RSVP to:  info [at] riograndefoundation [dot] org

The Rio Grande Foundation and others have been grown concerned about the federal government's management of lands throughout the West. A Rio Grande Foundation study found that by transferring management of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands to the State, New Mexico could see as many as 68,000 new jobs and $8.4 billion in additional economic growth.

But the impact of poor federal land policies is not limited to economics: forest fires rage uncontrolled, ranchers, historic land grants, and recreational users have lost access to their lands, and funding provided by Washington in lieu of taxes paid on those lands (known as PILT) continues to leave local governments under-funded.

Legislation that would return or study the return of federal lands to the State of New Mexico has been introduced in the last two legislative sessions.

In addition to land management policies, Graham will be addressing what states like New Mexico can do to not be so reliant on Washington for their economic well-being. In fact, New Mexico is already learning the painful result of over reliance on Washington. But, States need to fully understand and analyze what would happen to their economies in the event of a significant loss of Washington funding. This concept, known as "Financial Readiness" will be introduced in the 2015 New Mexico legislative session and will be addressed in Graham's presentation.

Date: 
2014-06-17 18:00 - 19:30

First Amendment doesn't need amending

At 45 just words, the First Amendment has been a bulwark in protecting unpopular speech in the United States for more than 200 years. Whether that speech involved flag burning, the KKK, or unpopular political speech, the Amendment’s clear and concise statement that “Congress shall make no law…” has been an exceptionally-American statement of principal.

The First Amendment remains a clear statement by the American Founders that “democracy” or popular rule must be restrained in our republican form of government. Popular speech needs no special protections.

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