Categories
Economy Education Health Care Notable News Open Government Top Issues

Is New Mexico REALLY “Following the Science” on COVID?

Recently (on February 29, 2021), Tracie Collins, M.D., New Mexico Secretary of Health was deposed in a case in US brought by various businesses that have opposed the Gov.’s lockdown policies relating to COVID 19.

The Deposition was videotaped, so we can provide broadcast news outlets (or even just YouTube and similar platforms) with clips. Here is the full transcript of Collins’ deposition.

Key Take-aways:

  1. The Department of Health does not consider the economic impact of lockdowns in crafting its Public Health Orders.
  2. The Department of Health does not adjust “positive COVID test” results to account for false positive tests.
  3. The Department of Health cannot explain why Florida and Texas, which are not locked down, have lower COVID fatality rates than New Mexico. The experiences of other states are not considered by the Secretary or the New Mexico Department of Health in crafting the Public Health Orders.
  4. The Department of Health does not take into consideration other adverse health impacts, like increased depression, suicide, and childhood obesity in crafting the Public Health Orders.
  5. The Secretary places significant reliance on the Department of Health’s legal staff when crafting the Public Health Orders. She does not know if any of the Department’s lawyers have any training or education in public health.
  6. The Secretary is unaware of any scientific studies that support the specific restrictions, prohibitions, and permitted activities under the Public Health Orders.
  7. The Secretary cannot say whether the risk from COVID must be zero, before the Public Health Orders will end.

Below are Page and Line references to deposition testimony:

Data and Experience from other States “can” be considered in crafting New Mexico’s Public Health Orders, but Secretary Collins will not say that it “should” be considered.  See, page 11, line 2 to line 14 (“11:2 – 14”)

The Department of Health has minimized economic harm from the shutdowns by reducing morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 and keeping people alive so that they will have an opportunity at some time in the future to reopen their business.  See page 32, line 24 to page 34, line 5 (“32:24 – 34:5”)

The Department does not track or control for false positive tests, or make adjustments to their numbers based on the presence of false positive tests.  34:11 – 37:17; and 37:21 – 41:11

The Secretary cannot explain why Florida and South Dakota, which are not locked down, have a lower COVID-related fatality rate than New Mexico.  Nor is she interested in using such data to determine whether lockdowns work.  48:3 – 53:19

The Secretary does not know why New Mexico has not done a regression analysis to determine whether the shutdown orders have had a positive impact on COVID transmission rates.  54:2 – 56:2

The Secretary is not aware of New Mexico attempting any other analysis of the adverse economic impact of the shutdown orders.  She does not know if the State has done anything to consider the economic cost and damage caused by the shutdown orders.  She does not know if the economic costs and damages arising from the shutdown orders is significant.  57:15 – 58:22; and 100:15 – 20

The Secretary does not know what adverse health consequences have arisen as a result of having to close business and losing jobs.  The Secretary has done no study regarding the adverse health consequences caused by lockdowns (increased depression, suicide, childhood obestity, etc.).   58:23 – 63:3

The Secretary is not aware of any studies that the business activities that are permitted under the Public Health Orders are less risky than the business activities that have been prohibited.  63:4 – 64:7

The Secretary would have to confer with the Department’s general counsel (i.e., its lawyers) to understand why certain businesses, like TopGolf and New Mexico United are allowed to operate, and others are not.  64:8 – 66:13

The Public Health Orders do not consider the potential harm or damage to the businesses that are being closed.  The Secretary does not know who, if anyone, in State government is supposed to look at the cost and damage to the businesses and people subject to the Public Health Orders.  67:10 – 69:1

The fatality rate from COVID for children ages 5 to 14 is 0.001%, or 1 out of every 100,000 children who contract the virus.  For children age 19 and under, the fatality rate is 0.003% or 3 out of every 100,000 children who contract the virus.  This is lower than the fatality rates for other infectious diseases.  69:4 – 70:4.

New Mexico has not studied the effect of the pandemic on childhood obesity.  72:20 – 74:13

The Secretary is unaware of any studies by the Department of Health of the impact of play deprivation on children resulting from the lockdowns and public health orders.  80:11 – 82:4

The Secretary cannot say whether the Public Health Orders will continue until the risk of COVID is zero.  82:5 – 83:5

In general, other factors such as adverse health consequences to children and adults and adverse economic impacts on businesses and employees are not taken into consideration by the Department or the Secretary when it comes to the contents of the Public Health Orders.  84:5 – 85:8.

Decisions about which businesses are in what category in the Public Health Orders is determined by the legal department working with the Secretary.  The Secretary does not know if there is a “written trail” for the decision as to which type of businesses will go in which category; nor does she know if any of the lawyers in her department have any education in public health.  89:1 – 18

The Secretary is unaware of any analysis or studies that were performed before gyms, group fitness classes, skating rinks, bowling alleys, and personal trainers were taken off the “prohibited from opening list” in the Public Health Order, to the permitted to open under limited capacity list.  93:23 – 94:14

The Secretary would have to confer with the Department’s lawyers before she could say how an industry or particular business activity can have its category or definition changed and be allowed to open.  94:15 – 95:7.

The Secretary would have to confer with the Department’s lawyers to understand why some business that cannot practice social distancing, like massage parlors, barbershops and nail salons are open, while other businesses, like trampoline parks and other “close-contact recreational facilities” where the Department is concerned about social distancing, are closed.  100:21 -101:23.

Categories
Economy Education Energy and Environment Health Care Legislature Notable News Oil & Gas Open Government Tax and Budget Taxes Top Issues

New Mexico session another missed opportunity

The following appeared in the Las Cruces Sun News on Sunday, March 28, 2021. UPDATE: Originally the article stated there was a production moratorium on federal lands. There is “only” a moratorium on new permits.

New Mexico is in one of the most unusual economic times in its history. Profound forces have impacted our State over the last year in unforeseen ways.

    • The Gov. and COVID shut down much of our State for much of the past year. COVID is declining, but New Mexico remains among the most locked-down states in the nation;
    • Oil and gas prices plummeted last April due to the pandemic and an international price war, but have come roaring back and produced $300 million in “new” money and a budget surplus;
    • Democrats in Washington recently passed a $1.9 trillion dollar “stimulus” that will dump an astounding $9 billion on New Mexico State and local governments. Meanwhile the Administration’s moratorium on oil and gas permits on federal lands will cost our State more than $700 million over the next few years according to Gov. Lujan Grisham;
    • While New Mexico governments are awash in money, businesses are struggling to recover. The State’s unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, 4th-worst in the nation.

To say we are living through unpredictable times would be an understatement. Oil and gas have always been volatile but are now more unpredictable than ever. This reflects broader economic uncertainty, but with the Biden Administration targeting the Industry, the Legislature must diversify our economy (this does not mean simply new sources of government revenue).

The unprecedented stream of federal spending flowing into our state is currently augmented by a flow of people. Housing markets are tight in most of our cities as Americans from big, expensive, states like California embrace remote work or simply move to states like New Mexico where they can spread out and buy a house for a lot less money.

Current trends are favorable, but long-term economic prosperity requires enacting policies that make the State more attractive as a business destination. The 2021 Legislature had a few successes but ultimately failed to enact policies that will bring long-term prosperity to New Mexico.

Despite a big budget surplus, the Legislature raised taxes on health insurance (SB 317). They imposed a new sick leave mandate on businesses, including small ones (HB 20). And, passage of HB 4, the misnamed “Civil Rights Act” will impose massive new legal costs on New Mexico governments without actually improving policing or protecting civil rights.

There were bright spots. HB 255 reformed New Mexico’s liquor licensing to make it easier for bars and restaurants long-term. HB 177 passed which allows New Mexicans to start micro-businesses by making non-perishable food items in their homes for sale.

But the gross receipts tax and its taxation of busines inputs and services remains a stumbling block for businesses. New Mexico also remains among a relatively small group of states that tax Social Security. No significant tax cuts or reforms were adopted. Also, no widespread reform of burdensome regulations (like the State’s “prevailing wage” law that artificially increases costs on public works) projects was enacted.

Some will argue that (after a decade of trying) tapping the Permanent fund to boost various education programs will help improve our workforce, but the track record of governments (including New Mexico’s) spending more money to boost education outcomes is spotty at best. Empowering parents and families with the resources needed to choose the educational option that is right for them (especially after a year of Zoom education), is more likely to succeed and at a fraction of the cost, but legislation to that effect was quickly defeated this session.

Microchip manufacturer Intel just announced that it is investing $20 billion in neighboring Arizona to build two new facilities. Such “economic diversification” is exactly what we need and what the Gov. and Legislature claim to want. Until the Legislature gets serious about reforming our economy we’ll continue riding the wave of luck, boom and bust in the oil patch, and Washington debt.

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

 

Categories
Education Issues Legislature Notable News Top Issues

New Mexico Students and Parents Need School Choice Now

KRWG Public Media (@krwg) | Twitter

The following appeared at KRWG and other news outlets on or around March 18, 2021. It was written by Policy Analyst Frank Pagurko:

Even before the pandemic, the New Mexico education system has performed poorly. Despite the continuous and ever-increasing stream of money from the state designated for education, we consistently rank as one of the worst, if not the worst, states in the nation on educational success. New Mexico spends more per student than most of its neighbors and yet achieves scores far below them on student success. 

These poor outcomes hit students who come from ethnic minority communities and other disadvantaged groups especially hard, as evidenced by the recent Yazzie/Martinez suit against the State of New Mexico. That lawsuit which deemed New Mexico’s education system “inadequate” resulted in a push for additional funding. The results of that increased funding have been thrown into question by the COVID 19 pandemic.

The school shutdowns of the past year have only clarified the long-standing failures of public education in our state. Contrary to statements from the Public Education Department, nearly every education expert from across the spectrum has decried the classroom time lost over the past year as Zoom meetings replaced traditional classes. Notably, in Europe and many other states and in private schools right here in New Mexico, many students hardly missed any time in class.

    The problem is the “one-size-fits-all” nature of our education system. It is time to allow parents to choose which kind of school is best for their own children. As of spring 2020, 30 states have implemented at least one private school choice program, such as a voucher system, tax credit, or savings program. Legislative proposals have been introduced in 14 more states, including New Mexico. Unfortunately, New Mexicans keep electing political leaders in the Legislature who are more beholden to the interests of teachers unions than they are to the students themselves.

By funding students rather than systems, school choice programs would allow parents the legal right and financial ability to send their children to the school of their choice, or provide financial resources to home school them. Wealthy families already have this option, of course, but school choice programs extend those opportunities to those who have fewer financial resources. Research shows that low-income families are the primary beneficiaries of school choice programs across the country. School choice, at its core, is about improving education for all students by leveling the financial playing field.

Those who have a vested interest in the status quo, such as the teacher’s unions, claim that school choice weakens public schools. That is simply not true. According to data gathered by Edchoice, 26 out of 28 studies on the subject have shown that educational outcomes improve for all students, those who take advantage of school choice as well as those who remain in the public school system, in states with robust school choice options.

Educational dollars should not serve the public school system per se or teachers unions in the first place. They should serve students. Funding should be channeled to whichever source of education best serves the needs of individual students.

Famed union organizer Albert Shanker once was quoted as saying, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing them.”

Especially in New Mexico our school kids have been simply left out of the equation. Too many families in our State are locked into this broken system by their financial circumstances. Private school choice would change that and improve student outcomes. The solution to education in New Mexico is not the continuation of the status quo, but rather what may seem to many like revolutionary change. Now is the time to fund students rather than systems.

Frank Pagurko is a Policy Analyst at New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The 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.

Categories
Education Legislature Notable News Open Government Top Issues

Independent analysis: New Mexico K-12 school opening rate among slowest in US

As if New Mexico students didn’t already face serious challenges, see this quote from the New York Times (which, to their credit has been pushing for schools to reopen). 

Unfortunately, you can’t embed the map here, but as of Feb. 22, New  Mexico schools are among the least reopened in the entire nation, a situation that is problematic for our State and its future. According to the Burbio data:

New Mexico schools are 21.3% open;
Arizona is 68.6%;
Utah is 90.2%;
Colorado is 77.1%;
Oklahoma is 67.5%;
Texas is 90.8%.

Whether these states spend more or less than New Mexico on K-12 and whether or not they have expensive pre-K programs, every other state in the region is blowing the doors off New Mexico. Of course, our State’s largest school district, Albuquerque Public Schools, has already punted on the entire 2020-2021 school year.

Categories
Education Issues Legislature Notable News Top Issues

Let them play! And let them go to school!

The fact that Albuquerque Public Schools has refused to reopen its doors to students for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year means (under Gov. Lujan Grisham’s COVID 19 rubric) that students at APS schools won’t be able to play sports. This led to protests over the weekend.

Should APS students be able to play sports? Should they be allowed to go back to school? The simple answer is YES to both. For the duration of COVID 19 the Rio Grande Foundation has urged policymakers to maximize individuals’ ability to decide how much risk they are willing to tolerate in going about their lives (or taking COVID precautions).

Ultimately, the problem here is one-size-fits-all policies that put policymakers in charge of decisions for which they simply do not have the capacity to make basic tradeoffs. The one-size-fits-all component transcends COVID. It has been a harmful feature of the government education monopoly for decades.

Of course, private schools have been open throughout the COVID situation. They have both a financial interest in what students and families want (as opposed to what unions want).

 

Categories
Education Local Government Notable News Top Issues

Tracking New Mexico School District Reopening

The Rio Grande Foundation has long called for basic education reforms that would empower parents and families when it comes to education resources including school choice. But, with the onset of COVID 19 and many districts moving to “virtual only” models, we have joined the Centers for Disease Control and many others in calling for students to return to their classrooms.

We will be tracking announced school reopenings under Gov. Lujan Grisham’s latest orders which call for hybrid learning for ALL students to begin on February 8. Check this space for updates. We gleaned this information from various district and news websites. If you have new info please let us know at: info@riograndefoundation.org

DistrictDate
AlamogordoSecondary – Feb. 16, Elementary – Feb. 22
AlbuquerqueDelayed decision
ArtesiaFeb. 8
BloomfieldSome primary students in hybrid already, Secondary – Feb. 16
CarlsbadFeb. 8
CentralSecondary – Feb. 16
CloudcroftPrimary already in-person, Secondary – Feb. 9
ClovisPre-K-5th already in hybrid, other grades under consideration
CubaRemote through March 5
EstanciaSecondary – Feb. 8
FarmingtonPrimary already hybrid, 6th, 9th graders – Feb 8, Other secondary Feb. 16
Fort SumnerMiddle, High school – Feb. 8
Gallup-McKinleyAll grades — Feb. 9
HobbsElementary – Feb. 8, 6th, 9th, 10th grade – Feb. 11-12, all students – Feb. 16
Las CrucesWill allow students who need in-person, but delayed broader reopening
Las VegasWill remain virtual throughout the rest of the school year
Magdalena6th-12th grade – Feb. 8
PortalesAll grades — Feb. 9
Rio RanchoElementary students have been in hybrid model. No broader plan yet
RoswellWill restart this month, no date yet
Santa FeAll grades — Feb. 22
SilverMiddle, High school – Feb. 15-18
Truth or ConsequencesAll students Feb. 16
TucumcariAll students Feb. 8
Categories
Audio Economy Education Energy and Environment Legislature Local Government Notable News Oil & Gas Tax and Budget Top Issues

RGF recent radio appearances

This has been a big week for the Rio Grande Foundation on the air. Paul recently sat down with Bob Clark of KKOB 96.3FM. You can find that show here. Bob and Paul discuss numerous topics from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy as well as well as Paul’s family’s efforts to home school their children.

Paul also sat down with Jim Williams at KNKT Radio 107.1 FM. We discussed numerous issues in their discussion. You can listen to that discussion at the link above or by clicking on the image below.

Categories
Education Legislature Notable News Top Issues

Expanding New Mexico state pre-K would be a costly mistake

The following appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on August 10, 2020:

The Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) recently released a study of the “inaugural cohort” of the state’s pre-K program, concluding that “prekindergarten remains a cost-effective way to improve student outcomes.” But the LFC’s own data shows that expanding pre-K would instead be a costly mistake.

The LFC’s study cites “statistically significant” improvements in children’s outcomes, which in real life are essentially meaningless. Children who attended pre-K scored barely higher on the six kindergarten-entry readiness domains measured — just a couple of percentage points at most. In the crucial areas of literacy and mathematics, only about 60% were kindergarten-ready, whether they attended pre-K or not.

Differences in third-grade PARCC proficiencies, too, were tiny. Almost three-quarters of both pre-K and non-pre-K groups failed to meet third-grade PARCC proficiency in English: 70.3% of pre-K attendees and 71.9% of non-attendees. Roughly two-thirds of both groups failed to meet standards in math: 65.9% of children who went to pre-K compared to 68.1% of children who did not.

If pre-K were affecting children’s achievement, New Mexico’s National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores would be rising as pre-K attendance goes up. From 2011 to 2019, however, while the percentage of fourth-graders who had attended pre-K almost tripled, the percentage scoring at or above Basic on the NAEP reading exam remained precisely the same at 53%. In math, that percentage actually declined from 75% to 72%.

The largest outcome differences the LFC reports are for chronic absence — missing over 10% of school — and high school graduation within four years. Twelve percent of children who went to pre-K were chronically absent compared to 16% of those who did not attend. Eighty percent of the 1,540 students in the inaugural pre-K cohort graduated within four years compared to 74% of the roughly 25,000 students who had not gone to pre-K 14 years prior.

Both these differences are likely caused by parents, though, not by children starting school when they’re 4 instead of 5. Parents who voluntarily send their 4-year-old to school for an entire year also probably try harder to make sure their child attends school regularly and graduates on time.

That is, children who attend pre-K have exactly the parents most likely to ensure their success throughout schooling. And the influence of a child’s parents greatly outweighs a single year of school, whether that’s pre-K or fifth grade.

Finally, the LFC study concludes that pre-K is a cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars. But compared to what? “Cost effectiveness” means comparing various programs to determine which yield the biggest results for the same expenditure of limited resources.

Policymakers can’t decide if spending $100 on Program X makes sense if they only know it yields an eventual benefit of $106. How does $106 compare to the benefit of spending $100 on other programs with the same goal? In the case of improving school achievement, the LFC itself has identified approaches far more effective than pre-K.

In a 2017 study, the LFC found that teacher quality had the “most impact on a student’s academic achievement” of all school-related factors, reporting positive effects which were orders of magnitude larger than any associated with pre-K. Children’s PARCC scores in math and reading varied by up to 49 percentage points over three years, depending on whether they had effective or ineffective teachers. Low-performing schools that participated in “Teachers Pursuing Excellence” peer mentoring increased the percentage of students scoring at proficient or above on the PARCC exam from 24% to 35% in reading and 16% to 27% in math, over just two years.

Policymakers should be seeking the most effective use of resources to improve student outcomes and help children who need help the most. Based on the LFC’s recent study, adding a pre-K grade to the public schools seems like more of a “cost-effective way” to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

Categories
Education Notable News Tax and Budget Top Issues

Rio Grande Foundation signs onto amicus brief in Michigan v. DeVos supporting non-public schools

The Rio Grande Foundation has signed onto an amicus brief filed Wednesday in Michigan v. DeVos, a critical legal dispute in federal court between a group of state attorneys general (including New Mexico’s Hector Balderas) and the federal Education Department over the availability of CARES Act funding for private schools. The Foundation joins a coalition of 38 state and national groups representing the interests of private schools and parental choice.

As Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing pointed out, “The Rio Grande Foundation has long held that education dollars should fund students, not bureaucracies. COVID-19’s impact on America’s students was not confined to public school sectors. Congress allocated critical funding to both public and private schools with the intent of helping schools reopen safely and serve their students.”

Background: The $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act, passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, included an Education Stabilization Fund to support schools with the costs of safely reopening and navigating the crisis. The law directed the Department of Education to distribute these funds “equitably” between public and private schools and students but did not dictate exactly how the funds should be distributed.

On June 25, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued an interim final rule that gives states and local public-school districts options for how to fairly allocate CARES Act relief to private schools. Many states and local school districts refused to follow the rule. Nine attorneys general and four metropolitan school districts, including Balderas filed a multi-state federal lawsuit against the Education Department challenging the interim final rule and argued that the majority of the funding should be directed to public schools.

This amicus, on behalf of 38 state and national groups, represents the important interests of America’s private schools in this critical debate. COVID-19’s impact on education was not restricted to public schools. With more than 5 million students attending 33,000 schools, WILL and our coalition partners make clear that federal CARES Act relief is critical for the safety and education of the nearly 10% of American students attending private schools.

WILL’s amicus is joined by associations and advocacy groups that represent and support private schools and their families in Wisconsin, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and throughout the nation, that serve Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, Islamic, Lutheran, other Christian, and independent secular schools, and that collectively educate millions of students.

Categories
Economy Education Legislature Notable News Top Issues

My family will home school this fall. Other families should have options as well.

The following opinion piece appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News on Sunday, July 26, 2020:

As the head of New Mexico’s free market think tank and a frequent critic of New Mexico’s K-12 system, many are surprised to hear that my two school-age children have been in traditional public schools throughout their educational careers. That will change this fall due to COVID 19 and the policies being imposed by the State. According to numerous reports, parents across our nation are doing the same.

This crisis and our response to it is an opportunity for policymakers to reconsider how education works in the State of New Mexico. As a reminder, New Mexico has perpetually found itself among the lowest-performing education systems in the nation. Innovative thinking, especially policies that redirect funding to students as opposed to bureaucracies, could have positive impacts now and in the future.

While we at the Rio Grande Foundation are often critical of the powers that be in New Mexico education policy, this is not the case regarding COVID 19 and the reopening plans. In fact, our usual criticism is a systemic one and that is the situation here. The idea that one model of schooling makes sense for all students in normal times is faulty. Now, with such widely-variable views on COVID 19 and the appropriate response to it (not to mention the different educational needs for students of different ages and abilities) developing solutions that satisfy everyone is impossible.

For my family with elementary school aged children, the combination of mask wearing throughout the day and “social distancing” being imposed was a deal-breaker. And, while I support “virtual” or “hybrid” learning for some children, I simply don’t think the schools or educators are ready to deploy them on a large scale in an effective manner. We saw this firsthand in spring when the schools suddenly shut down.

Hopefully, school systems have better plans in place now, but the situation remains fluid and chaotic. New Mexico students are already behind due to lost months at the end of last school year. The chaos of masks in the classroom and a hybrid/virtual model that is completely new and unfamiliar to many students and teachers is not likely to lead to improved outcomes.

That is not just unfortunate: it is tragic.

My family is blessed. We can make home schooling work and we’ve already spent considerable time preparing for this big change. Unfortunately, that is not the case for all New Mexico families, especially low-income and minority families.

The COVID 19 situation leaves no “easy” choices, but with so many New Mexicans looking for educational options or even taking on the task of educating their own children, shouldn’t the tax dollars they pay into the system follow the child? Shouldn’t parents have resources made available to purchase computers and other curriculum materials for their children or, if they prefer, shouldn’t they be able to send their child to the school of their own choice? All of these choices involve major time and financial sacrifices by parents in tough economic times. Rather than penalizing these families, we believe the funding should follow the child and help them directly.

South Carolina’s Governor just announced the state will use $32 million to fund low-income families directly this fall. The scholarships are worth up to $6,500 each. These are the solutions that should be happening in New Mexico. Families are paying taxes for a school system that in times of “normalcy” is considered “inadequate” (Yazzie lawsuit). With many limitations and adjustments being made now, that system and the families it serves now face greater challenges than ever before.

I truly feel for our children who have lost so much already. The Legislature and Governor have long claimed to care for our children. It is time to call their bluff and fund children, not bureaucracies.

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