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Op-ed: Clean Car Rule is Lujan Grisham’s latest policy imposition

Gov. Lujan Grisham recently continued her attempt to simultaneously keep the oil and gas revenue spigot flowing while enacting enough policies from the radical environmental agenda to placate her political and fundraising base.

Her latest plan, known as the Clean Car Rule, was adopted by her handpicked Environmental Improvement Board (EIB). Governor-appointed boards are far more willing to do what they are told than are unruly and sometimes uncooperative (albeit overwhelmingly Democrat) legislative bodies with their own political calculations and aspirations.

Incredibly, New Mexico’s newly Clean Car Rule undermines democracy and self-government (along with our economy) by placing New Mexico automobile regulations under the control of another state, California. The current rules are California’s and if California changes them, New Mexico will have to go along with them or reverse course and opt out.

New Mexico’s new automobile standards will require roughly 7% of new cars sold in the State to be zero emission in 2025. In the latest report available (3rd quarter of 2021) zero emission vehicles amounted to just 2.29% of new vehicle sales in New Mexico. So, to comply with the new rule, sales of zero emission vehicles will need to just more than triple from Q3 of 2021 to 2025.

But the real kicker is by subjecting itself to California’s political whims New Mexico could be forced to adopt even more aggressive “Clean Car” standards soon. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an  executive order that, if adopted, would end the sale of gas-powered cars in California by 2035. Final adoption of that rule could come in California as early as this August.

If California enacts this rule, 35% of new cars, SUVs and small pickups sold in California (and thus New Mexico) must be zero-emission starting with 2026 models. That number will increase yearly, reaching 51% of all new car sales in 2028, 68% in 2030 and 100% in 2035.

“Just” tripling sales of electric vehicles (EV’s) in two years in New Mexico means dealerships will cross-subsidize EV’s by raising prices on gasoline vehicles or they will look to the State to further subsidize sales of “chosen” vehicles. This could make gasoline vehicles purchased in New Mexico more expensive leading to purchases made at out-of-state car dealers. That would result in lost jobs and tax revenues in New Mexico. That situation will get much worse if California (and New Mexico) adopt the even more aggressive rules being considered.

Current tax credits and subsidies include a $7,500 federal tax credit and various credits for upgrading connectivity to the electrical grid further help with deployment of electric vehicles. Of course, those credits and subsidies are paid for by increasing costs on taxpayers and utility rate payers.

Deployment of EV charging stations will be another expense associated with this plan. A recent report found New Mexico to have just 401 public charging stations statewide. And those need to be maintained. A recent report from EV-friendly San Francisco found that 27 percent of the Bay-areas charging stations were not functional.

All of this comes at a time when New Mexico’s largest utility (PNM) is keeping its coal fired power plant open just to keep the lights on and says it won’t have half the solar/battery replacement power needed to keep the lights on during the summer of 2023.

There are so many problems and costs with a drastic shift toward electric vehicles that at the very least New Mexico’s elected Legislature should have had a say, but instead we have a Governor in a tight reelection battle who wants to make big promises to environmental groups and their funders no matter how disruptive or damaging to New Mexicans and their livelihoods.

The fact is that the real costs of these unrealistic and damaging policies will be borne after this election. Sadly, that is all by design.

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

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Rio Grande Foundation in National Review’s Capital Matters: “Where’s Deb Haaland”

Any car-owning American who has taken a recent trip to the pump will be able to tell you one thing: Gas is expensive. Really expensive. Indeed, as of last week, a gallon costs $4.231 — up $1.379, from a year ago. (The same trend is true for natural gas.) The crisis has evidently lasted longer — and proved more economically serious — than the Biden administration suggested.

Curiously, the cabinet official best equipped to address it has remained completely mum on the issue. I’m referring to former New Mexico political activist, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and current secretary of the Department of the Interior, Deb Haaland.

Secretary Deb Haaland manages the federal government’s onshore subsurface mineral estate — about 700 million acres (30 percent of the United States) held by the Bureau of Land Management alone. There are, of course, additional oil and gas resources to be found on tribal lands, in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, and on the outer continental shelf.

According to the website operated by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, in fiscal year 2018 (which is unfortunately the most recent data available), sales of oil, natural gas, and natural-gas liquids produced from the federal and tribal mineral estate accounted for only a small fraction of total sales in the U.S. (8 percent of all oil, 9 percent of all natural gas, and 6 percent of all natural-gas liquids).

These numbers could be much higher. In the best of times, the federal government might be a more difficult partner for oil and gas companies than private landowners or even state land offices that have a much stronger financial incentive to approve permits than does Washington. Now, with the avowedly anti-fossil-fuels Biden administration and anti-oil-and-gas activist Deb Haaland in control of the Interior Department, the permitting situation is much worse.

And that’s the point of this critique. If the Biden administration really wanted to address rising gas prices, it could do so most readily by encouraging drilling on federal lands — especially on onshore resources in Deb Haaland’s home state of New Mexico.

Yet rather than pursuing that fairly simple solution, the administration would rather plead with such hostile nations as Venezuela and Iran to expand their production.

Whether it is Deb Haaland calling the shots within the administration on energy policy or whether she is just one of many decision-makers, the Biden administration’s embrace of anti-energy environmental groups and their policies appears to be the root cause. Not surprisingly, Haaland herself rose to some level of prominence by opposing traditional energy, calling for a fracking ban, and promoting the Green New Deal. “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands,” Haaland said in an interview with the Guardian in May 2019.

Haaland is unlikely to moderate her views, even as skyrocketing energy prices have become a major problem. Instead, she avoids dealing with the issue entirely. Consider just a few examples:

  • The Interior Department and its associated agencies have not issued a single press release on the energy-crisis situation, much less about increasing production on federal lands.
  • There have been no tweets from Secretary Haaland on the issue of increasing energy production on federal lands.
  • When the secretary does focus on energy issues, as she did in a visit to Ohio, the focus is on infrastructure — cleaning up orphan wells, legacy pollution from extractive industries, and moving toward renewables.
  • Oddly, even Haaland’s calendar hasn’t been updated in nearly a year (since March 2021).

While the Interior Department and Deb Haaland have been completely missing in action during the ongoing energy crisis, Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm is at least publicly calling for ramping up production. Previously the White House was “quietly” calling for more production, but you can look far and wide for specific Biden-administration policies to increase supply. The best you’ll get is the recently announced release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Unfortunately for hard-pressed motorists and, more generally, American consumers being throttled by high inflation, the Department of Energy can’t really do anything directly to address America’s energy crisis. The department that can, though, is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the administration simply doesn’t want Haaland front and center because she has such a long track record of opposing the very energy resources necessary to solve the current crisis.

Will Haaland come out of “hiding” to lead the charge on behalf of increasing American supplies of oil and gas? I’m not holding my breath. This administration remains more beholden to radical environmental groups than any in history. Prices may come down a bit if the war in Ukraine ends, but high gas prices and constrained American production are a feature, not a bug, for the Biden administration and its interior secretary.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation.

 

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NM leaders must balance reality with green’ aspirations

The following opinion piece recently appeared in several New Mexico media outlets including the Eastern New Mexico News.

There are many things that make New Mexico unique, but one of the most noteworthy political nuances is the State’s deep and unusual relationship with energy. New Mexico’s Democratic politicians love the money and jobs generated by the traditional energy industry, but also wish to be seen as pushing back against it to placate their environmentalist base.

Nonetheless, New Mexico, a state blessed with all sorts of energy resources (both traditional as well as wind and solar) has continued to embrace Democrat politicians despite the Party’s leftward shift on energy in recent years. With oil prices skyrocketing and electricity reliability in question, it is time for voters to demand sensible energy policies from politicians.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine caused gasoline prices to jump dramatically after having risen throughout Joe Biden’s time in the White House (due in part to his anti-energy policies and rhetoric). And, while there are limited things to be done in the short term, in the intermediate and longer term, former New Mexican and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland should be a pivotal figure in addressing America’s energy issues. Instead, she is nowhere to be found.

Haaland manages the sprawling federal estate including the Bureau of Land Management. Immediately upon taking office the Biden Administration instituted a permitting moratorium on federal lands. Rather than changing directions and opening the leasing process as prices rose, under Haaland’s direction, new oil and gas lease auctions have remained on hold.

Expediting new drilling on federal lands is just one of many ways Haaland could get serious about reducing gas prices (and at least partially defanging Russia which relies heavily on oil and gas exports to Europe) but remains silent on the issue, even on her official Twitter account.

Speaking of natural gas which often takes a back seat to oil in New Mexicans’ minds, New Mexico leaders could and should be advocating for natural gas as a cleaner energy solution relative to coal and others. New Mexico is one of the leading natural gas producing states in the nation.

Thanks to a fracking-driven production boom, natural gas has been used to replace coal in electricity generation. This has been one of the primary tools in reducing US CO2 emissions in recent years, a fact recognized by former President Barack Obama. Furthermore, exports of US-produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) have created home-grown American jobs, narrowed the trade deficit, and helped foreign countries like China reduce their CO2 emissions.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provides the United States (and by extension New Mexico) an ideal opportunity to expand production of natural gas. Unfortunately, our State’s senior Senator Martin Heinrich remains obsessed with eliminating natural gas in favor of “electrification.”

Rather than focusing on alleviating the pain of high energy costs (driven both by the Russian invasion and Biden Administration policies) Heinrich is pushing to replace natural gas in home heating and cooking. He remains uninterested in transitioning Western Europe away from Russian energy to New Mexico-produced natural gas.

Electrification is a fool’s errand. According to new Department of Energy data, electricity costs $41.79 per million BTU’s. Natural gas costs $12.09 per million BTU’s. And that’s in today’s numbers. Electrification would increase US electricity consumption by 40 percent. Public Service Company of New Mexico was concerned about blackouts and brownouts this summer due to the shuttering of one coal fired power plant. A 40% increase in electricity consumption over current levels will increase prices well above today’s levels.

A greener and more affordable future can be had, and New Mexico can lead the way. With abundant nuclear resources, natural gas, and renewable power, New Mexico has a lot to offer the nation and the world. But first, our leaders including, but by no means limited to Secretary Haaland and Heinrich need to get serious about balancing economic and technological reality with their “green” aspirations.

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

 

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A new day means new tax cuts for ABQ City Council

A slightly shortened version of this opinion piece was published in the Albuquerque Journal on March 20, 2022. A chart illustrating Albuquerque’s spending is found below the text.

Elections have consequences. After four years of “progressive” leadership by Mayor Keller and a left leaning city council, the election of November 2020 saw a more center-right Council. While much attention was given to the fact that Tim Keller was reelected by a wide margin despite the City’s spiraling crime problem, Albuquerque voters didn’t actually vote for the status quo.

Now, we are starting to see a shift toward a more moderate approach to the issues from City Council. Better legislative proposals are in the pipeline, but with a 5-4 majority and a hostile mayor, getting these ideas past the finish line will be a challenge requiring grassroots support.

A starting point is reducing gross receipts taxes. Back in 2018, shortly after taking office, Mayor Keller and the new “progressive” council majority raised the (regressive) GRT by 3/8th of a cent. This was a major tax increase considering that the City’s overall GRT “take” before the tax hike was 2.375%. That made Keller’s tax hike a nearly 9% increase in Albuquerque’s rate.

And, not surprisingly, that tax increased led to rapid spending growth in the City’s budget. Even when the annual budget freeze in the 2021 budget due to COVID 19 is included, the City’s budget is up 27 percent under Mayor Keller.

Unfortunately, when the City Council met recently to discuss Councilor Lewis’ plan to cut just 1/8th of a cent off the GRT (not the full amount added in 2018), Keller’s Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta claimed “this is the worst time possible” to cut taxes.

Considering that, among numerous other wasteful spending programs, the City has just undertaken a $3 million plan to make City buses “free” to riders (that’s on top of millions in annual transit subsidies), it would seem the City could do something to help residents who continue to be pummeled by rising inflation. Unfortunately, it seems that Mayor Keller and his Administration remain opposed to this reasonable tax reduction.

There are other exciting efforts underway to move Albuquerque in a more pro-freedom direction. The big question is whether Keller will stand in the way of everything or if he’ll choose his battles. For example, Councilor Bassan has proposed ending the City’s plastic bag ban which recently passed City Council.

The unnecessary and environmentally irrelevant ban on plastic bags makes daily life more difficult for thousands of Albuquerque residents. Those bags are often reused and can be recycled. They are hardly the environmental problem their opponents claim. According to Our World in Data, the entire continent of North America generates less than 1 percent of the “mismanaged plastic” on the planet.

If Keller and City Council really want to address the City’s serious litter problem, the legions of transients begging on street corners, camping throughout town, and leaving trash behind wherever they go would be a better place to start.

While a number of other important issues are being discussed at City Council that, if adopted, will move our City in a positive direction, no effort highlights the ideological shift better than the effort to restore market forces in public construction projects. Immediately after the 2020 election, a bill was rammed through Council by liberals and the trade unions to mandate that public construction projects use union labor.

Estimates are that such unfair laws called “Project Labor Agreements” boost taxpayer costs by 14 percent. A bill is now working its way through the current Council to repeal that law and instead allow all workers and contractors regardless of union membership to bid for city construction projects.

Albuquerque is a great and beautiful city, but its management has left a lot to be desired in recent years. The current City Council is standing up to big government and special interests. They deserve your support.

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

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2022 Freedom Index Results Published

The Rio Grande Foundation uses its “Freedom Index” vote tracking site to  hold New Mexico legislators accountable for their stances on individual freedom and personal liberty. We have rated all bills that impact individual freedom that received floor votes for the 2022 session and thus the current Index results are “final.”

Every bill receiving a score is rated on a scale from -8 through +8 depending on its overall impact on YOUR personal freedom. In the 2022 session the most impactful vote (-8) was on SB 14, the Clean Fuel Standard. A full analysis of that bill can be found here.

The BEST bill voted on this session was HB 163, that is the bill which includes several tax cuts (RGF analysis of that bill here). It received a +4 rating in the Index.

Rep. Stefani Lord (R) who represents parts of the East Mountains of Albuquerque scored a 45 which was the highest rating of the session.

Rep. Randall Pettigrew (R) who represents Lea County scored a 43 which was good for the 2nd-highest rating of the session.

Sen. Craig Brandt (R) who represents Rio Rancho scored 33 which was the highest rating for any senator (the Senate and House vote on different bills and the House typically takes more votes and thus has higher and lower scores).

Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez (D) who represents parts of Albuquerque scored -66 which was the lowest rating for any member of the Legislature.

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RGF opinion piece: Session could have been a lot worse

The following appeared in several newspapers in the wake of New Mexico’s 2022 legislative session including the Carlsbad Current-Argus on February 23, 2022.

The 2022 30-day legislative session could have been much worse. It is no secret that we at the Rio Grande Foundation have disagreed with most of Michelle Lujan Grisham’s major efforts as Governor. She surprised many of us in her State of the State speech when she proposed elimination of the Social Security tax in New Mexico.

After three years of ruling as a hard left “progressive,” the Governor’s change of tune heading into the 2022 session was notable. Is her move solely due to her impending reelection? We’ll never know, but it is a welcome shift.

The most notable good legislation that passed this session was the tax cuts (HB 163). Unfortunately, the Social Security tax was not completely eliminated, but it will no longer apply to a vast majority of taxpayers. As a bonus, military pensioners received a break on their pensions for at least the next 5 years.

The State gross receipts tax rate will be cut under the tax reform package (barring a drop in state revenues) and a small child tax credit was added. Finally, the Legislature acknowledged that gross receipts tax pyramiding on business-to-business service inputs is a problem, but they only addressed the issue for manufacturers.

These tax cuts, if fully enacted, will reduce tax revenues by $400 million or so annually, are dwarfed by the massive increase in government spending. Spending rose by $1 billion this year alone.

All of this is thanks (mostly) to the booming oil and gas industry which shows no sign of slowing down, but money being printed up in Washington also played a role. Of course, while the Gov. will tout the raises for government employees in general and teachers specifically, with the current rate of inflation, those raises won’t be as helpful to families’ bottom lines.

Numerous bad bills were considered during the session that (thankfully) died. Most notable among these was SB 14 the “Clean Fuel Standard.” While rising gas prices have contributed to the State’s budget surplus, for average New Mexicans high gas prices are just another sign of inflation. Given those high prices it was a shock that Lujan Grisham made it her mission to pass this legislation, which would have increased gas prices at the pump by 35 cents/gallon.

The bill became even more confusing when, in the waning days of the session, an amendment was added to keep the San Juan Generating Station coal fired plant in Farmington open through next summer. PNM which owns the plant is nervous that it won’t have enough electricity to keep the lights on when the plant closes in June to comply with Lujan Grisham’s 2019 “green new deal” legislation.

Thankfully, with only hours to go in the session, SB 14 died on a tie vote in the House.

Another bill that, thankfully, died was the so-called “election reform” bill. Starting out, this bill was SB 8 and it had straight party voting, a “permanent” absentee voter list, allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote, and, most outrageously, a provision allowing mailed ballots to be collected as late as the Friday after the Election Day.

Through a series of amendments and changes the election reform bill became SB 144. It was still problematic due to the unnecessary loosening of voting rules, but it died on the Senate floor as time expired.

Plenty of bills never received a floor vote. The Democrat-dominated Legislature (again) failed to restore a seat at the table for itself in emergencies. On the positive side of things, Las Cruces Sen. Bill Soules’ absurd SB 204 which would have appropriated $1 billion as part of a down payment on a high-speed train from the border with Mexico to Colorado, went nowhere as well.

This session could have been a lot worse. But, a moderately-successful 30-day session with November’s elections staring the Gov. in the face does not an ideological shift make.

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

 

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Where New Mexico is getting most of its money

Gov. Lujan Grisham has proposed a 13.5 percent increase this year. While ALL states have received massive bailouts in the form of printed money from Washington, New Mexico’s financial windfall is largely generated by the oil and (to a lesser extent) gas industry.

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Best bills of New Mexico Legislature…so far

Despite there being A LOT of bad bills in the 2022 session even with only 30 days to consider them, there ARE some good bills. Here are some of the BEST bills introduced so far. We’ll also “handicap” the likelihood that each bill will pass:

HB 40/HJR 3: Reps. Greg Nibert (R), Daymon Ely (D), Randall T. Pettigrew (R), Stefani Lord (R), and Rachel A. Black (R). This bill/amendment would place limits on the Governor (whoever that may be) and give the Legislature a “seat at the table” in future emergencies. Unfortunately, while similar bills were introduced in the 2021 session which lasted 60 days and a recent special session, this worthwhile bill which has bipartisan sponsorship has a LOW chance of passage.

HB 48/HB 49/SB 108 These bills introduced by Reps. Gail Armstrong (R), Cathrynn N. Brown (R), Randall T. Pettigrew (R) , Candie G. Sweetser (D), Rebecca Dow (R), and Sen. Padilla (D) would end taxation of Social Security under New Mexico’s personal income tax. This issue has been around for a few years, but Gov. Lujan Grisham has said that she supports eliminating the tax. We don’t know EXACTLY what she means (like if she’ll raise other taxes to do it), but these bills DO NOT offset the tax with new taxes. MODERATE chance of passage.

HB 76/SB 85  Reps. Phelps Anderson (I),  Harry Garcia (D)
T. Ryan Lane (R), Joy Garratt (D), Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert (R), and Sen. Harold Pope (D) would give a $30,000 exemption for military pensions. This bill is a worthy follow-up to the Social Security discussion, especially with New Mexico’s large number of ex-military. But, it is unlikely to happen this year. 

HB 91: Reps. Rebecca Dow (R),  Luis M. Terrazas (R),  James G. Townsend (R),  Candy Spence Ezzell, (R), and  Randall T. Pettigrew would prohibit the teaching of Critical Race Theory in New Mexico schools. It is unlikely to pass this year.

HJR 11: Reps. James G. Townsend (R), Ryan Lane (R), Larry Scott (R), Rod Montoya, (R), and Stefani Lord (R) would amend New Mexico’s constitution to specifically allow school funding to flow to families to choose the education option that makes sense for them which may include private schools or home school. Zero Chance of Passage until the unions no longer control New Mexico’s Legislature and Gov.

SB 5: Sen. Bobby Gonzalez (D), reduces the Gross Receipts Tax rate imposed by the State of New Mexico from 5.125% to 4.875 percent. This WAS a top priority of the Gov. prior to the session, but when she asked the Legislature to eliminate the Social Security tax in her State of the State address she seemed to shift emphasis away from reducing GRT rates. We still believe this has a High Chance of Passage.

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Here are some early contenders for worst bills of the 2022 Legislature

As of the day before the 2022 Legislature kicks off, here are some of the worst bills introduced in the session (so far). You can see the updated list of bills introduced in the session here as of January 17, 2022. More will be added. Given the large number of bills likely to be introduced, I’ll also offer a brief thought on how likely they are to pass:

HB 6, Reps. Nathan Small (D) Brian Egolf (D), Kristina Ortez (D), Sens. Siah Correa Hemphill (D), Mimi Stewart (D). Sets legislative framework for “net-zero” CO2 emissions in State of New Mexico. Likelihood of passage: High as Gov. MLG has said she wants to make New Mexico “net-zero.”

HB 11, Reps. Debra Sariñana (D) and Meredith Dixon (D). Creates a tax credit of up to $5,000 and 40% of the cost of “energy storage” systems. Likelihood of passage: High This yet another part of the push toward unreliable forms of electricity that will demand massive and costly battery storage.

HB 14, Reps. Christine Chandler (D) and Debra M. Sariñana (D). Allows local governments to issue Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRB) and gross receipts tax deductions for “energy storage” systems. Likelihood of passage: High(see above).

HB 33, Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D). Imposes massive (regressive) tax hike on tobacco consumers at a time of massive budget surpluses. Likelihood of passage: Moderate (it will hard for legislators to explain a tax hike at a time of record budget surpluses).

HB 34, Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D). Expands and extends an already-generous solar panel tax credit that disproportionately benefits wealthy New Mexicans. Likelihood of passage: High (furthers “green” agenda and benefits well-connected, wealthy solar customers and companies).

HB 71, Rep. Matthew McQueen (D) and Jason C. Harper (R). Allows taxes on residential property to rise by up to 10% ANNUALLY (as opposed to 3% currently). Likelihood of passage: Moderate (Property taxes are notoriously unpopular and it is hard to see the Legislature passing a big tax hike in an election year, even with a GOP co-sponsor).

HB 75, Rep. Sponsor Patricia Roybal Caballero (D). Sets up a state-run bank in New Mexico. New Mexico already has a robust network of banks and credit unions, the last thing it needs is a government-run and taxpayer-financed bank. Likelihood of passage: Moderate this is a concept likely to be seen as too far beyond the pale even for many Democrats.

HB 78 and HB 132 Rep. Patricial Roybal Caballero (D) is on HB 78 while HB 132 is more likely to pass and sponsored by Rep. Susan K. Herrera, Speaker Brian Egolf, Reps. Joy Garratt (D), Phelps Anderson (I) and Daymon Ely (D). Both bills create artificial limits on interest rates charged by certain lenders in New Mexico that will limit credit availability to those with poor or no credit. Likelihood of passage: High (HB 132) as this concept has numerous groups supporting and high-interest loans are misunderstood and by legislators, the media, and the population at large.

HB 126, Reps. Tara L. Lujan (D) and Pamelya Herndon (D), Creates all manner of “diversity” requirements for state government employees, creates a “Chief Diversity Officer” as well as “diversity” and “inclusion” liaisons in State government, requires an annual report on whether the State is achieving its diversity and inclusion goals. Is New Mexico State government not “woke” enough? This legislation is for you. Likelihood of passage: Moderate.

HJR 2 / SJR2 Reps. Joanne J. Ferrary (D), Tara L. Lujan (D), Gail Chasey (D), Sens. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, (D), Harold Pope (D). Purports to provide the people of New Mexico with vaguely-defined “environmental rights” includng the right to a “clean and healthy environment and the “right to protction of the environment.” The vague provisions contained in this amendment will simply result in more expensive lawsuits and unnecessary regulations. This is a Constitutional amendment and extremely vaguely worded which might scare away supporters.  Likelihood of passage: Moderate.

SB 8, Sens. Peter Wirth (D),   Katy M. Duhigg (D), Harold Pope (D) Carrie Hamblen (D), and  Rep. Javier Martínez (D) would “reform” voting in New Mexico by allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote, creating a permanent absentee voter list, and permitting people without an official state ID to register to vote online by using their full Social Security number. Likelihood of passage: High

SB 21, Sen. Bill Tallman (D), Provides a tax subsidy for electric vehicles which tend to be driven by wealthy New Mexicans and is thus “regressive.” If there is one policy area where New Mexico’s Legislature loves to pour subsidies it would be for supposed “green” initiatives. Likelihood of passage: High

SB 99, Sen. Leo Jaramillo (D), Creates a new “State Transit Fund” to further funnel money from state taxpayers to failed transit projects. This is a new idea this session, but with so much money floating around there is always reason to be concerned about new wasteful spending. Likelihood of passage: Moderate

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Santa Fe New Mexican op-ed: An energy crisis looms in New Mexico

The following appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on October 24, 2021.

Western Europe is facing an energy crisis this winter. Prices have skyrocketed. Natural gas is 400 percent higher than the start of 2021 while coal is up over 300 percent.

As if high prices weren’t enough of a problem, 40 percent of the natural gas that Europe uses comes from Vladamir Putin’s Russia, an unreliable supplier to say the least.

New Mexicans should take heed. Thankfully, despite the Biden Administration’s permitting ban on federal lands (since invalidated by a judge), New Mexico has steady supplies of oil and natural gas.

Those supplies help protect us from wild price swings and supply disruptions like those that could cause massive economic pain and human suffering in Europe this winter.

While we’ll be fine this winter, New Mexico’s largest utility is facing serious challenges finding enough electricity by next summer.

Due to the Energy Transition Act of 2019 which forms the cornerstone of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s “Green New Deal” agenda, the San Juan Generating Station is slated to be permanently shut down next June during the hottest part of next summer.

PNM executives have stated clearly that the hunt for “renewable” power to replace San Juan Generating Station is not going well. Even in the best of circumstances “renewables” like solar and wind are inconsistent and require backup like batteries, but the pandemic has hit supply chains hard and projects are being delayed.

Unless Gov. Lujan Grisham acts quickly to keep San Juan Generating Station open, the plant will be taken offline as scheduled this summer and blackouts and brownouts could be the result. If you don’t believe me, Tom Fallgren, PNM’s vice president of generation told the Public Regulation Commission recently, in discussing the possibility of brownouts and blackouts said, “Am I concerned? Yes. Do I lose sleep over it? Yes. Can we solve it? Yes.”

He further noted that PNM practices for scenarios, such as brownouts, have detailed procedures to handle them and prioritize power for places such as hospitals.

Finally, Fallgren noted, “We are looking at any and all options. … And we continue to beat the bushes, so to say, for other opportunities as well.” Are you feeling reassured? I’m not. Interestingly enough, PNM continues to reject new natural gas-powered resources in New Mexico as replacement supply.

Even if we escape serious power outages this summer, the issue is not going away. In fact, it will only get worse. In 2023 and 2024, PNM is abandoning its leases for power from Palo Verde (a nuclear power plant in Arizona), and by the end of 2024, PNM will no longer receive power from the Four Corners plant, yet another coal-fired plant here in New Mexico.

Ironically, as has been discussed in PRC hearings, the Navajo Tribe wants to take over Four Corners plant (saving jobs and tax revenues) while environmentalists are pushing hard to shut it down completely. Regardless of what happens next summer or over the next few years, these are policy-driven decisions made by Lujan Grisham and Democrats in the Legislature. They could have massive implications for New Mexico families.

Already, with the price of everything already going up, New Mexicans’ electric bills rose 5 percent just last year. Those rate hikes will continue to escalate for years into the future regardless of whether PNM or Avangrid is in charge. Wasn’t the Energy Transition Act supposed to hold the line on price increases?

New Mexicans and their elected officials must be aware of the very real problems facing them as June of 2022 approaches. It is not too late to prevent this crisis.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a tax-exempt organization dedicated to promoting prosperity and individual responsibility.