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Education Notable News Oil & Gas Tax and Budget Top Issues

National Review column: Educational Improvement Is Not about Spending More Money

The following appeared in National Review’s Capital Matters on December 28, 2022.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is known as “the Nation’s Report Card.” Sadly, the most recent “report card” represented failure for many states, not the least of which is my home state of New Mexico, which came in dead-last in all categories studied: fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading and math.

Sadly, especially for New Mexico kids, the additional tax dollars being spent by the state’s education system have not moved the needle. If anything, the needle has moved in the wrong direction.

Let’s compare New Mexico with lower-spending, reform-minded states, such as Arizona and Mississippi. Arizona neighbors New Mexico and has a similar demographic profile, including large Native American communities and a large Hispanic population. Mississippi has poverty challenges similar to New Mexico’s and has also struggled with poor education outcomes for decades. A common saying in New Mexico for years was, “Thank God for Mississippi,” as it was often the only state doing worse than New Mexico on many lists of social well-being and economic outcomes.

But Arizona and Mississippi have enacted serious reforms while New Mexico has not. Using NAEP test scores, it is easy to see which states have improved their education systems and which haven’t. We’ll use fourth-grade reading scores to make the comparison. Many education analysts argue that fourth-grade reading is especially critical because up until fourth grade, much of education involves learning to read. After fourth grade, it is difficult or even impossible to succeed in school without being able to read well.

In 2005, New Mexico outperformed Mississippi on fourth-grade reading and was tied with Arizona, with a score of 207. By 2022, Arizona outperformed New Mexico 215 to 202 while Mississippi outperformed both states with a score of 216.

Neither Arizona nor Mississippi dramatically increased K–12 spending. According to data from Statista, in FY 2022 Mississippi spent $10,089 per-student, while Arizona spent $10,639. That places them as the third- and fifth-lowest-spending states in the nation. The U.S. average is $15,047.

New Mexico, on the other hand, has increased education spending over the past 15 years or so. In 2005, New Mexico spent far less than the national average and was twelfth-lowest among U.S. states. That was more than either Arizona or Mississippi, but still low.

Today, New Mexico ranks 19th among states at, considering its dismal educational record, an astonishing $15,338 per student. That is higher than the national average despite other states’ having also increased spending over those years.

What happened? Arizona and Mississippi embarked on serious (albeit different) education-policy reforms while New Mexico did relatively little other than increase spending.

Arizona has had a charter-school law since the mid 1990s and continues to see charter schools grow in terms of options and students. It is ranked as the second-best charter law in the nation, according to the Center for Education Reform.

A system of tax credits to be used for private school choice has been in place and growing since 1997, and various specialty programs as well as narrowly targeted vouchers have also made Arizona a school-choice leader. That’s even before the program of universal education savings accounts approved in early 2022 fully takes effect.

Mississippi, on the other hand, focuses less on choice (they have a small charter-school footprint). Instead, it has focused resources on improving early-childhood reading. Starting in 2013, with passage of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, Mississippi started to require third-grade students to demonstrate basic reading proficiency levels to progress to fourth grade. The state also focused on teaching teachers how to use phonics-based reading instruction.

New Mexico, despite having had charter schools since 1992, has not enacted much in the way of additional reforms, whether those be choice or an early reading focus. Instead, New Mexico has used resources to increase teacher pay.

It will be interesting to see if Arizona (especially with its new choice law) and Mississippi can keep or accelerate the momentum. Sadly, New Mexico is one poorly performing state that has not gotten serious about either approach. The children in my state have suffered despite a large increase in government education spending. Better results are possible without breaking the bank, as Arizona and Mississippi have proven.

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Published opinion piece: Use surplus strategically to solve long-term problems

The following appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on December 24, 2022 and in numerous other news sources.

As the State’s Permian oil production boom continues in New Mexico the budget surpluses available to legislators each session grow as well. The latest announced budget surplus is $3.6 billion which is a positively mind-blowing 43 percent. This surplus is on top of already dramatic spending growth of 30 percent during the first four years of the Lujan Grisham Administration.

More spending growth this year is to be expected, but the capacity for government to continue expanding after years of rapid growth is somewhat limited by the ability of government to manage existing resources available to it. This is not surprising since New Mexico’s state and local government is already among the very largest in the nation.

But I’m not here to rail about the size of New Mexico government (at least not this time). Rather, I’m here to remind legislators of both parties that such massive surpluses present rare opportunities to lead our State to a better future.

Gov. Lujan Grisham has already proposed rebates of $750 or $1,500 for New Mexicans depending on marital status. Rebates are a bi-partisan idea, one supported in the recent campaign by her Republican opponent Mark Ronchetti, though details differed. To be clear the Rio Grande Foundation does not oppose tax rebates if they are not an excuse to (yet again) punt on long-overdue tax reform. Returning a portion of the budget surplus is not going to move New Mexico’s economy forward and diversify it in the same way as long-overdue tax reform would.

The same can be said for an idea that often garners bipartisan support in Santa Fe: that is bolstering various permanent and “rainy day” funds. Quite honestly, New Mexico has numerous big problems facing it. There is no better time to address these problems than right now. If policymakers use the surplus to diversify and improve the State’s economy in ways that will make it more competitive with its neighbors, the well-being of future New Mexicans won’t be so contingent on the vagaries of oil and gas.

New Mexico’s litany of current economic challenges includes:

  • A low workforce participation rate that has historically lagged behind our neighbors and remains well below pre-pandemic levels and has even dropped in recent months;
  • Poverty rates that are among the very highest in the nation;
  • A medical provider shortage that, while driven in part by regulations is worsened by gross receipts taxation of medical practitioners including Medicaid services;
  • Lack of economic diversity in a state that relies heavily on oil and gas for money and government (federal, state, and local) for employment opportunities;
  • Water and other infrastructure issues.

These problems (and more) can at least partially be solved by using New Mexico’s financial largesse wisely. New Mexico policymakers have long focused on government-driven approaches to these problems. State and local government spends a very high percentage of the economy.

Majority Democrats have an opportunity to not only pump more funding into their priorities, but they could show that they are pro-business and interested in using oil and gas revenues to diversify the State economy for a time when the oil and gas industry isn’t as bullish.

Republicans, rather than leaving the bold ideas to Democrats, should offer their own serious reform ideas and bills in the upcoming session. Ideally, the minority GOP could influence Democrats toward a more pro-growth agenda. Worst case, in two years they can point to their detailed policy ideas and use them to challenge Democrats for failing to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Regardless of your political affiliation or beliefs we all must realize that 43 percent budget surpluses don’t come around often. We can’t solve all of New Mexico’s problems even with this massive surplus, but with strategic moves like those outlined here we can certainly move the needle.

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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Legislature blessed with $3.6 billion in “new” money in upcoming session

According to the latest news reports New Mexico has a mind-blowing $3.6 billion budget surplus available to it when the Legislature convenes in January. This is, of course, derived largely from a production-driven boom in New Mexico’s oil and gas industry. Between now and January we and others will have plenty of time to discuss potential uses for the money. For now we’d like to simply help people grapple with the sheer size of this surplus.

  1. The budget surplus alone is a mind-blowing 43% of the current $8.4 billion budget which is in itself a 30% bigger budget than when Susana Martinez left office.
  2. The budget surplus alone is virtually the same size as the FY23 (current year) K-12 budget ($3.8 billion) which is a 41% increase over 5 years.
  3. The budget surplus is more than 7X the State’s “public safety” budget and 3.5X the entire higher education budget.
  4. The State could ELIMINATE the entire gross receipts tax ($3.047 billion) for FY 2024 and still have nearly $600 million left over.
  5. The State could ELIMINATE ALL personal and corporate income taxes ($2.107 billion for FY 2024 and still have $1.5 billion left over.

What WILL happen is anybody’s guess. With New Mexico’s continued economic struggles there are plenty of opportunities for the type of pro-growth tax reform the State sorely needs.

As a quick reminder, New Mexico’s state and local spending is already tops in the nation according to the website US Government Spending:

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RGF submits public comments in support of gulf oil/gas leasing

When it comes to issues surrounding oil and gas, the Rio Grande Foundation supports the industry. This is NOT because of the billions it provides our State every year or even the thousands of jobs it creates. We support the industry because we support human flourishing and energy allows humanity to flourish.

So, we support policies that allow energy development throughout the nation and even the world, including drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), under the Department of Interior, is currently collecting comments on a proposed lease sale (environmental groups are opposed to any new sales).

Click here for details and if you’d like to comment, please do (no later than October 6, 2022). Rio Grande Foundation’s comments can be found below (they are also available on BOEM’s website: l8n-a2s4-dvbe.

The following comments are on behalf of the Rio Grande Foundation, a public policy research organization based in Albuquerque, NM and working to make New Mexico more economically prosperous.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently released plans for offshore energy development for the next five years. Currently, BOEM’s plan only includes 10 lease sales over a 5-year period in the Gulf of Mexico and does NOT guarantee those sales will take place.

BOEM does not have an active leasing plan for the Gulf of Mexico and will be unable to hold any lease sales until the new plan is finalized. This will leave a multi-year gap in lease sales in the Gulf. The proposed plan needs to be finalized ASAP to help protect consumers and businesses from high energy prices!

The Gulf of Mexico produces 15% of our nation’s energy. The Rio Grande Foundation supports BOEM’s planned lease sale specifically and encourages opening the Gulf to ensure energy prices stay affordable for consumers.

New Mexico is the nation’s 2nd-biggest oil producing state. Nearly half of that oil is produced on federally managed land. So, while a New Mexican might be expected to oppose drilling in the Gulf in hopes of making New Mexico’s product more valuable, the reality is that we truly ARE all in this together. The federal government needs to expand, not contract, the ability of energy producers to bring oil and gas to Americans and potentially Western European nations as well who are dealing with shortages driven by Russia’s invasion.

Here are a few facts:

  • In FY2021, revenues totaled $4.1 Billion from OCS oil and gas activities.
  • If drilling in the Gulf is stopped, western states like New Mexico are likely to see a decline in lease sales on federal lands located within the state in the future; negatively impacting our state’s budget and infrastructure funding.
  • Oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico is some of the least carbon intensive oil produce anywhere in the world and will play a key role in reducing global carbon emissions.
  • The Gulf of Mexico funds conservation efforts across the country, including our national parks.
  • Producing American oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico helps protect consumers from instability in global markets.
  • If drilling in the Gulf is stopped, western states like New Mexico are likely to see a decline in lease sales on federal lands located within the state in the future; negatively impacting our state’s budget and infrastructure funding.

Energy abundance is critical to our way of life. The Gulf of Mexico is a big part of America’s energy picture. I urge you to approve this plan.

 

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Top 5 things New Mexico should do with its largesse (and a few they shouldn’t)

New Mexico, fresh off a 15 percent spending increase, has ANOTHER $2.5 billion in “new” money (basically a budget surplus). Who knows what big-spending schemes the Legislature will cook up for the 2023 legislative session? Of course, what happens with that cash depends A LOT on what happens in November.

Here are the top 5 things the Legislature SHOULD do with the money (and a few things to avoid);

1) Address the gross receipts tax and both its “pyramiding” (taxes paid on top of taxes) as well as its taxes on business input services is an ABSOLUTE must. It won’t “cost” much in the grand scheme of things and as analysts told the Legislature recently, it is a big factor holding our state back.

2) AFTER the GRT is reformed, New Mexico should begin phasing down (and out) both personal and corporate income taxes. 9 states currently have NO personal income tax.  The corporate income tax only accounts for $200 million or so annually. It is time to diversify our economy and New Mexico can do so by eliminating the corporate income tax.

3) Pay down pension debt while reforming them AND giving workers freedom to invest their OWN retirement funds. Yes, that’s a lot, but New Mexico’s underfunded pensions are in need of not only more funding, but fundamental transformation. Dumping more tax dollars into them is not a particularly good idea, but paired with needed reforms and increased worker control, this is a worthy approach.

4) Infrastructure: repave our roads and bridges, water projects. While New Mexico roads are ranked okay nationally (despite our dangerous drivers) e all know of certain roads that need to be paved/improved across our State. It is time to get this infrastructure in top shape. Same with water. It is time to make every drop count and explore innovative approaches to improving our future water security.

5) Bring/keep more medical professionals. New Mexico needs more medical professionals. While basic reforms to our new, harmful medical malpractice law are essential, improving Medicaid reimbursement (and ending the GRT on medical services as part of a broader GRT reform) are two ways to make New Mexico a more attractive place for medical providers.

Things we don’t need

1) Another year of massive spending growth. New Mexico’s state spending as a percent of GDP is the highest in the USA in FY 2023 (vastly outpacing its neighbors as seen below). Broad new spending increases are not going to improve our State;

2) Socking the money away: this is only deferred spending growth. New Mexico needs to act prudently with this money to address important policy shortcomings NOW.

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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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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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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.