Harold Morgan

© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES            8-28-17
New state revenue estimates fraught with risks
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
An intermediate view of New Mexico’s economy and state government finances has trickled from Taos Ski Valley. The situation today followed from downtown Albuquerque.
The General Fund Consensus Revenue Estimate, August 2017, was presented at the August 16 meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee, builder of one of the state’s two budgets. The meeting was a block from the new luxury hotel, The Blake.
The Taos News called The Blake “the new shining jewel at Taos Ski Valley,” an 80-room, 145,000-square-foot, $60 million premium hotel with rates starting at $259. It proves that good things can happen. Blake was Ernie Blake, Taos Ski Valley founder with his wife, Rhoda.
The estimate concentrates on three budget years, one just past (FY 17), the current year (FY 18), and next year (FY 19). This column reviews the LFC’s analysis.
The future—the projections of state revenue and economic growth—got happy and unjustified words from Gov. Susana Martinez. 
New Mexico added 8,400 (seasonally unadjusted) wage jobs, or 2.3 percent, between July 2016 and July 2017, said the Department of Workforce Solutions in the August 18 release. The June increase was revised down 24 percent to 15,600 jobs in the July report.
The July unemployment rate was “not notably different” from June for 46 states, among them New Mexico, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
Private education added 2,600 jobs for the year, a 15 percent increase. Health services, health care and social assistance added 1,100 jobs, a 0.9 percent growth rate probably reflecting slower Medicaid growth.
Albuquerque dominated the July job report with 4,900 new jobs, year over year, or 58 percent of the total. The other three metro areas, together, produced zero new jobs. See www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.com for additional discussion of the July job report.
Headlines went to FY 17 recurring revenue being $140.4 million higher than estimated in December and a $12 million increase in the estimate for FY 18 revenue. The governor liked the $12 million, a figure so small on the scale of things that it hardly exists.
The revenue estimates come with clouds of risk. The LFC’s cites “examples of unusual and questionable data in recent months and insufficient reporting… leading to significant risks in the forecast.”
The known unknowns start with UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, a key organization in the forecast preparation, saying the BLS report job totals for the fourth quarter of 2016 were 8,000 too high, forcing guesses into the forecast preparation.
New Mexicans are working less, averaging the fewest weekly hours in the last ten years, but borrowing more, especially for cars and education, growing non-mortgage household debt faster than income. Maybe the education borrowing explains the private education job growth.
Some parts of gross receipts tax (GRT) income have become “far more volatile and unpredictable” the past few years, especially “60-day money” held for matching against tax returns, which added $35.7 million to the general fund instead of the usual $3.5 million. Maybe that money will have to be subtracted as might an $85.6 million general fund gain beyond the trend from “other credits,” which “poses a significant threat to state finances.” The average effective GRT rate moved from steady to volatile starting in October 2015, adding forecast uncertainty.
GRT growth has split from its long steady relationship with wage and salary growth. GRT revenue has also diverged from tracking with “underlying matched taxable gross receipts activity,” which, the LFC says, “is the best indicator of underlying economic activity.”
The forecasts are up for national job and economic performance and down for the state. We don’t know what’s happening. Probably we’re lucky to be where we are. Given the risks, being thankful and crossing fingers seem the best reaction.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES          8-14-17
EPA “Taking steps of accountability” for Gold King spill
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Score one for Steve Pearce.
Early last year the congressman from the second, or semi-southern, district introduced the ‘‘Gold King Mine Spill Accountability Act of 2016.”  The bill would have stopped the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency from issuing regulations until all claims from the August 5, 2015, three-million-gallon toxic waste spill at the Gold King mine in southwest Colorado were settled.
The proposal from Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet was EPA involvement in a monitoring plan.
In January, a few days before President Obama left office, the EPA, citing sovereign immunity, blew off the people who had filed claims for damages. Those claims totaled around $1.2 billion, reported he Denver Post, with a billion from New Mexicans, $150 million from Coloradans, a few hundred thousand from Utah and $160 million from the Navajo Nation.
Those disparate reactions responded to what is called the nation’s largest clean water disaster of recent years.
Eighteen months after Pearce introduced his bill, two years after the mess and with a switch of presidents, things have changed. It’s as if people—including New Mexico’s Democrats—have taken Pearce’s bill to heart.
Accountability is at the center of Pearce’s bill. Glimmers of accountability appeared as the second anniversary approached. The bill didn’t make it out of committee, which I suspect was not a special problem for Pearce. The likely main idea was to get the EPA’s attention and, as it proved, the attention of the new administration.
On August 4, EPA chief Scott Pruitt visited the mine site near Silverton, the Denver Post reported.  Pruitt said he had already asked people damaged by the spill to resubmit their claims.
“The message here: We’re taking steps of accountability where the past administration took no steps,” Pruitt told the Post.
Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman joined Pruitt. A town hall in Durango followed the site visit. New Mexico senators and representatives weren’t there.
New Mexico’s five members of Congress have agreed on something. The group’s August 4 letter to Pruitt called for equal treatment of all claims as part of the EPA reconsidering filed claims. “It is also our understanding that claims made by the Navajo Nation and the State of New Mexico are not going to be reconsidered,” the letter said.
That seems bizarre. All the Navajo Nation and New Mexico have done is sue the EPA. So has Utah, just days ago. Apparently the lawsuits count. The Journal of Mancos, Colorado, reported an EPA statement that the suits were the reason for not (for now, perhaps) compensating the Navajo Nation and New Mexico.
Udall, Heinrich, Bennet and Lujan plan a bill, the “Hardrock Mining And Reclamation Act of 2017,” that, if passed, would reform the “antiquated” (their word) hardrock mining laws. Hardrock mining means extracting minerals that are “hard,” such as gold, silver, and copper as opposed to “soft” minerals such as coal. Hardrock mining typically, though not necessarily, is done using underground mining.
Though Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed on to various earlier Gold King pronouncements, she has occupied the shadows during the second anniversary public activity. She is running for governor and has a problem. Supporting the recent activity and statements would mean agreeing with Pruitt and the new EPA, which is a center of lefty angst about the Trump administration, and with Steve Pearce, also a candidate for governor and who Lujan Grisham has denounced as a Radical Conservative (capital letters, please) and as a Trump stooge.
Politics or bipartisanship and doing the right thing. Tough choice.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES     7-31-17
NM  buried in known unknowns; policy organization could help
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
A few people truly worry about New Mexico’s long term. But they don’t know what to do. These isolated individuals emerged in the past few weeks in Farmington, Roswell, Las Cruces and Albuquerque from conversations with nearly 40 people who ought to be thought leaders in the state.
The individuals cover the state’s precious demographics, though most conversations have been with old White guys. But then I am an old White guy.
For recent conversations, the question has been whether the individual gets in discussions and/or is thinking about the long term for New Mexico. A few answered, “Yes.” Ah, but what to do.
I used to ask what the individual saw for New Mexico. That question generated the conventional wisdom: too much government, Central New Mexico Community College is doing good stuff.
The Albuquerque-Denver comparison has resurfaced. This is not especially useful. Denver is the major leagues (think Broncos, Rockies, Nuggets, Avalanche). Albuquerque is AAA. Compare Albuquerque with Tucson, Des Moines, Omaha.
Typical “future” thinking amounts to citing New Mexico’s position on “all the lists” and wailing.
Defining the problem is what we have not done. A position on a list says only a little.
A revelation from the director of a social services organization is that our continuing failure the past ten or 20 years has created an underclass of people who are not in the system. These are the people, the police tell us, who steal cars as an 8-to-5 job.
Philosopher, sometime Taos resident and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld can lend insight here. (I can just hear the far left: Rumsfeld?! He’s evil! Back off and pay attention.) Rumsfeld’s famous comment considered ‘known knowns… things we know we know… (and) known unknowns, that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know (and) also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.”
As to dealing with the various knowns, “It’s just hard work, that’s all,” Rumsfeld says.
One approach would gather modest charitable donations—say $5,000—from the usual civic donors, use the money to create a new organization on a “trust me” basis with an independent board charged with doing unspecified but difficult good things and often saying, “No.” The idea stalled over parochialism, donor risk averseness and control. No “trust me” here.
We have no leaders, some argue. Examples: The “Community Connections” newsletter from Los Alamos National Laboratory a few days ago discussed impending LANL management changes. The LANL director did not sign the article. Signing such messages is the director’s job.
One of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s many sins in his infamous ART transportation project is not attending contentious community meetings last year. Such meetings are the mayor’s job.
A wealthy man told me that maybe New Mexico having all these problems wasn’t all bad; the situation means the state wouldn’t grow. Build a fence around the moral abandonment and enjoy the sunsets.
The rest of us have a responsibility to do something, starting with defining the problem(s). That might be a challenge. Question one: what is thought to be the problem or problems? Then what important elements define the problem. What drives the problem? What measures the problem? Do we have useful data? Is important information missing?
A public policy institute would be a way. Such an organization would define, over time, a whole set of problems via systematic, thorough research, propose solution alternatives and insist, through a vigorous communications program, that leaders, starting with governors and legislators, pay attention. A concept outline for a public policy institute is posted at www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.com along with a partial list of systemic issues.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES     7-24-17
Farmington seeks softer landing from power plant cuts
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The nation’s lowest average residential electric bill comes to New Mexico’s homeowners. Who’d a thunk?
The rates rank 20th nationally, but we use less electricity, the 11th lowest amount. Combine the factors and the average monthly bill becomes the lowest.
This is a federal number, coming from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, courtesy of our Public Regulation Commission. Four PRCers, led by Sandy Jones, commission chair, had a long session July 19 in Farmington with the Legislative Finance Committee and the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee at the BP Center for Energy Education at San Juan College. The session ran an hour and 25 minutes beyond the scheduled hour.
The electric bill item, obscure but of interest to all New Mexicans, appeared in an out of the way place making it difficult for the information to circulate. This is an old problem. New Mexico’s large size means a lot of out of sight and out of mind. Even the Center for Energy Education, a gorgeous white building located about four blocks from the main campus, shares the out of sight problem.
The complexity of the overall issue—massive changes coming in energy—adds. Utility regulation seems a closed world with few players: the PRC, utilities, environmental types (typically hating fossil fuels) and some business groups, all using arcane jargon.
Once in a while a head or two seemed to spin among the roughly 25 legislators attending. “Did you really say (that)?” legislators asked. However, the main sub-issue and the reason for the gathering at the BP Center—that the hard parts of changes in the energy production business are going to land in the laps and wallets of San Juan County residents—was clear and had everyone’s attention.
The immediate job losses are 650 direct jobs from the San Juan plant and another 650 indirect jobs, said Rep. Steve Strickler, Farmington Republican. PNM expects to close its San Juan generating plant in 2022, five years away, and the Four Corners Power plant in 2031. Farmington’s population dropped 15,000 between 2000 and 2016.
While Farmington is at the epicenter, the city has company. Sen. Steve Neville, Aztec Republican, observed that it appears all the regional power plants will disappear within 15 years. All of the four transmission lines heading southeast into New Mexico won’t be needed. Some should be taken down.
San Juan County citizens would like to see the plant sites reclaimed, Neville said.
The power business is in a period of disruption, said Rep. Carl Trujillo, Santa Democrat, stating the obvious. The disruption is because of past policy decisions requiring increasing proportions of electricity to come from renewable sources, he said. A collateral effect comes from wind turbine manufacture. Hundreds of pounds of rare earth minerals go into each turbine. China produces about 95 percent of those minerals, Trujillo said. Making wind turbines sends jobs to China.
Tom Mullins of Farmington’s Synergy Operating, LLC, and president of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, called attention to “marginal wells,” which account for 75 percent of New Mexico’s wells. These wells chug along with modest daily production. Focus on new technology such as horizontal drilling should not mean forgetting these wells.
The framework for these changes is called the “Integrated Resource Plan,” which is ten years old. The plan should be broadened, Strickler said. “We need more time. This is a Pandora’s Box,” he said. 
The PRC’s Jones said, “This is a testament that we need to modernize. There (are) a lot of things that need to be revisited.”
“We need a softer landing,” said Rep. Rod Montoya, Farmington Republican and a coal company retiree.
Yes, modernized and softer would be better.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES      7-17-17
Pearce declares for governor, says “new leadership” needed
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
With the July 10 announcement by Congressman Steve Pearce that he is running for governor, the field of substantive candidates seems complete.
Before going further, one point of context should be specified; I like Steve Pearce. I met him about 20 years ago during his two-term apprenticeship as a legislator from Hobbs. I found him smart and personable. He asked good questions. Since then, he has shown himself to be firmly committed to ideas and prone to the occasional grand gesture.
One question for Pearce won’t disappear. It’s whether he can win a statewide general election. He won a statewide Republican U. S. Senate primary in 2008 when he beat then Congresswoman Heather Wilson, hardly a trivial opponent, for the privilege of getting soundly beaten by Democrat and now Sen. Tom Udall.
Wilson, who beat a series of nonentities while she was in Congress (incumbency helps) lost a second Senate race to a formidable opponent, Martin Heinrich.
Pearce’s ideas form a second question. Call him a staunch conservative. For sure he will be toast if he only presents voters the standard list of right-wing talking points. He will also be toast if he allows Democrats to cast him as a conservative caricature.
Michelle Lujan Grisham set the tone with a donation request email calling Pearce a “radical conservative.” Abandon all hope of a real discussion of the challenges facing the state. The Lujan Grisham email stretched the truth (exaggerated? lied?) when it said Pearce “announces he’s running against” Lujan Grisham. Not exactly. Pearce announced he’s running for governor with no mention of being against anyone. See .
Lujan Grisham must beat three other Democrats in the primary to have a shot at Pearce. To emphasize her point, Lujan Grisham sent the same email two days later.
Assuming Pearce wins the Republican nomination next year—if indeed there is a primary—New Mexicans have a chance for a meaningful governor’s race, one between substantive candidates offering real ideas to dig the state out of our 20-year mess.
Think back. For a long time governors have won their first term over opponents that were either weak or burdened with external factors. The talented Diane Denish could not escape Bill Richardson’s record. Richardson got the lightweight John Sanchez, now lieutenant governor. Against the young and vigorous Gary Johnson, Bruce King celebrated his 70th birthday.
A third problem for Pearce is the failure of Gov. Susana Martinez. As noted recently in this space, any viable Republican candidate must create a long distance from Martinez. In his announcement video on his website, Pearce may have begun that distancing.
The video said, “New Mexico has great potential but needs leadership to harness it.”
In an email from the state Republican Party, Pearce said, “I am optimistic that with new leadership and a shared vision for our future, we can be successful. United, I know there is nothing we cannot accomplish.” Leadership. Hmmm….
The announcement was the politics of hope and optimism.
Commitment from Pearce is not halfway. He introduced a bill last year to shut down new EPA regulations until the agency accepted responsibility for the Gold King Mine spill.
Also last year Pearce, an Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War, flew almost around the world—solo—in remembrance of American veterans. That qualifies as a grand gesture.
People dismissing the Pearce candidacy probably don’t know that the state had 150,538 veterans as of 2015. That’s 9.6 percent of the civilian population, 18 years of age and older. The Department of Workforce Solutions reported these figures a few days ago.
These veterans offer a good place to start a statewide campaign.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES             7-10-17
Bipartisan, creative, thoughtful D.C. group provides NM insights
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
As governor, Bill Richardson had ideas. He gave us commissions for this and that. There was something about a national football league franchise. Somewhere. He gave us the spaceport and the commuter railroad, both heavily subsidized by taxpayers—me and thee. An added bonus from the railroad is the opportunity for people to die along the tracks.
Just about all of our so-called leaders have ideas about sunsets and little else.
There are some people with real ideas in Washington, D.C., of all places. Ideas of substance, not the sniping about the failed policies of Gov. X or Sen. Y.
The two-year-old Economic Innovation Group (eig.org) seems to have mixed people from across the various spectra. The website headline is, “Empowering entrepreneurs and investors to forge a more dynamic U.S. economy.” EIG calls itself “a bipartisan public policy organization, ​founded in 2013, ​combining innovative research and data-driven advocacy to address America’s most pressing economic challenges.”
Notice that it says “bipartisan” rather than “non-partisan.” New Mexico could learn from EIG.
The distinction recognizes that factions—parties—won’t go away.
EIG founders include early Facebook alumni and investors. An especially famous founder is Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans who is rebuilding downtown Detroit. The economists come from the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the University of Chicago and Harvard. The economists have worked for George Bush, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Joe Biden.
Policy advisors include mayors, one economic developer (Chris Camacho of Phoenix), and Jimmy Kemp, founder of the Jack Kemp Foundation. Jack was Jimmie’s dad.)
In all, quite a mix.
EIG’s Index of State Dynamism tells us something important. We know people are leaving the state. The discovery is that just four states have more leavers by percentage. Alaska, the leaver leader, might be considered a special case. But the other three—Connecticut, New York and Illinois—are old economies beset by high and increasing taxes, and entrenched unions and bureaucracy unwilling to consider functions state government might NOT perform.
New Mexico is in an ugly club.
Dynamism factors are business churn (firms opening and closing), change in the number of “employer firms,” jobs in new companies, jobs in existing companies, labor market churn, labor force participation and domestic migration.
Declining dynamism is nationwide. Performance considered minimal in the 1990s led the nation in 2014.
The dynamic states are in the West with younger people, more foreign-born people, newer housing, less manufacturing and more information services. Three of the ten most dynamic states border New Mexico.
New Mexico dropped more than half of its measured dynamism between 1992 and 2014 to rank at 29th on the dynamism scale, our all-time low.
“New Mexico may be the most interesting case study,” the dynamism report says. “The state began the 1990s as a classic western knowledge economy that appeared primed for continued growth. But, with no major metro area and a relatively undiversified technology sector, the state fell further and further behind its neighbors over the years that followed.”
Note: no comments about “over dependence” either on oil or government.
Over the 22-year study period, New Mexico is the only state that dropped from above the national average to below.
Another EIG report is “The 2016 Distressed Communities Index: An Analysis of Community Well-Being Across the United States.” Yes, our communities are distressed, some severely so.
EIG proposes allowing temporary deferral of recognizing capital gains if the money is invested in a defined “opportunity zone.” Interesting. Not a tax cut, just a deferral.
EIG calls itself an “ideas lab.” Bipartisan, creative, thoughtful. We could do that, if we just would.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES             7-3-17
Babies produce population gains, almost 21,000 leave Farmington
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
In the population game here, what counts is domestic migration, the movement of people to and from the state and our 33 counties from other places in the United States.
Domestic migrants are important because they are at the margin, responding to opportunity in New Mexico, or, if they leave, to opportunity elsewhere. Migrants are dynamic. They are betting the family fortune, financial and otherwise, on moving, an activity that is a royal pain.
Metropolitan Farmington, which is San Juan County, is the big domestic migration story since the 2010 census, but not in a good way. Farmington saw 20,955 people depart for other states, according to Census Bureau data from April 2010 to July 2016. That’s a net figure; some move in, others leave. In Farmington leavers beat arrivers every year since 2010.
In Farmington’s “vital events” column, other new arrivers—11,561 babies—outnumbered the people who died by 5,650 for a natural increase gain offsetting about a quarter of the migrant departures. That left Farmington’s six-year population loss at 14,966, or 11.5 percent of the 2010 population of 130,045.
Three other counties, two with tiny populations, lost more than ten percent of their population since the Census: Colfax (-1,497, or 10.9 percent), De Baca (-229, or 11.3 percent), and Hidalgo (-593, or 12.1 percent).
Domestic migration was positive in four counties; the arrivers outnumbered the leavers. They are Sandoval (+6,623), Eddy (+1,861), Santa Fe (+1,154), and Lea (+1,012).
International migration is not a factor statewide. Some do leave the state for another country. Others come from another country. Four counties have more than 1,000 international migrants: Bernalillo (+5,881), Otero (+2,709), Santa Fe (+1,386), and Curry (+1,298).
Domestic migration drew 9,103 people from Bernalillo County. Over the six years from 2010 to 2016, domestic migration was positive only in 2011. The peak departure years were 2014 and 2015 when, respectively, 3,014 and 3,144 people left. Torrance and Valencia counties, also part of metro Albuquerque, together lost almost 4,000 people to domestic migration.
A dozen counties gained population during the six years. The counties listed above with positive domestic migration were four of the gainers. Five counties (Bernalillo, Cibola, Curry, Doña Ana and McKinley) had enough babies to offset people moving away. These counties also had migrants from other countries, but it was the babies that mattered.
Two counties (Los Alamos and Taos) needed the international migrants to add to the babies and create a population increase. The exception was Otero County, which had almost 3,000 people depart for other states. Otero’s 2,709 international plus the 5,561 babies created a population increase.
Some truth may lurk in the line, much repeated since the oil price drop in 2014, about overdependence on oil and gas. I don’t remember anyone complaining as the boom boomed. From the population figures, that “truth,” such as it is, seems to apply to state government revenue. For the entire state economy, the situation appears to be a lack of economic performance everywhere else, which poses a much bigger challenge, part of which is providing education and everything for all those babies.
The Kansas City Federal Reserve says we were in a recession in September 2016. Likely that means the departures continue. 
            For more information see https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES         6-26-17
Counterculture exhibit offers Ginsberg, Lama and humor
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The visit to the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe started inauspiciously. The first two soap dispensers I tried in the men’s room had dispensed with dispensing. Had the governor’s solvency program expanded to include bathroom soap? Fortunately the other dispensers had soap. But the paper towel dispensers didn’t work. A roll of towels sprawled on the counter. A semi-solvency program, it appears.
Upstairs it was better. We had come for the museum’s exhibit, “Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest,” a showing and telling of the hippie communes  scattered around northern New Mexico, from Placitas north, and southern Colorado starting in the late 1960s.
While the communes developed within the tradition of New Mexico romanticism, it was from the ground up, as opposed to the upscale romanticism imported to Taos 50 years earlier by Mabel Dodge Luhan, a Buffalo, New York, heiress whose then husband summoned her with a letter saying, “Save the Indians, their art—culture…”
The communes were downscale, though sometimes aided by inheritances used to buy land and otherwise capitalize the new communities. This was the case with New Buffalo founder Rick Klein. The one person I know who spent time at a commune was at New Buffalo for six weeks. It was unsanitary and there was no respect for personal property.
The exhibit surveyed the commune-counterculture world starting in an alcove just inside the door with a recording of Allen Ginsberg reciting his 1956 masterpiece, “Howl,” about the terribleness of things. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” Ginsberg’s poem began. Ginsberg appeared in several photographs in the exhibit as did his longtime partner Peter Orlovsky.
In February 1966 my hitchhiking ride from Placitas to Santa Fe was in a battered VW bus with Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Robert Creeley, also a poet, and one very stoned dude in the back seat. Creeley had a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico and was briefly a faculty member.
Lenore Kandel is another poet pictured with Ginsberg in the exhibit. Kandel’s “Love Lust Poem” provoked a major uproar in New Mexico around 1970 when used at UNM. In 2010 Steve Terrell wrote in “The New Mexican,” “It was as if ‘Love-Lust’ became a symbol of everything conservative lawmakers hated about the turbulent '60s.”
The poem controversy took Harold Runnels to Congress in 1970.
Another revelation was the importance of the Lama Foundation of San Cristobal in the grand counterculture order, at least as measured by the amount of space given Lama. Lama thrives today, perhaps because it offers a multi-faith spiritual community, much more than “back to the land.”
The claim that Lama’s “Be Here Now” book had an initial press run of 600,000 startled me. As noted here last week, I handled printing the book for Newspaper Printing Corp. of Albuquerque. The first ten printings produced 333,000 copies with 32,000 in the eleventh run, according to my copy of “Be Here Now.”
I inquired of the museum through the contract public relations officer. The museum established that the 600,000 figure was wrong. The label will be changed.
Happily the exhibit lacked the pretentiousness of the cover essay in the museum’s magazine, El Palacio, something about “our bodies are our strongest tool against the mainstream machine.”
The exhibit offered occasional humor. One photograph showed a band posed outdoors in Placitas with their instruments. The adjacent photo showed mostly the same band members, again outdoors with their instruments and standing in about the same place. But they were nude this time.
Humor is good, much better than pretentious babbling.



 © 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES         6-19-17
1967: Tierra Amarilla, San Cristobal, Albuquerque, Trinidad, San Francisco
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Fifty years is a long time.
Just over 50 years ago, on June 3, 1967, Reies Lopez Tijerina led a raid on the Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla. The idea was a citizens’ arrest of District Attorney Alfonso Sánchez and freeing some associates thought to be jailed there.
The best short description: things went awry. Tijerina and friends headed for the hills and Lt. Gov. E. Lee Francis mobilized the National Guard.
Gov. Dave Cargo was in Michigan at the time, making nice with Gov. George Romney, Mitt’s dad, who was running for president.
Returning from a trip, I drove out of Tijeras Canyon into Albuquerque, heard the tale on the radio news and thought, “My God, we’ve had an armed rebellion.”
Decades later, looking for a friend, a lawyer, in Tierra Amarilla, I checked the courthouse. It’s an old building. The atmosphere seemed a little askew. Then I connected, oh, it’s THAT courthouse.
Albuquerque photographer extraordinaire Mark Bralley connects Tijerina and Ed Lewis’s Newspaper Printing Corp. in Albuquerque. Bralley, a part-time NPC employee, traveled briefly with Tijerina in 1969.
The Lama Foundation’s “Be Here Now,” a seminal text of the time, was printed at Newspaper Printing Corp. NPC printed the first half million or so copies on its newspaper web press. I handled the first 330,000 copies as an NPC employee. “Be Here Now,” to massively oversimplify, told the story of Harvard professor Richard Alpert becoming Ram Dass, a prophet-guru. Today there is a Kindle version. Of course.
Lama was started near San Cristobal in 1967 by Steve and Barbara Durkee and Jonathan Altman, according to lamafoundation.org. It is still going strong.
 “Be Here Now” challenged Lewis, the NPC staff and the equipment, especially the section printed on kraft paper.
“Be Here Now” came to NPC in 1971 through Steve Baer. I’m not sure exactly how. Baer knew Steve Durkee and Ram Dass. Baer was also acquainted with Stewart Brand of “Whole Earth Catalogue” fame. NPC talked of bidding on “Whole Earth Catalogue,” but nothing happened.
I played some club soccer with Baer at the University of New Mexico. Blessed with long legs, Baer was a halfback who could run forever. Later I bought a few shares in his passive solar company, Zomeworks.
Baer brought other publications to NPC including “4D Time Lock,” a nearly incomprehensible book by Buckminster Fuller, who popularized geodesic domes, and Peter van Dresser’s 1972, “A Landscape for Humans,” which remains a good economic development outline for Northern New Mexico.
Around May 1967 I searched near Trinidad, Colo., for Drop City, a commune where Baer was doing some work building domes. “Sgt. Pepper” was getting massive radio airplay. I didn’t find Drop City, but I may have wounded a tire on the Avis Chrysler I was deadheading back to Albuquerque carrying three trunks of my sister’s college gear. South of Raton a tire blew. Fortunately a service station guy saw me swerving, turned around and came to the rescue.
NPC paid for my second San Francisco trip of 1967. It was for a convention of newspapers that published legal notices. I flew student fare. Another genius and I ended up in Haight Ashbury around midnight in a Black bar with topless dancers and half the world’s Hells Angels parked outside.
The first trip, during the summer, was for love. I had to leave the Be-in in Golden Gate Park before Jefferson Airplane appeared.
NPC’s other customers included El Grito del Norte (a radical militant Chicano journal), a regional lumberyard, the Albuquerque Hard Times and high schools. With cheap, fast print technology, Ed Lewis brought an information revolution to Northern New Mexico.

 

© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES         6-12-17
Heinrich report: The EPA wants to “help” rural areas
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
An economic prescription for rural America comes from Sen. Martin Heinrich and his fellow Democrats on the Senate Joint Economic Committee. Heinrich is the Committee’s ranking member, which means he is the most senior Democrat.
At eight pages, the available space limits the ability of “Understanding Economic Challenges in Rural America” to be especially substantive beyond the platitudinous generalities of a political document. A few specifics do appear among the platitudes.
An oddity is that the footnotes are in Roman numerals.
Page 4 offers, “Congress should support policies that ensure rural populations receive preparation and have equal access to opportunities for post-secondary education.” New Mexico’s following the access mantra brought proliferation of small scale “opportunities” such as Western New Mexico University’s Truth or Consequences campus.
“Congress has the opportunity to play the defining role in how rural communities develop and thrive,” it says on page 5. This is a lot scary. The claim leaves out the people living in rural areas and their state governments. Further, it leaves out the executive.
More broadband is needed in rural areas, for sure. Whether the internet and “the opportunities interconnectivity creates” would matter more than marginally can be debated. Access has improved. In 2009 my internet access in Cloudcroft was from the porch of the Chamber of Commerce.
If the final sentence of a document carries special meaning, mindset insight comes from, “Further, Congress must invest in developing the next generation of grant writers and civil servants to serve in small rural communities.” Ah, more grant writers to hustle those federal bucks.
The report notes the fundamental economic conundrum; more economic activity happens in densely populated places. Other than shoveling federal money at rural places and paying those grant writers, the problem is not addressed.
Further mindset insight comes from the footnotes.
Footnote xiv leads to a gem from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, Smart Growth Program, “Framework for Creating a Smart Growth Economic Development Strategy: A Tool for Small Cities and Towns.”
Not counting the EPA’s Gold King Mine disaster, the EPA has a well earned reputation for over-the-top ideas including defining rivers as starting at the end of the drain spout from your roof. (OK, I exaggerate. Some.) But the EPA has more on its bureaucratic mind than regulation. It wants to re-order society in its vision.
“Smart growth,” mentioned above, is central. So-called “Smart Growth” is an anti-mobility cars-are-evil ideology well suited to urban areas because it emphasizes higher population density.
Quoting from the Environmental Protect Agency’s page about smart growth, “EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. How and where communities develop affects human health and the environment. Therefore, EPA works on smart growth issues to help communities develop in ways that are better for health and the environment.” Got that?
“Protecting” is one thing. Helping development is quite another. Grants are EPA’s mechanism. No sane municipal administrator is going to turn down money. As seen above, the smart growth program lives in the EPA’s sustainable communities office. “Sustainable” is one of those virtuous sounding words that has permeated public dialogue from the left.
The EPA explains, “Sustainable communities… provide choices in housing and transportation so that residents can find a home they can afford and can easily reach jobs, stores, parks, schools, houses of worship, and other destinations. Sustainable communities offer economic opportunities while protecting the environment so that residents’ needs can be met now and in the future.”
Heinrich’s report says “rural leaders” have told Congress they want wider and repaired highways, repaired bridges, water infrastructure and conservation money to support hunters and fishermen. Practicality for living.
Smart growth and sustainability aren’t listed.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES          6-5-17
Heinrich fundraising emails cite “Progressive Values,” whatever those are
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Sen. Martin Heinrich is a Progressive (capital “P”). He makes that clear in his early re-election campaign deluge of emails. Whether he is progressive (small “p”) no doubt has much to do with the eye of the beholder. 
The deluge is the 34 emails in the 66 days between March 22 and May 26. That’s just over one email every other day. The frequency would have been higher but for a week vacation between May 18 and 25. Four emails nominally come from Steve Fitzer, Heinrich’s finance director who also was finance director for Diane Denish when she ran for governor and consults for Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, according to Wikipedia.
The emails follow the pattern. They start with some dramatic statement, usually containing a thread or two of truth but highly exaggerated truth. A sentence or two expanding the dramatic statement is followed by a call to action and a pitch for money. Another sentence or two follows. The email ends with a second pitch for money.
The format varies the sender identity line. Commonly the line is “Martin Heinrich.” The variants are progressives, grassroots, team, alert, action and victory.
The email design probably contains some analog to a rule about political direct mail sent through the Postal Service. The candidate’s name is placed so that the recipient must see the name on the way to the trash can.
Healthcare—defending the rollback of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare—is a special cause. “Trumpcare,” the emails call the Republican proposals.
The March 22 message was, “In 24 hours, the GOP will literally vote to kick 24 million people off of their health care.” “Send them a message… (that) they will face a grassroots progressive army,” Heinrich said, and, by the way, send me some money. “Trumpcare only benefits corporations…” the email continues, closing with a further donation request. 
The 24 million figure is considered dubious by fussy folk such as libertarian blogger Megan McArdle of Bloomberg.com due to sloppy work by the Congressional Budget Office, which did the analysis. CBO processes, McArdle says, have “no way of predicting, even imperfectly, what’s going to happen.”
No matter, it’s a nice big ominous number.
Being a progressive on March 23 seems to mean, to start, keeping the Affordable Care Act.
A month later, April 29, being a progressive gains a more general meaning. Tied to President Trump’s 100th day in office, the email said, “Martin and progressives are working hard to defeat his dangerous agenda.” The previous day the nominal sender, Steve Fitzer, “forwarded” a message from Heinrich saying send money “as a show of our progressive grassroots strength…”
These messages were two of seven sent in four days building to a fundraising crescendo. The final message, May 1, was a note of thanks for “reach(ing) our April goal.” There was mention of “attacks on our progressive values” with no further specification of those values. Everyone must have internalized the values.
Then the emails took two weeks off, returning May 15 with four in three days. Three emails talk directly about Heinrich’s campaign. Urgency comes from, “My campaign is hitting the ground running, and we cannot slow down one bit.”
More urgency comes from citing Heinrich’s “one deep-pocketed Republican challenger,” though of course not by name. There is a suggestion that “national Republicans” seek another candidate.
The existing candidate, currently playing phantom, is Marc Rich, an Albuquerque contractor, who filed official candidacy papers with the Federal Election Commission in February.
The Heinrich emails tell us little about “progressive values,” only that Donald Trump is a bad guy. One thing for sure from the messages, it is vitally important to send Heinrich money.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES         5-29-17
Rough Roads, Regulation and Republicans
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The presumed gubernatorial ambitions of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry have taken another self-induced blow. (Note that concluding anything about political egos is entirely speculative.)
Blow number one came from the mess with the Albuquerque Police Department’s nasty habit of killing people. The ART bus project, aka destroying nine miles of Central Avenue (Route 66), provided number two.
The newest shot comes from the repaving of a number of downtown Albuquerque streets, apparently all once. This news appeared with the difficulty of getting to a Sunday afternoon meeting. I had to go around the middle of downtown because the north-south streets were closed.
Post-meeting cruising confirmed that four or five north-south streets were closed for several blocks on either side of Central Avenue. Basically, downtown was closed. Very strange. A friend’s observation was, “It seems like they’ve just been randomly repaving streets and doing a really bad job of it.”
If Berry does run for governor, the view here is that it will be a fantasy exercise, leaving Republicans with the other presumed candidate, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, who is handsome and articulate.
Even a substantive Republican candidate for governor would have a real problem from the legacy of term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez. The only approach would be to vigorously run against the Martinez legacy, cite the failures, say Martinez messed up,
offer a vision (a what?) and real policies, not platitudes, backed with lots of money.
One Martinez failure is allowing the continued status quo in the transportation department with nine-figure gaps between desired spending for maintenance and construction and money available. The “rough road” signs we saw a few weeks ago on Interstate 40 around mile markers 39 and 55 near Gallup are one result. The road was indeed rough with the cracked and broken pavement.
Our policy approach to highway maintenance—the “rough road” signs—falls well short of Arizona’s execution of the roughness part. In early April we found stretches of gouged road with the excavated part (if “excavated” is the right word) perhaps a foot or more wide and of some length. The excavation went to the previously applied surface. These estimates are visual, done at about 80 mph.
The Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff reported that the situation was due to the weather getting ahead of repair capability. Maybe. Sure. Right.
Now a report from the world of regulation.
A few years ago a manufacturing firm in a small tourist community had 20 employees. The firm’s products occupied an obscure niche at the edge of a worldwide industry dominated by multinational companies. Life was good. Customers were happy, as measured by willingness over 30 years to buy enough to produce a profit.
Then federal regulators turned from the big guys to the tiny guys and focused on a particular product.
The amount of the main ingredient in the product had always fallen within a range, plus or minus, not exquisitely precise, but precise enough. The feds said the acceptable range was to be one percent. That meant essentially zero tolerance in the manufacturing.
The feds also required a database of everything in the product’s main ingredient. The problem there came from the ingredients being plants which vary from plant to plant in what they contain. Well, OK, said the owner to the feds. He spent a couple of years building the database.
But then another problem developed. That happy profit had disappeared. As a small company, there wasn’t any available financial slack. The solution was to dump the product that had gained the federal regulatory attention. Employment went from 20 to 14.
Six jobs count anywhere, but especially in a small town.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES        5-22-17
With branches in Acomita Lake, Zuni Pueblo and Gallup, it’s the Southwest Conservation Corps
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
On a fine April weekday we stopped outside Grants at El Malpais National Monument visitor center, one of our standard travel breaks. A group was lunching at the concrete tables under the ramada. Several wore bright jumpsuits. Their hardhats had a dark, rectangular insignia resembling, from a distance, the Caterpillar Inc. logo.
Curious, I ambled over to visit.
The logo was “SWCC” for Southwest Conservation Corps (sccorps.org), which turns out to have five offices around the region. The New Mexico locations are Acomita Lake, serving the Pueblo of Acoma, the Pueblo of Zuni and Gallup. The Colorado offices are the headquarters in Durango and in Salida.
SWCC’s website lists ten programs. In general the programs involve crews going to areas and doing all sorts of conservation work. The programs serve rural areas with one exception, the Barrio Corps in Albuquerque, a partnership with La Plazita Institute (www.laplazitainstitute.org).
The Ancestral Lands program, based at the Pueblo of Acoma, has proven popular. Using the Acoma template, a Gallup office opened three years ago with a Zuni Pueblo office last year. A Hopi office is planned for this year.
Perhaps part of that success traces to the history that Aaron Lowden, program director, brings to his job. We spoke in his office at Acomita Lake. When Lowden was growing up at Acoma, his mother, a Head Start teacher at Acoma who still teaches, did many of the activities in the Tribal Lands program that aim at children, starting with simply getting them outside.
Television and computer screens provide a strong lure. “People want to be part of the culture,” Lowden says. Technology is appealing; its keeps people indoors.
Lowden’s “best memories” are of his mother taking him places. “The big draw is that all of our programs are land-based, outdoors,” he says.
The Acoma Hiking Club is the approach for children aged 7 to 13. “What we try to do is reconnect people to the land. Show them our culture,” the stories, the songs, and that “there are places to have fun and be a kid,” including the places that are private to Acoma.
In the Youth Conservation Corps older kids work mostly on the reservation doing trail building, beautification and clean up. They make hornos (outdoor ovens or “Bawishtanii”) and then use them for cooking. Acoma hornos are made from sandstone. Rio Grande Valley pueblos make hornos from adobe. One must get the sandstone from the hills and prepare the mud and mortar.
With the hornos, it’s sort of a use-it-or-lose it situation, as with traditional agriculture. The Farm Corps is about “going back to a tradition (of corn, beans and squash) and revitalizing our traditional agricultural knowledge,” Lowden says. The agriculture is dry land farming. Some seeds are “banked” (saved) and used the next year. In April there was a seed exchange at the Acoma senior center.
The group I met at El Malpais was one of the adult program crews staffed by people from ages18 to 34. Older crew members train the younger ones, Lowden said. 
A major SWCC partner and source of money is AmeriCorps, a “civil society program” part of the federal Corporation for National and Community Service. (nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps) Sen. Martin Heinrich had a stint with AmeriCorps working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 20 years ago.
Southwest Conservation is an affiliate of Conservation Legacy, a national organization founded in 1998 to continue the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a popular New Deal program that operated from 1933 to 1942. The CCC worked in Bandelier National Monument and Carlsbad National Park.
The day Lowden and I met there were two Acoma crews at Bandelier.

 

© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES            5-15-17
Our “economic malaise”  is rooted in both economics and policies
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
We continue considering questions about “economic malaise.” We’re on question 2: What about macro-economic data?
Regulation is the shackle, a thoughtful conservative argues. The effects are real, but tough to isolate for our small economy. But things do happen within today’s regulatory environment. Nationally the feds set masses of standards. The Trump administration’s rethinking of the Department of Interior and the EPA is welcome. The bureaucracy will win, a Department of Transportation bureaucrat told me recently.
Try this as an example of today’s attitude toward regulation. “We could pass a law,” was a Republican state senator’s reaction to a trivial problem posed during an interim committee hearing. This East Side conservative was serious. I was amazed.
Other examples: During a business group meeting last year, a mining attorney told me he had three projects on hold because of regulatory hassles. In Grants an award winning burger place closed because of regulatory requirements for a kitchen renovation. An Albuquerque athletic club is struggling to understand contradictory rules for outdoor lights. This same club wants to mount, outdoors, an artifact symbolizing its prime activity. There is a debate with zoning regulators about whether the artifact is a sign and therefore subject to the arcane and detailed sign regulations.
The state has 206 boards and commissions. Surely half could go away.
3. Do we know the exact number of employees at Intel and highly related industries, over, say, a 10-year time period? Exact numbers, over time, remain elusive.
Intel Corp. opened its Rio Rancho plant in 1980. Today, with 1,900 employees, according to Intel’s website, it is New Mexico’s largest industrial employer. In 1990 employment was 1,300 and hit 5,700 in 1997, just after a massive expansion. Employment was 5,600 in 2006 and has dropped steadily since. Intel has always had a large number of independent contractors in Rio Rancho. The only figure I found was 3,800 contractors in 2006.
4. Is there an economic explanation or mainly just policy explanations like poor education marks, non-competitive tax structure, business-unfriendly regulations and attitudes, corruption, and the like, which are trotted out by the business class to the political class to the point of becoming clichés.  
The answer is, “All of the above,” even though the standard policy complaints, while relevant, have become clichés. For economic matters, things change. Intel’s needs and the fantasy of a “Silicon Mesa”; the 2011 federal sequestration; the wide range of federal activities from defense research at national laboratories; world commodity prices for oil; improved productivity for drilling that may mean fewer jobs; environmentalism as religion.
Politically, the recent report of big union backing for six of seven Albuquerque Public School board members is a huge vote for the status quo. That the world is ending seems always the claim. The hysteria prevents solving problems.
State government may be broken. The suspicion starts at the behavior of Sen. Linda Lopez, Albuquerque Democrat, who chairs the Senate Rule Committee. Lopez continues to deny confirmation to Martinez administration cabinet nominees. This is just petty and silly. On a larger scale, Martinez vetoed higher education funding. And on a mega-scale, we have had special sessions six of the past ten years. Something ain’t happening.
Some argue that governors have little to do with social structuring and economic performance. For the short term, perhaps. But governors have much to do with attitude. Bill Richardson, for example, said in 2005, “The drill-drill-drill approach… (is) misguided and wrong.” The Martinez vetoes show us as idiots.
A lessons-learned exercise might help. As objectives we might try less parochialism, stupidity and doom and more problem solving.
Some things do change for the better. We should review our successes.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES       5-8-17
Questions prompt review of “economic malaise”
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
A wise and thoughtful friend recently posed some questions about what he called “New Mexico’s economic malaise.” The questions follow, slightly edited. I answer as best I can.
1. Is there a good explanation? Is there a good starting date? Is it just an accumulation?
Many chickens hide many eggs under the immediate cause of our situation—the precipitous fall in oil prices beginning in May 2014. To say it was just one thing doesn’t work. Societies and the accompanying economies are systems; factors affect hosts of other factors.
Some still-relevant history: Our post-World War II boom happened because of government research on behalf of national defense. This was good, but the growth overwhelmed the small private sector. We got a much bigger population without the dynamic, private local firms that characterized Wichita, Kansas; El Paso, Oklahoma City, Phoenix and Denver. The growth left us with a process culture rather than an entrepreneurial culture, especially in the north central urban area of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
In 1981, as I remember, Citicorp proposed a credit card operation for New Mexico that required changing banking laws. We blew off the New Yorkers who now employ about 2,500 in Sioux Falls, S.D., where the company anchors a 16,000-employee financial sector. In the early 1990s Citicorp did put a call center in Albuquerque.
Later in the 1980s our larger banks got excited about land development and oil. They extended the risk horizon. Trouble followed as it always does with more risk. Soon the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency was running some of our banks, bigger ones especially. A few years later national banking consolidation eliminated locally owned banks of size and with them, the banking leaders who were a big element in the powers-that-be. Bank of America came and then mostly went. One large bank remains in downtown Albuquerque. Support functions such as marketing and advertising are done elsewhere.
The remaining locally based banks are small and in the same Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank bind as their community bank brethren nationally. Compliance costs consume them.
2. Has anyone looked at macro-economic data such as investment from out-of-state, total business investment or re-investment, savings rates, and the like? Do we know what's happening to the money supply from banking data?
The national economy has always substantially driven the New Mexico economy. Pulling financial flows such as investment, savings and money supply from the national figures might be possible, but it would require hugely sophisticated analysis. This is more difficult now since our banking data is buried in today’s much larger institutions.
Bill Richardson raised taxes most years he was governor. He didn’t get proper credit, having snowed national media with cutting income tax rates. The increases, bits and pieces of many things, overwhelmed the cuts. Richardson gave us the cash consuming railroad, spaceport and music commission.
Looking back to 2006-2007, we continued to have our population growth driven by new babies. We were getting decent migration from other states, though well behind our neighbors. This was a switch from 1995 through 2000 when more people left for other states. For the mid-2000s, population growth was decent, though behind our neighbors. Employment growth lagged population growth. Maybe the new adults brought kids.
In 2006, year-over-year wage-job growth was 3.2 percent for August and 3 percent in September. Clouds loomed. In metro Albuquerque, existing home sales had dropped for several months.
By September 2009, New Mexico was $433 million in the hole for the budget year. The word “solvency” entered state government financial dialogue. 
In many senses, today’s solvency problem is déjà vu all over again, except no federal bailout will appear. We’re on our own.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES  5-1-17
Economic Situation And Outlook Are Semi-Bleah
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
“A Snoopy economy” was the prognosis expected from speakers at the 14th annual New Mexico Tax Research Institute Policy Conference. After all, what better way to describe the New Mexico economy than, “Bleah.”
“Semi-Bleah” was the message delivered. We remain in poor shape, but we’re in better shape than even in January, certainly better than a year ago.
A surprise came from John Monforte, acting secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department. He talked about expanding our thinking from short-term specifics. The state is “at an important juncture,” Monforte said. “We need to be thinking about things in a much broader sense. There is a need for fundamental change. In order to get where we need to go, we’re going to have to be a little uncomfortable.”
The gross receipts tax is more than just weird, Monforte said. It “points to the need for fundamental reform,” something required for New Mexico’s long term performance.
In touching on the weirdness of the gross receipt tax (GRT), Monforte was referring to an earlier comment from David Abbey, director of the Legislative Finance Committee. Abbey related a comment from Tax Research Institute director Richard Anklam to a legislative committee that the GRT is weird. “Weird is bad,” Abbey observed.
If the vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez of fiscal year 2018 (the budget year ending June 30, 2018) spending for higher education and the legislature were restored, the state would be $70 million in the hole for the year. That is, after shuffling everything, appropriations would still put the state’s financial reserves $70 million in the red, given presently estimated revenue.
Not good at all, but, Abbey said, “not as bad as a year ago.”
Abbey finds additional glimmers in rising oil production and the big jump from the low of a year ago to having 58 active rigs.
Jobs are growing a little. While the state “treasurer’s general fund balances are down sharply… liquidity is not an issue,” Abbey said; the state has enough cash to pay its bills.
Finally, revenue to the state’s general fund is ahead of the December forecast. In February, general fund revenue beat the past two years for the first time during the current budget year.
“I like this a lot,” Abbey said.
Jeffrey Mitchell, director of the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, told the conference that BBER’s newest forecast, just issued, was a little stronger than the January forecast. Wage job growth is seen at 0.9 percent (6,900 jobs) for 2017 and one percent next year. BBER’s FOR-UNM forecasting service provides a major piece of the state’s revenue forecast.
While job growth the last two quarters has been decent (on the scale of things), Mitchell sees downward revisions in the initial reported figures. Even so, the job trend is positive, he said.
Income growth is “very weak,” Mitchell said, especially for private sector wages and salaries which are expected to increase just 1.2 percent this year, the lowest growth since 2009. The job losses have been in the highest paying sectors. Big income increases came in 2014 and 2015 when transfer payments “just skyrocketed” thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
A look below the surface of interstate migration patterns shows people with bachelor’s degrees and some college are leaving the state, going to Colorado, Texas and California, Mitchell said.
New Mexico does well in creating businesses, Mitchell said, as compared to our neighbors. The trouble is that the number of jobs lost by businesses closing or contracting also beats our neighbors.
For now, Mitchell sees “a gradual recovery of non-metro areas—including the oil patch—beginning this year.
That would be something.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES  4-24-17
As Governor Candidate, Grisham Offers Federal Issues
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Candidates are emerging. As of this writing we have one announced candidate for governor, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Albuquerque Democrat. When a candidate surfaces officially, emails from the candidate burst like dandelion seeds.
While the emails seek money, they reveal a candidate’s philosophical core. There are annoyingly many of them, as with the dandelions.
Happily I’m not on all the lists, but I am blessed with enough messages to develop a sense of the process.
Grisham gave the world ten emails between March 20 and April 14. Maybe more. I may not have saved every one.
She started with the evils of President Donald Trump, an obvious choice for Democrats and some Republicans.
Grisham is substantially a creature of government. Her private sector experience seems to consist of being co-founder and president of Delta Consulting Group, from 2008 to 2012, when she was elected to Congress. Delta works for non-profit organizations and professional associations.
Delta is omitted from Grisham’s campaign website, newmexicansformichelle.com, which says almost nothing about her, and from her congressional site which says only that she “started her own small business.”
Grisham’s private sector experience, such as it is, puts her a little ahead of the pre-governor private sector life of our two recent governors, both disasters, in different ways. Gov. Susana Martinez had a college job. Bill Richardson had about 18 months of consulting and board memberships.
The first three emails, sent March 20, 24 and 30, had the same copy. I’m not sure what that suggests. The repetition certainly is efficient from the viewpoint of writing email copy.
To open, Grisham cited three federal matters: Planned Parenthood money, Medicaid and school lunches.
“We need to fight back right now, and we need to start in the states. That's why I'm running for Governor,” the email said. How that would work went unexplained. (To be sure, states have much to do with Medicaid.)
The next paragraph created urgency. “The first public filing deadline of the campaign is in just a few days, but we're still falling incredibly short of our $125,000 online goal. Time is running out, and we cannot afford to miss this.”
Sounds urgent to me, but I thought that keeping everything positive and never admitting potential failure was the rule.
The request for money takes the next two paragraphs. Then come “the failed policies of a Republican Governor.” Examples are veterans needing things, students with disabilities and potential loss of health insurance. Finally two more requests for money ask for “$5 or more right now.”
April Fool’s Day featured former Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s endorsement of Grisham, followed April 2 by Grisham’s email of thanks.
Financial filing day, April 3, brought two urgent donation requests, one citing Planned Parenthood. At 7:03 p.m., Grisham was still “$8,638 short of our $125,000 online goal.” Presumably they kept a running tally.
Three days later Grisham thanked lucky email recipients “so much for everything.” Grisham never did say whether she met that urgent $125,000 online donation target.
April 8 brought an issue survey that began by saying how awful it was that Neil Gorsuch was now on the Supreme Court. A six-day pause brought more citation of “failed right-wing policies” without specifics and another issue survey offering loaded questions and ending with a request for money.
Based on the emails, keeping federal money behind Planned Parenthood, a federal matter, is Grisham’s one specific idea to date in her race for governor. She offers a few generalities. Nothing lends insight about governor stuff such as how she might fix the state’s financial mess or make work more popular or pay for building highways.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES              4-17-17
Lobo poach of Aggie coach lacks decency, respect
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
“Wrong in so many ways.” The cliché offers a running theme for ideas proposed and accepted in the Dilbert comic strip.
A more direct criticism of something is, “That’s just stupid.”
Pick your phrase. The deed for consideration here is the University of New Mexico’s poaching of New Mexico State University basketball coach Paul Weir.
Narrowly viewed, hiring Weir after a successful first year as Aggie coach cannot be disputed. Within the multi-million dollar world of athletics, you get the best you can for an affordable price. Apparently that happened. UNM officials, led by athletic director Paul Krebs, scoured the country, interviewed some people, and hired Weir.
A quick conceptual look at numbers offers a bonus. UNM is paying Weir rather less than the fired Craig Neal, enough to cut the impact of buying out Neal’s contract. Weir’s big income jump should make it much easier to him to pay NMSU to escape his contract.
The question for Krebs and the UNM administration is, “Have you no decency?”
New Mexico’s size and widely distributed population means differences exist. University athletic teams express some of those differences. NMSU president Garrey Carruthers, a former governor of New Mexico, often expresses his affection and loyalty to the school. The expressions are done with a smile. While the NMSU loyalty is serious, there is respect from Carruthers for UNM.
The respect seems not to go the other way.
My perspective here is general. Though I have two degrees from UNM, excepting one baseball game, I haven’t attended a UNM athletic event in decades, a function of increasing basketball ticket prices and increasing spousal indifference. Recently I went into UNM’s WisePies Arena for the first time. It’s nice enough, but nothing special salvages the boring $65 million renovation with the cliché exterior glass that could be anywhere.
Through age 13 I lived in Oklahoma City. The competition between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is vigorous, to say the least, abetted, perhaps, by the two schools being in the same conference. OU loyalty even led to delaying my appendectomy  a few hours in order to allow the surgical team to return from a football game in Norman. Once in New Mexico Mom and Dad kept the Oklahoma football season tickets and bought UNM tickets.
University administrations illustrate differences in the broader world.
UNM doesn’t have a president and has the state Republican chairman working for the Health Sciences Center.
NMSU’s Carruthers, acting in response to the obvious—the state’s dire financial condition—seems to be doing what he has to do.
NMSU “is considering merging colleges, cutting programs and evaluating faculty productivity,” Carruthers told an April 10 forum in El Paso, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News. Without such work, raising tuition always becomes the option, he said. Note that increasing tuition amounts to a tax increase.
Another difference is that NMSU, with four what are called “campuses,” the same number as UNM, serves the entire state with cooperative extension service offices in every county, tribal cooperative extension service offices, the Apache Point Observatory and an admissions office on UNM’s home turf in Bernalillo County.
Ultimately UNM’s coach poach appears a classic Albuquerque-versus-the-rest-of-the-state situation with Albuquerque (i.e., UNM) doing what was thought necessary with a single minded insularity and without regard for the rest of the state or the state as a whole. My trivial but instructive brush with the insularity was a request—summarily rejected—to use a UNM Lobo logo to illustrate a newsletter article saying something positive about UNM.
Legislative retribution can be expected. Our legislators are people, after all, with loyalties.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES        4-10-17
A universal remote could cut noise, threaten democracy
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico News Services
A universal remote might improve life. With such a device the cacophony would be made to disappear. All of it, all at once.
We would be spared Donald Trump’s tweets. The multiple daily updates from Nextdoor.com, a site that aggregates neighborhood associations, would go away. So would the multiple daily updates from the local newspaper. I can’t criticize newspapers; that would be biting the hand that feeds me. The notices are often interesting, sometimes useful, but also sometimes tedious.
We would be spared the 24/7 news cycle, so effectively exploited by Trump, that has major East Coast media such as the New York Times waxing apocalyptic.
We would be spared eight emails in two days from Sen. Martin Heinrich pleading, pleading for a donation to bring participation and financial totals up to snuff for the financial report for the first quarter of 2017.
Heinrich sounds desperate. In case it hasn’t registered, Heinrich will be in an election next year. It is rumored he will have an opponent, who, if he ever appears, certainly will bury people in emails.
A less technologically complex solution exists. As Nancy Reagan put it, “Just say no.” Delete those masses of emails without looking at them. Create filters. Add to the blacklist. Avoid news sites, especially in the middle of the night. The 1:30 a.m. review of the New York Times or CNN or anything else becomes a habit that consumes time and disrupts sleep.
A universal remote would spare us the boring banality of the she-said-they-said back and forth the past months between Gov. Susana Martinez and the Legislature.
In her post legislative message to commercial real estate professionals in Albuquerque, Martinez sounded tired. She slipped in the back door. Her voice was flat. Maybe her injured knee hurt.
Her words sought confrontation. Programs with legislative spending cuts were “gutted.” The legislature was “reckless and irresponsible.”
She repeated the claim of cutting taxes 37 times. Readers may remember this column’s analysis in January showing 36 tax cuts with only one of significance.
Criticism of the Legislature spending time on stupid stuff was a theme in Martinez’s remarks. Time was wasted, she said. Martinez misses a point; legislatures talk about stupid stuff such as designating an official chile song. It must be a legislative culture thing. So what.
The beauty of our strictly limited 30- and 60-day sessions is that the work is forced to a conclusion, except sometimes, such as six of the past ten years.
Early in the session Senate Democrats announced a six-bill package “to create jobs and spur economic activity.” The timeframe was “right away,” the senators’ news release said. None looked speedy. They were capital outlay (a modest $63 million), minimum wage, broadband, industrial hemp (a good idea), job training and economic development subsidies.
A few other ideas were seriously discussed, such as massively restructuring the gross receipts tax.
Former state Rep. Bob Perls (nmopenprimaries.org) argues for allowing people to vote in the primary election of their choice. Such a change would help open New Mexico’s political system, which Perls says is among the nation’s most restrictive. So would independent candidates and putting the so-called write-in arrangement back to a real write in system, as with pencils, which is how Joe Skeen got elected to Congress in 1980.
In 1998, Perls brought us an elected Public Regulation Commission, which I doubt has made much difference administratively and certainly is less entertaining than the previous utility commissions with appointed members.
A universal remote sounds attractive. But we can’t shut out our democracy or someone will steal it, either Barack Obama in his way or Donald Trump in his way.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES           4-3-17
Maybe we should recruit some fashion designers
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Time to consider what we earn—when we do work—for some occupations.
These earnings won’t consider cash income, a big omission because New Mexico is among the leaders in the proportion of people in the shadow (or informal) economy. Mississippi has the largest shadow economy.
The source is “New Mexico’s Occupational Employment Statistics Wages Report 2015” from the Department of Workforce Solutions. The wages reported are for 2014. The report has 260 pages of listings with seven pages of introduction. Wages reported are for workers subject to state or federal unemployment insurance laws, which includes nearly all non-agricultural workers. A guess is that the tens of thousands of one-person businesses are omitted. After all, paying unemployment insurance on yourself makes no sense.
The northern region includes both Farmington (San Juan County) and Santa Fe. Las Cruces (Doña Ana County) is in the southwestern region.
This is a mail survey covering 800 occupations. Twice each year, groups of 1,700 business establishments are selected from the 1.2 million establishments. The entry wage is the average of the bottom third of wages. The experienced wage averages the top two-thirds.
The 95,840 people employed in the southwestern region have the lowest salary for experienced workers—$49,629. Eastern region experienced workers are slightly ahead at $49,650. Metro Albuquerque has the highest wage at $55,580, though it should be remembered that Santa Fe is well ahead of Albuquerque in per capita income with $50,684 in 2015 as compared to Albuquerque’s $38,583.
Floral designers bring us beauty when they arrange flowers. The money they receive is modest. Partial compensation might come from all that color. Average earnings for the state’s experienced floral designers are $26,290. That’s about 50 percent more than entry level pay. The state has 170 floral designers, including 50 in Albuquerque.
Graphic designers do better. Experienced ones earn $49,350. In Santa Fe and the northern region, designers earn a bit more—$50,470 and $52,365 respectively.
Another sort of designer, a fashion designer, has too few representatives to provide data. Shoe and leather workers and repairers and hand sewers, two occupations that might support fashion designers also have too few workers to report. Maybe the Economic Development Department should lure one or two from L.A. or New York.
Legislator is an official occupation with a definition from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which handles such things. The BLS says legislators “develop, introduce or enact laws and statutes at the local, tribal, State, or Federal level. Includes only workers in elected positions.” New Mexico has 520 legislators. The five federal legislators earn $174,000 each.
New Mexico is the only state not paying its members of the Legislature an official salary. New Hampshire pays the least—a dollar a year. Our legislators are compensated for each day of legislative work both during the session and during the time between sessions (called “the interim”) when committees can turn being a “part-time” legislator into nearly a full time job.
From their daily (per diem) compensation and expense reimbursements, the 112 members of the New Mexico Legislature averaged about $20,000 income in 2013, according to an Associated Press article in the Las Cruces Sun-News. The income ranged from about $10,000 to one senator with $43,604. That was Las Cruces Republican Lee Cotter who was defeated in 2016.
The masses of data in the Wages Report remind us of the richness of our society and the economic potential. The experienced among the 740 dentists can earn $240,000. It’s $42,700 for those who are experienced among the 3,350 carpenters. However, we have 38,800 in management occupations earning $115,000 with no idea what they really do. We should find out.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES               3-27-17
Albuquerque scores the jobs for January-to-January year
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Randomly touring the state’s job numbers is worthy if only for the ritual. Trend reminders lurk—Albuquerque’s apparent economic dominance reappearing and rural problems. Another element is the Legislature’s cut-and-paste budget that kicks the can of real change so far down the road that it produces just a distant plink as it bounces.
Over the month from December 2016 to January 2017, the state lost 19,400 jobs, 1,300 more than the 18,100 dropped from December 2015 to January 2016. For the year just past, the state’s 900-job increase represents a slight reversal from the 1,800 jobs lost between January 2015 and January 2016.
The January 2016 to January 2017 net job performance for New Mexico’s four metro areas was 2,300 more wage jobs. Albuquerque and Las Cruces respectively added 3,800 and 800 jobs. Farmington lost 1,800 and Santa Fe, 500. The state added a net of 900 jobs, meaning that the 26 rural counties lost 1,400 jobs (2,300 minus 900 = 1,400).
The 6.7 percent January unemployment rate that got the headlines was seasonally adjusted. The unadjusted January rate was 7 percent. The February rate increased to 6.8 percent, again seasonally adjusted.
The four-county metro Albuquerque area more than dominated employment growth for the January-to-January year. (Employment and wage job figures are produced by different methods.)
Albuquerque has about 46 percent of both the labor force and employment. About 8,900 people joined the labor force across the state during the year. Nearly 82 percent of that growth, or 7,400 people, came in Albuquerque. Employment found 88 percent of those new to the labor force. (Note: These are net figures; people enter and leave the labor force and enter and leave employment.) What seems remarkable is that all the employment gain came in Albuquerque, which added 6,407 more people. Thus, the rest of the state dropped 167 jobs.
Reviewing 2016 surfaces the annual job number shuffle called “benchmarking.” The process takes figures collected each quarter for employees covered by unemployment insurance and plugs them into numbers produced monthly by the current employment statistics program. People possibly not covered by unemployment are also added to the estimates, including workers in industries such as insurance sales, daycare, private schools, hospitals, and religious organizations.
For the state, changes jumped the 2016 job total average monthly increase to 2,600, or 0.3 percent, with decreases in May, June and July and greater increases starting in October. The change was trivial from the previously estimated (unbenchmarked) 2016 increase of 2,400.
Revised average employment in mining was 19,700, up 600 jobs, or 3.1 percent. Employment and health services dropped 1,300 to 138,700, or 0.9 percent.
Government got the biggest revision increase in Albuquerque, an additional 1,600 jobs, or 2 percent. Some of those jobs might have come from Santa Fe which saw its zero growth in state government jobs become a 700-job loss, due, DWS said, to a “more accurate reallocation of state government locations to other areas.”
Impressions in Farmington were right that 2016 was even less stellar than the original reports suggested. The benchmark revisions pulled monthly average employment down 2,300 jobs to 48,800 from 51,100. January wage jobs dropped 600 with February 1,200 fewer. The revisions were 2,800 per month starting in September except for 3,000 in November.
Maybe it’s fantasy to close on a positive note. But here it is. The Permian Basin is “the most popular place on the planet to drill for oil.” The comment came in a Wall Street Journal “Heard on the Street” column discussing Marathon Oil spending “more than $1 billion on Permian acreage.” No idea what that might mean for employment or state finances, but I’ll take it.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES        3/20/17
The Unemployment Double: Few Working, Few interested in Working
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
An unemployment double whammy started 2017.
The wage jobs report from the federal Bureau of Labor statistics showed us with the nation’s highest jobless rate at 6.7 percent. Alaska at 6.5 percent and Alabama at 6.4 percent were close behind.
The labor force was 930,700 with employment at 868,000 and 62,800 unemployed people seeking work.
Whammy two came from the ratio of employment to population. At 53.7 percent for 2016, the BLS said New Mexico’s ratio was the lowest since the feds began publishing the data in 1976.
The numbers normally provided tell us little. There are 13 “industry” groups. One is “education and health services.” It was hardly illuminating in April 2015 to know the sector counted 132,300 wage jobs and was the state’s largest.
Starting this month, the state Department of Workforce Solutions news release provides a bit more. The release breaks the “education and health services” sector into education (22,100 wage jobs in January) and healthcare and social assistance (118,400 January jobs). Mining remains tangled with logging, not a useful combination, but there are few logging jobs.
A DWS report, “Employment Projections 2014 to 2024,” brings detail and perhaps insight. That the base is 2014 is not a problem; our job totals have changed only slightly since then.
The projections report does some initial breaking of the big 13 groups including separating hotels and restaurants from arts and entertainment and then lists subgroups. With 21 subgroups and 28,000 jobs in 2014, manufacturing gets the most detailed division. Manufacturing has already beaten the 2014 projections, which indicated 27,000 jobs. The sector had 26,000 jobs in January 2017.
The two largest manufacturing subgroups are computers and electronic products (6,250 jobs) and food (5,500 jobs). Some similarity between the two exists; companies in both groups make stuff. However, the vast differences reinforce the argument for more detail about the state economy.
Retail trade has the second largest number of subgroups with 12.
Not quite nothing is the expected future of the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sector that is central to state governments finances. The sector expects to add 63 jobs to the 2014 total of 27,869.
Surprise, though, the jobs are not in getting oil, gas, rock and minerals from the ground. Support activities provide 63 percent of the sector’s jobs. If the 2024 wage job projection happens, it would be a 50 percent increase from today’s sector employment of 18,900. The trouble is that, however intriguing the two figures, they are statistically unrelated; they come from different places.
The social assistance part of healthcare and social assistance projects as the second fastest growing, percentagewise, subsector with 35 percent, or 9,200, more jobs over the ten years. Ambulatory healthcare services is right behind with 32 percent growth, or 15,000 more jobs. Ambulatory (meaning “walking”) problems include hypertension and congestive heart failure.
Drop-outs get some good news. During the ten-year period, for those without “a formal education credential,” 10,265 job openings are expected annually with a $30,000 average wage, assuming full time work. These low education jobs would be 38 percent of the job openings each year.
Completing high school would push average wages to $40,000 for the 7,807 jobs forecast year, which would be 29 percent of the total.
Think about it: 57 percent of the jobs expected to appear each year will require high school or less. That seems to provide the basis of a low-end, low-return economy that would keep us at the bottom of all the lists.
The low education outlook and the overall projected annual job growth of less than one percent both reinforce the argument for long term thinking about our future.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES               3/13/17
Administrative State Creeps Along, Always Growing, Always Costing More
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The tax boys want additional information for your 2016 return, starting with your driver’s license number. If claiming certain credits for children, you must prove the kid lives with you, which, says my tax preparer, “gets really interesting if the kid is between zero and four.”
Besides treading on our liberty, the requirements raise costs and provide another definition of what is being called “the administrative state.”
In his March 5 Washington Post column, Robert Samuelson, one of my favorite analysts, quoting historian Steven Hayward from the current issue of the conservative Claremont Review of Books, wrote, “The administrative state represents a new and pervasive form of rule, and a perversion of constitutional self-government.” Samuelson concluded, “Like it or not, we do have an administrative state. It isn’t going away.”
The simplest compliance with the new IRS rules will require about 20 minutes, estimates my tax preparer. There will be a modest charge for one new form. Otherwise the changes mean less sleep and no new clients this year, which means that the IRS has prevented the business from growing.
Another favorite source, Megan McArdle of Bloomberg.com, in a Feb. 14 post linked to a long consideration of why everything costs more.
“Considerations on Cost Disease” was Scott Alexander’s 8,000-word essay at  slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost-disease. Basically, spending on housing, education, health care and public transportation is way, way up—ten fold in some cases— over the years without an equivalent increase in results and without the professionals such as teachers and doctors making much more money. Alexander can’t figure out why.
Alexander worked on the big picture. A street level view can help.
In 2011, Albuquerque, long since captured by anti-mobility ideologues, built an island to partly block traffic on a minor arterial street near my house. It must be painted periodically because cars run into it because of limited turning space and put black splotches on the pretty yellow paint with their tires. A willow tree grew in a crack last year. Now it is about two feet tall. Costs include wages, paint, the truck for the workers and replacing the reflectors knocked over by cars. Then there will be getting rid of the willow.
Street signs, courtesy of a 2004 Federal Highway Administration ruling, now have both capital letters and lower case. Signs were all capital letters forever. Some Google research uncovers the cost of street signs in New York City—$110 each. I suspect that figure does not include the people cost for installation. Someone has to drive the truck, bolt the bolts and track new sign installation.
Highways have an inexorable creep toward “higher” standards. Wider shoulders and medians are examples. 
Color laser printers now are a must. The cost of the ink is several times the cost of black printer ink. Schools love those flashing electronic signs.
In the current legislative session, the ideologically disparate Sens. Sander Rue, Albuquerque Republican, and Jeff Steinborn, Las Cruces Democrat, offered Senate Memorial 119 seeking a study by the Tourism and Economic Development departments of “creating a state office of outdoor recreation and the economic potential of recruiting outdoor recreation… industries.”
A legislative analysis guessed that the study would take staff time and cost $50,000, with the money coming from the operations fund of each department, thereby negatively affecting existing budgeted activity. The whole idea is redundant, the analysis said, with outdoor recreation activity getting attention from the Tourism Department, not to mention Game and Fish, and firms being on the recruiting horizon of the New Mexico Partnership, which itself suffers from lack of money and administration inattention.
But the proposed office would give the senators “an accomplishment.” Ah, ha.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES             3/6/17
Big bipartisan HB 412 seeks fix for gross receipts tax mess
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
House Bill 412 is a big one. The title requires 307 words. It begins, “An act relating to taxation…” The second to the last section—that’s section 155 out of 157—requires 1,028 words to list the sections of existing law that would be repealed.
The sponsors are Rep. Jason Harper, Rio Rancho Republican, and two venerable Democratic senators, John Arthur Smith of Deming and Carlos Cisneros of Questa. Bipartisanship!
The bill came from the interim Revenue Stabilization & Tax Policy Committee. Harper was the chair and Cisneros the vice chair. Smith was a member.
A general and understandable (by you and me) summary of what became HB 412 is found in the minutes of the committee’s final meeting, held Dec. 16. It said: “The elimination of most GRT deductions, exemptions and credits is a key part of the legislation and could vastly expand the tax base with a correspondingly lower sales tax rate…  the state sales tax rate would be around 2.5 percent, with an average total local and state rate of around five percent.”
The legislative analysis says the bill’s intent is to be “revenue neutral,” not affecting total state revenue. To find the bill, all 347 pages of it, go to the Legislature’s website, nmlegis.gov and enter the bill information in the section, “Find Legislation by Number.”
“HB 412 has many major moving parts,” the analysis says. That’s an understatement. Surprises are likely.
Collateral effects appear. The value of lobbyists is proven again. Somebody has to track this as it develops. Should the bill pass, life will be simpler. All organizations should spend less time messing with taxes to the betterment of all.
Mostly, HB 412 deals with the gross receipts tax, a sneaky mechanism because it is simple to increase at the local level and each modest increase fades into the background. Personal and corporate income tax rates are simplified into one bracket and the property tax problem of massive increases gets fixed.
Mocking, derision and horror create an impression the proposal appeared from nowhere (it didn’t; it comes from years of work), and is a waste of time because it ignores the state’s current budget awfulness. Political blogger Joe Monahan called the bill “esoteric” in a February 20 post at .
The loudest and most misinformed objections to HB 412 attack reinstatement of the sales tax on food. The claim is that the move would hurt the poor. Two of state’s wisest policy thinkers for decades, Brian McDonald, economist, and Chuck Wellborn, retired lawyer, say otherwise.
“The benefits of the food tax exemption flow almost entirely to the non-poor,” they say in an Albuquerque Journal op-ed. That’s because food purchases by the poor are almost completely offset by federal SNAP (food stamp) assistance. They did the math to support this argument. Further, no tax on food amounts to more tax on everything else, which hurts the poor. The McDonald-Wellborn article is ported at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com. The argument that considering HB 412 is pointless because it doesn’t balance the budget misses several points starting with the gross receipts tax being a mess. A fix is needed. Legislation is a process. One must start somewhere.
Harper has driven the process, as best as I can tell. Sens. Smith and Cisneros wisely came on board.
The unappreciated part of Harper is that he applies his chemical engineering Ph.D. at Sandia National Laboratories and among other sidelines, leads a Boy Scout troop. He has a rare professional feature in his resume, an R&D 100 award naming his anthrax detector one of the most innovative technologies of 2013.
He’s the kind of citizen legislator we need.



© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES               2/27/17
Hey, MVD, how about solving the faded license plate problem?
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Check out license plates the next time there is an opportunity to cruise a big parking lot, say at the neighborhood supermarket.
My informal supermarket survey suggests that about half the plates are the new, cool blue centennial plates with the rest the traditional red and yellow. Perhaps half the red and yellow plates (a quarter of the total) show some fading and half of those are significantly dimmed, faded enough so as to be difficult to read. For a few, the red of the numbers will be a faint hint against the remaining yellow of the background. For another few, the sheeting, as the industry calls it, will be dried and peeling. 3M (3M.com) makes sheeting.
The ugly balloon plates, which seem especially prone to fading, are no more. This design dates to 1999, making the plates a legacy of Gov. Gary Johnson.
At Santa Teresa, the hordes of Texas license plates are neither faded nor peeling. Likewise on a recent trip to Arizona we saw all of two faded plates, both of them specialty plates.
The only number I found for a New Mexico vehicle count was 1.7 million in 2009, from  Statista, a German firm. In 2014, those vehicles were driven by the nation’s second worst drivers, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.
Applying my supermarket count to the vehicle count (statistically outrageous but whatever), there are 850,000 red and yellow plates with 425,000 faded to one degree or other.
Plates come with only a five-year warranty from the manufacturer, The Waldale Manufacturing Ltd. of Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Yes, we get our license plates from Canada and have since 2010 and possibly before. Further, the Motor Vehicle Division must like Waldale, as the contract has just been extended for two more years.)  Waldale began producing the state’s plates in 1998, according to 15q.net of Saco, Maine.
Waldale charges the state $1.37 for regular car and truck plates. Special plates cost $4.95. About 60 of the more than 80 available plate designs are special plates.
But aren’t license plates supposed to last forever? Well, yes, forever meaning the life of the vehicle. So what’s the deal? The answer is murky. But one thing seems intuitively likely; the problem will get worse. That’s because the United States’ vehicle fleet averages 11.5 years old (as of 2014) and will only get older. I couldn’t find a fleet age for New Mexico vehicles. If New Mexico’s vehicle fleet also averages 11.5 years old, then more than half will be beyond warranty.
Inmates in one of Arizona’s state prisons make that state’s plates, as of 2012, anyway, says the Arizona department of transportation.
This is a public safety problem. Cops need license plate numbers to identify bad guys.
Plates are supposed to be visible from a distance. If “the registration plate of any vehicle is illegible,” the statute says, an officer may issue a ticket. Clearly, not that many tickets are issued. A state police spokesman indicated the situation is more annoyance than real problem. Certainly the police have higher order problems. But with police cars being mobile substations, the officer can get an owner name and probable address in seconds.
And if New Mexico’s state government can’t manage its license plate situation, something that ought to be straightforward, what can the state do competently? Little enough, it seems.
In October 2014, in an Albuquerque Journal story about unreadable plates, John Monforte, now acting secretary of the Taxation and Revenue department, said, “However, we are looking at a more formal program in regards to unreadable plates.”
That would be nice.

 © 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES        2/20/17
Innovation, international flavor spotlight chile conference
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
An international flavor overlaid the recent New Mexico Chile Conference in Las Cruces. A sprinkling of paprika, it might be said, paprika being one of the two red chile categories produced here with $7.2 million in cash receipts generated from 3,200 acres planted in 2015.
Speakers from Korea and Israel sparked presentations as people from Mexico and the United States listened. One company with a booth in the hallway was a family-owned small firm based in India, Ocean Agro LLC. Kaushal Parikh, operations director and part of the family owning the business, said Ocean Argo tested its Dirt M.D. humic acid “liquid nutrient energizer” in Luna County last year.
Its humates come from India. The idea of a small business from India exporting its product to the United States is impressive.
Sandoval and McKinley counties host New Mexico humate production. Humates are lumped into industrial minerals along with brick and gypsum. Production value was $6o million for the group during 2015.
Mesa Verde Resources (humates.com) of Placitas and San Ysidro is one New Mexico humate producer.
That the Las Cruces gathering drew international interest makes sense. New Mexico State University is home to the longest continuous program of chile pepper improvement in the world. The Chile Pepper Institute, the conference host, is the world’s only chile pepper institute. Conference presentations are at https://cpi.nmsu.edu/2017-chile-conference-presentations/.
The holy grail of chile—the long quest for a mechanical chile harvester—continues. The problem is that chile fruit is delicate and irregularly shaped. Increasing labor costs of hand harvesting motivate the research.
Stephanie Walker, an NMSU extension vegetable specialist, turns the conventional logic around. Her multi-year project is to make the chile plant more amenable to machines. “Wed the plant with the machine,” she said.
Five lines for breeding and five for observation were developed and planted last year. The NuMex Joe E. Parker chile was the control for comparison. Selection of the lines considered yield, fruit size, fruit straightness, ease of destemming (an important issue) and flavor and heat. All ten lines did well with more marketable yield than the Parker and less waste left behind. They were harvested using an Etgar Series MOSES 1010 from Israel. An expanded test is the 2017 plan.
Harvesting machines continue to get considerable attention. Elad Etgar and Oz Agribusiness Projects & Investments, both of Israel, reported on their New Mexico joint venture to develop a mechanical destemmer. They are close to the initial goal of delivering a 1,000-pound box of green chile.
The Pepster automated pepper destemmer pulls two pepper stems per second per lane. The Pepster uses recognition software that traces to Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Chile hotness is measured using Scoville Heat Units. A regular bell pepper offers up to 1,000 units, New Mexico chiles, up to 7,000. The Bhut Jolokia has more than one million units. The Trinidad Scorpion with 1.5 million was the champ until displaced in 2013 by the Carolina Reaper. Sauce with highly diluted bhut jolokia is available from the Chile Pepper Institute (chile.nmsu.edu). Institute sales support student research and employment, and the $1 million endowed chile pepper research chair campaign
Besides paprika, New Mexico farmers produce three other general types: the green long mild, the green long hot and red long mild. New Mexico is the nation’s number two chile producer with a third of the output. California does 60 percent. In 2015 our fresh chile production was valued at $7.5 million with processed chile worth $33.6 million.
Innovation seems to characterize everything chile, even in the field where production in terms of ton per acre is up as the number of acres planted has dropped.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES           2/13/17
At Santa Teresa, diversifying the economy means action, not words
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
An unflattering picture of President Trump appears a few pages from the end of Jerry Pacheco’s current presentation about the Santa Teresa Port of Entry with Mexico. Above the photo are the words, “The future?”
No other state has as much at stake these days as does New Mexico with the stuff about Mexico coming from Washington, D.C., Pacheco says.
People along the United States-Mexico border are uncertain—that’s the nicest way to put it—as they look into a murky future reflecting the outlandish, absurd Trump statements about tariffs, the NAFTA treaty, and building a wall along the border.
Mexicans are angry, insulted. Public statements are few, though, lest a firm provoke one of Trump’s nasty Twitter comments. 
Pacheco has a constantly evolving Santa Teresa presentation because he is president of the Border Industrial Association (nmbia.org), which, with 115 members, has become New Mexico’s largest industrial association. He is also executive director of the International Business Accelerator (nmiba.com), part of the state’s small business development center network.
For 25 years Pacheco has lived and often embodied the project of turning Santa Teresa’s into today’s vigorous reality from its existence somewhere across the sagebrush, the description offered years ago. We spoke recently in his Santa Teresa office.
Today’s reality also means companies quietly postponing expansion and relocation decisions. 
The lovely irony of Trump’s machinations is that if there is “a wall” built, odds are Mexican cement companies will supply the material in the Paso del Norte area. That’s because the only cement companies anywhere close are Mexican. 
Trains offer one way of thinking about Santa Teresa, specifically the trains coming through Union Pacific Railroad’s Intermodal Facility a few miles north and west of the port and its ever expanding cluster of industrial parks. UP’s numbers for the facility are impressive—2,200 acres and 74,000 feet of track.
Intelligence and design, combined with resources, impress more. UP can refuel locomotives at both ends of a long train at the same time, a much more efficient approach than separate fueling.
Romance aids the train picture. A train stretching across UP’s fueling area and bathed in the soft late afternoon sun is spectacular.
A socio-economic framework for considering Santa Teresa is diversification of the state economy. But unlike usual citations of the phrase, especially from governors, current and past, Santa Teresa comes with employment of more than 4,000 people by multiple firms involved in businesses from candy to wind turbines to rail and less subject, overall, to the inevitable vagaries that hit individual companies.
Exports are an example. Historically, according to Pacheco’s estimate, Intel Corp.’s Rio Rancho plant accounted for about 60 percent of the state’s exports with Santa Teresa in the ten percent range. In 2015, Santa Teresa firms originated 45 percent with Intel estimated at 34 percent.
Santa Teresa’s bread and butter, Pacheco says, is supplying inputs to maquila plants in Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua. A new program came from the insight—frustratingly obvious, if you think about it, Pacheco says—that maquila suppliers have to get stuff from somewhere and they might as well get that stuff from New Mexico companies.
The insight led to the new “supply the supplier” program. An early success came with Watson Hopper of Hobbs, an oil industry support firm. Watson Hopper built the base for 400 mobile lighting units used to illuminate outdoor work areas at night. Watson has a deal for 1,400 more units, Pacheco says, and plans to hire some new people. 
The near-term future offers 200 to 500 more industrial jobs annually. Planning has started on the longer term, which is Los Santos, described as “the only master planned bi-national community in the world.”


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES         1/23/17
Navajo President Begay on EPA Gold King decision: “Both childish and shameful”
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
If ever there was a reason needed to approve Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA has provided one.
The objection to Pruitt from the enviro left is that he opposes EPA programs and, presumably, the EPA, an attitude demonstrated through suing the EPA. Thus, the left says, it’s an awful idea to have someone lead an organization that he questions.
Apparently the ideal leader would be someone who has absorbed the organization’s culture and policies into his or her DNA. That Pruitt has sued the occasional oil firm doesn’t count, of course.
Proof of one EPA deficiency came Jan. 13, unveiling its new approach to paying the more than $1.2 billion in economic damages from the August 2015 spill of toxic wastewater into the Animas River in southwest Colorado.
The EPA’s new approach is (my paraphrase here), tough luck dudes, we’re not going to pay.
Some irony: Just 34 days earlier (on Dec. 10) the four Democrats in our congressional delegation (Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan) issued a news release proclaiming their good deed in amending the Water Resources Act that passed Congress.
“Our amendment directs the EPA to reimburse tribal, state and local governments for their essential emergency response activities, and it tells the EPA to speed up the process of addressing claims filed by individual farmers affected by the spill,” the release said. I didn’t see a specific mention of “economic damages,” the phrase used in a news report of claim denial.
Exactly why the EPA chose to blow off the rural locals is uncertain. After all, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told the House Committee on Natural Resources, “EPA is the one ultimately taking responsibility for this.” Maybe she had her fingers crossed.
Sovereign immunity, the idea that one can sue the government only once in a while, was cited by the Denver Post and the Associated Press.
The Farmington Daily Times said, “The EPA said the Federal Tort Claims Act prevents the agency from paying claims that result from ‘discretionary’ government actions.” The EPA told the Associated Press that claims could be refiled or Congress could authorize payment. No offer of EPA help appeared. Lawsuits have long since appeared. New Mexico sued the EPA and Colorado. The Navajo Nation sued the EPA, the EPA’s contractor and a number of mining firms.
My theory is that the EPA action stems from lawyers and an organizational and policy culture fraught with arrogance. The EPA lawyers did their job in a narrowly technical legalistic sense; they got the client out of the situation, or at least stalled things for a long time. Morally, well, not so much. But that’s not the point.
The EPA embodies all that is good, the core environmentalist thinks. (That’s my impression, anyway.) Thus, protecting the EPA is paramount.
In a Jan. 13 statement posted on Heinrich’s website (heinrich.senate.gov), Heinrich, Udall and Lujan absolved the EPA. It was the lawyers, they said.
"We are outraged at this last-ditch move by the federal government's lawyers to go back on the EPA's promise to the people of the state of New Mexico,” they said.
Udall also posted the statement. I did not find it at lujan.house.gov.
Rep Steve Pearce said, “Just when you thought that this administration’s EPA couldn’t get worse, they put the proverbial icing on the cake.” The rest of Pearce’s statement is posted at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com. Pearce’s Gold King Mine Spill Accountability Act of 2016 will be reintroduced this year.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said it best. The Navajo Times reported Begaye said the action was “both childish and shameful.”


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES              1/16/17
Administration’s 36 or 37 tax “cuts” include two increases
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
A Martinez administration mantra is, “We’ve cut taxes 37 times.” This repetition came Dec. 20 at the Tax Research Institute’s Legislative Outlook Conference. The speaker was the governor’s chief of staff Keith Gardner.
But what exactly are those tax cuts? After a couple of requests spokesman Chris Sanchez provided a list of bill numbers by session date. The list is posted at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com. He did not provide estimated revenue impact, which I requested. I was unable to get the impact from the Legislature’s website, nmlegis.gov.
Finding the bills is a little tedious, but easy enough.
Taken as one, the list offers rather less than meets the eye. Repeating “We’ve cut taxes 37 times” is supposed to impress. I’m reminded of governors running for president—Bill Richardson comes to mind—claiming virtue from having balanced the state government budget. Such claims mean nothing; state constitutions require balanced budgets.
The list showed 36 tax cut bills. The exception was Senate Bill 369 from 2012, which defined a number of terms relating to veterans.
A number of these “cuts” extend previously enacted tax credits or gross receipts exemptions. Thus House Bill 273 in 2011 adjusted the eligibility period for the research and development small business tax credit.
Few actually cut a tax rate. Others raised the amount of sales required for a tax to be charged. Taxes and cuts tended to be very narrowly focused. The actions amount to the state allocating resources.
The narrowest focus of the 37, deemed a socially worthy gesture, no doubt, was the property tax exemption for property owned by a veterans organization and used for organization activities. (HB 437 in 2011). Veterans groups win here. The rest of us lose because we provide the money to make up the revenue lost from the exemption. The rest of us also lose because the exemption blows yet another hole in the tax base.
Another narrow focus came with HB 523 in 2011. This was the Union Pacific bill exempting locomotive fuel from gross receipts tax. The exemption had passed before, so it brought nothing new this time, except that UP was ready to move on their now completed rail yard near Santa Teresa. A UP release said the bill “paves the way” for starting construction. This cut mattered.
An occasional exemption is so narrow as to seem both obscure and a little bizarre. Consider SB 282 in 2011. The bill gave a $1,000 tax credit to oncologists (cancer docs, that is) for each patient in a cancer clinical trial up to $4,000 annually per oncologist. The purpose, the bill said, is to make “cancer clinical trials more readily available to cancer patients in the state.” The bill gave a little more money to the oncologists, already decently paid, and to oncologists’ accountants.
Two raised a tax rate. These were Senate Bills 81 and 116 in 2013, which increased rates under certain circumstances for beer and wine. So much for “no tax increases.”
Deductions may expand government. HB 184 in 2012 dealt with deductions for construction matters for small (population) cities and counties. The extensive analysis required by the Department of Finance and Administration might mean more staff.
“Sustainable buildings” are big too, as in 2013’s SB 14, which extended a tax credit. Sustainability is defined by the “LEED green building rating system.” Sen. Peter Wirth, Santa Fe Democrat and the new Senate Majority Leader, sponsored SB 14.
For new information, I consider the source. With a few exceptions, the much celebrated tax cuts, overall, mean little to the state. Gov. Susana Martinez deserves some credit for Sen. Wirth’s sustainable buildings subsidy. She signed the bill. But the bill is hardly a tax policy program.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES          1/9/17
People earning less pay less tax everywhere. No kidding.
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Like Chicken Man, taxes are everywhere – they’re everywhere.
We forget that. The latest gross receipts tax increase quickly recedes into the background. When economic life is good, as it was when oil and gas drilling boomed for a few years until mid-2014, we forget recent history. Yet when history reappears and life for state government revenue reverts, life is just awful.
The links are easily lost. Cities and counties get a lot of their revenue from gross receipts taxes. Local tax increases are one reaction. Eleven governments across the state hiked gross receipts rates as of January 1. Those basic local services are necessary. Gov. Susana Martinez may say no tax increases. Tuition increases at universities are doing the job for her.
Last month the Taxation and Revenue Department (TRD) summarized the sad situation for seven of the state’s largest income categories. The 19-page paper, presented Dec. 5 to the Legislative Finance Committee, got into some of the matters seldom considered except by those paid to pay attention. The reminder is useful as we approach the 60-day legislative session with a chance of comprehensive tax reform.
Compensating tax is one of those adjuncts to our unique gross receipts tax reliance. TRD says the “tax helps to protect New Mexico businesses from unfair competition from out-of-state businesses that are not subject to gross receipts tax.”
Unfair? It applies to stuff purchased from an out-of-state company that, if sold in the state, would be subject to gross receipts tax. The logic: How dare you buy from a company not located in New Mexico and then pay the shipping into New Mexico. Subsidies and parochialism remain priorities.
In the budget year ending June 20, 2016, (FY 16) sectors showing double digit drops in compensating tax payments include real estate (-62 percent), utilities (-24 percent) and agriculture (-36 percent).
Compensating tax revenue went from $72 million in FY 15 to $47 million in FY 16. Mining and extractive industry equipment provided 29 percent of the compensating tax in FY 16.
Ten percent of compensating tax revenue goes to the small cities assistance fund for municipalities under 10,000 population and ten percent to the small counties assistance fund. The rest goes to the general fund.
Claims for the high-wage-jobs tax credit put a $58 million hole in FY 16 revenue.
This credit is ten percent of year-one salary to companies paying new employees $40,000 or more in rural areas or $60,000 in urban communities.
The personal income tax isn’t a secret, but some factors get little attention. If people losing jobs are as well paid as oil workers and if people gaining jobs are modestly paid as are leisure industry workers, then less income tax revenue appears. Increases in the number of retired people shrink the tax base and lower paid income taxes.
Two higher level factors affecting retail sales (and therefore gross receipts taxes), TRD says, are increasing e-commerce sales and the state never quite recovering from the Great Recession.
Like everything else, the corporate income tax is complicated. “CIT revenue collections are down significantly,” TRD says, contrary to the forecast of flat revenue. TRD is perplexed.
Payment timing may have changed with less paid during a given current year. Overpayment is another possibility, resulting in more refunds. Overpayments also turn into “carry forwards” which amount to prepaid taxes. TRD suspects “that the glut of revenues collected in prior years is paying down current taxpayer liabilities.”
A smaller revenue effect comes from lower motor vehicle excise tax revenue. FY 17 revenue is now expected to be $142.5 million, down $6 million from the August forecast. Not much on the scale of things, but everything counts.


© 2017 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES               1/2/17
Auditor Keller says use stashed money
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
A lot of money just lies around in state government accounts, notwithstanding the massive disparity between cash forecast to come into the general fund and planned appropriations. Maybe $3.5 billion, according to State Auditor Tim Keller.
The notion of idle state money as a tool in the Peter-to-pay-Paul mode of plugging the state’s operating deficits isn’t new. During last year’s special session the Legislature plucked allocated capital funds from a host of departments and moved the money to the general fund. It was $21 million here (from economic development) and $500,000 there (from the State Engineer).
Keller’s context is different than the standard utter short term approach to the state’s financial issues. “Economy and Public Funds: New Mexico’s Structural Challenges,” was the title of his Dec. 20 presentation to the New Mexico Tax Research Institute Legislative Outlook conference.
Keller brought two big ideas to the 140 accountants, government staffers, lobbyists and legislators attending the gathering. The good idea was using idle fund balances. The uncertain idea was directing more state purchasing to New Mexico firms.
An obvious but seldom acknowledged idea began Keller’s presentation. What happens to our tax dollars, he said, “is really a reflection of our priorities.” One example Keller mentioned was that while he was in the state Senate, he got zero support for his bill requiring that capital outlay money be used within seven years.
The “unspent funds in government accounts,” as Keller described the situation in a February 2016 news release, surface from the annual audits required of all 966 state agencies. Audited organizations include the Claunch-Pinto Soil and Water Conservation District. The Auditor’s Office does few audits, Keller said. “We contract almost everything. Agencies are allowed to choose their own auditor.”
Such cozy arrangements, any first semester accounting class will say, scream multiple potential conflicts of interests.
As of June 30, 2015 (the end of fiscal 2015), there were about 400 funds in 86 agencies. The money is not part of the annual budget process, Keller said. Typically it is held for infrastructure projects or self-insurance programs. The total is $3.7 billion. Twenty agencies with the largest balances claim $2.3 billion among them. All this is explained in “Fund Balance Report State Agencies, Fiscal Year 2015.”
The six with the most money are the Finance Authority, Environment, Transportation, Mortgage Finance Authority, Workforce Solutions, and the State Treasurer. The balance for the six totals $1.8 billion with $500 million in the Finance Authority.
“This money should be used,” Keller said. Presumably not all, though. The special session took some. Determining an agency’s real needs would seem, from this distance, straightforward, though requiring some work.
Forcing more state government spending into the state is Keller’s other big idea. This argument is less persuasive. During FY 15, of 3,000 contracts for more than $60,000, non-New Mexican firms got 22 percent of the work, worth $525 million. Keller cited information technology where out of state firms got work worth $29 million and $6 million stayed in the state.
“We have people in New Mexico who can do (IT work).” Well, maybe, maybe not. For large scientific computing projects, the guess here is that New Mexicans are among the best in the world. Large business or government administrative computing is specialized. Companies will base in larger markets with more opportunity.
Forcing work into the state might reinforce our already heavy parochialism. Probably there would be subsidies, a bad if common government strategy, building inefficiency and cronyism. We already have plenty of both.
Even so, give Keller a gold star for considering the bigger picture of structural challenges.
See www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.com for more including the Department of Game and Fish excuse.


2016
© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES          12-26-16
“Don’t-Cut-Me” Emails Don’t Help As State Revenues Plunge
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
 “Not very good,” said David Abbey, describing the state’s economy. He switched to “bad” for further descriptions of matters such as job (non)growth.      
Abbey, executive director of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), was in his traditional program start slot at the annual legislative outlook conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute. It was five days before Christmas.
Not that the state’s situation was good last summer, but things deteriorated between the August consensus forecast and December. The August forecast was 1.7 percent job growth during the current budget year, FY 17, that ends June 30, 2017. Zero was the December job growth forecast. The December forecast for wage and salary growth was 0.7 percent, a quarter of the August estimate. Gross state product growth now figures at 40 percent of the August forecast.
The “bad” litany includes employment. The state has lost wage jobs the past three months on a year over year comparison. There were 2,300 fewer wage jobs in November than in November 2015. Wage and salary growth has dropped for two years. No wonder retailer jobs in November were 5,500 fewer than a year earlier. No money to spend.
For wage employment, “the last ten years are a lost decade,” Abbey said. Wage jobs are 5,000 less than 2005. “To me that’s really incredible.”
As Abbey spoke, the Census Bureau released state population estimates for July 1, 2016. After two years of losses, New Mexico’s population increased, sort of. The qualifier is that the population numbers are estimates, meaning the numbers are within a range rather than being one single exact number. Our population increase between 2015 and 2016 was 687. Our July 2016 population was 2,081,015. The so-called increase is small enough to really mean the population stayed the same. Within that sameness is a number big enough to count. People did move to the state during the year, but departures, presumably people seeking jobs and decent schools, were 9,748 more than arrivals.
Moving to his presentation visuals, Abbey said revenue offered “ another ugly chart.” The December revenue forecast is $130 million less than the adjusted August forecast for both this budget year (FY 17) and for next year. Ugly indeed.
For the first quarter of FY 17 (July to September 2016), state revenue is down in all major categories. If nothing is done, FY 17 spending will consume all reserves and end $85.5 million in the hole. That can’t happen. FY 17 revenue is projected at $237.9 million less than appropriations.
“The state is really challenged,” Abbey said. There are “significant constitutional issues.” One of those issues is paying the bills. “We have the state treasurer worrying about having enough cash.” Writing hot checks won’t work.
Medicaid is the elephant in the budget room. Since 2001, Medicaid’s share of the operating budget has doubled to 15 percent. Since 2015, all other spending has trended down.
Good news: mining may have finally hit bottom. Oil and gas prices appear stable, though at half the 2014 level.
The scramble to patch FY 17 finances starts about five minutes after the 60-day session begins January 17. Around $200 million must be pulled from the hats of spending cuts and tax increases.
LFC’s thoughts, Abbey said, include speeding revenue collection, delaying capital outlay spending, hitting the economic development loan fund and the high wage tax credit.
The six legislators speaking at the conference are all being buried in “don’t cut me” emails, which Sen. Carlos Cisneros, Questa Democrat, said don’t provide a solution.
Las Cruces Democrat Rep. Bill McCamley said, “It is vital that we work with people we don’t necessarily agree with.”
We don’t have any choice.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES          12/19/16
United World College Scatters Alumni Across The World
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
MONTEZUMA—A warm and sunny December day in this international enclave suburb of Las Vegas had 237 teenagers beavering away at their studies. From the road, N.M. 65, the students and the roughly 100 adult staff supporting their academic work were invisible.
Their main building, the approximately125-year-old Montezuma Castle, gets attention as it rises four stories above the trees, plus towers, with spectacular Queen Anne design.
The students disperse a few days later for winter break. If everyone goes home, it would be to 75 countries.
Discrete signs on the road say, “United World College.”
New Mexico’s college president carousel brought new leaders to four institutions during 2016. Victoria Mora came to United World College after 24 years at St. John’s College in Santa Fe. St. John’s also has a new president, Mark Roosevelt. (The other 2016 newbies are Stephen Wells at New Mexico Tech and Richard Bailey at Northern New Mexico.)
Other facts: The rigorous two-year program roughly equates to the last two years of American high school. Students earn an International Baccalaureate Diploma. See www.uwc-usa.org.  There are 38 full-time faculty and 15 part-time. The students are from 75 countries, and, among them, speak 125 languages. The annual budget is just under $12 million. The full name is: Armand Hammer United World College of the American West. Saying “United World College” or UWC is simpler.
Mora first learned about UWC through the reading that pulled her from the narrow world of Albuquerque’s West Mesa High where she graduated in 1981. She found it interesting. “Over time I just kind to paid attention to it,” she says. A high school counselor pointed her to the University of New Mexico. Then it was Yale where her Ph.D. was actually in philosophy.
Involvement escalated when Mora’s daughter attended UWC.
UWC is more than a mere school; it is a movement.
“There something about a place or idea that captures your imagination,” Mora says. UWC is one of 17 campuses in the United World College movement, founded by Kurt Hahn, a German educator. The website says, “Hahn believed that much could be done to overcome religious, cultural, and racial misunderstanding if young people from all over the world could be brought together to live and learn.”
Ten years ago Mora became dean at St. John’s. In 2012, she moved to advancement and development and was a vice president. Now she leads an operating unit within a world-wide complex governance structure.
With her whole adult life devoted to education, a mission that is more relevant than ever, she says, Mora loves the opportunity to bring her passion to an institution in New Mexico.
Leading, though, shouldn’t be just about having power and a title. If one is going to lead, the question is why. As St. John’s dean, she found a “sense of service. I discovered what a joy service leadership can be.” Her approach is embracing the mission and making it what it could be.
An example of the UWC environment and mission comes from two female students with utterly different cultural and religious backgrounds. Their impassioned, respectful conversations considered, Mora says, “what constituted dignity for women.”
UWC’s New Mexico beginning was a big deal. Prince Charles of Britain, then the overall board chair, came at the invitation of Maxie and Patty Anderson. (Maxie Anderson, late balloonist and mining executive, was once my dad’s boss. The small world of New Mexico...)
Since then, UWC’s New Mexico life has been quiet, so far as I know. The college has done its job, including a deep engagement with the community of Las Vegas and scattering alumni with a warm spot for New Mexico across the world.

© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                    12/12/16
Angry Economic Developers Attack Jobs Council Draft Bill
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The meeting scenario seemed straightforward. Economic developers would gather Dec. 1 in Albuquerque to mildly express their concern about a proposed bill from the interim legislative Jobs Council. Mark Lautman, lead program consultant for the Jobs Council, would have some discussion with the economic developers, and say, “Thank you.” In this space I would criticize the proposed bill and that would be that. Well, not exactly.
Animosity from the economic developers filled the conference room at the Association of Commerce and Industry, the meeting location. There was anger and unhappiness.
Dismayed economic developers came from large and small communities around the state. Others listened on the telephone.
The topic was a Jobs Council bill draft (economic developers thought it was a bill; Lautman said otherwise; it sure looked like a bill) “overhauling the state statutes for economic development,” Lautman said. The Jobs Council “realized there wasn’t enough planning going on, or the right kind of planning. Nowhere are the accountability lines collected in one place.”
The meeting happened because of “concern about the Economic Development Accounting & Planning Act” according to the invitation email from Eileen Chavez Yarborough, executive director of Cibola Communities Economic Development in Grants and president of NMIDEA, the economic developers’ professional organization. (Disclosure: I was IDEA president for two years in the 1990s.)
The act, presented as a “discussion draft,” came attached to the meeting invitation as a 20-page document with a seven-page question-and-answer document and a timeline projecting legislative action in 2018. The act included four pages of definitions. It specified “nine general program theaters” from retirement to “solo work” to the “employer theater, the traditional focus of procurement agents.”
This invented jargon irritated the economic developers who were mystified at the need to call themselves anything other than economic developers. “Procurement agents,” indeed. Invented jargon brings power to those creating the words.
One nasty surprise was that the 20-page bill was maybe 15 percent of the full proposal, a roughly 150-page doorstop with “embargo” stamped in huge letters on the front.
The Q&A document explained with an amazing statement: “After three years and over 30 deliberative sessions around the state, the Council concluded there was not nearly enough prescriptive planning being done at the local level to produce the nuance understanding or the narratives needed to write prescription legislation for programs, policies or appropriations.”
“Prescriptive,” used twice in the paragraph, means prescribe, that is, telling someone what to do. The act, if ever passed, would be telling developers what to do. The vague phrase “nuance understanding” brings back John Kerry as presidential candidate. He was big on nuance. Saying people in communities can’t produce “nuance understanding,” whatever that is, amounts to saying they are stupid.
“A monstrosity of a bill,” was one reaction. “A bill that none of us agree with,” one professional said. “We all have planning,” another said, clearly insulted. 
 I’ve never been a fan of the Jobs Council. It is a legislative effort, the bright idea of former House Speaker Ken Martinez of Grants. Those “deliberative sessions” devolved into meetings attended by those who go to meetings. Being a legislative effort means, obviously, that the administration wasn’t much interested.
Deliberative sessions about economic policy seem to call for more planning, which means more control by the planning organization. I’ve never understood this more-planning tilt.
The small-community economic developers would be especially affected by the reporting requirements of the proposal, the several additional layers of bureaucracy, rather like the community banks struggling to deal with the requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act.
For now, Lautman said, the act is “frozen,” in part because the Jobs Council contract ends this month. We can only hope.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES             12/7/16
Economy is somewhat vital, other measures middling
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
“Tendency to whine” should be a business-climate rating category. New Mexico’s tendency to whine probably would be high.
Just before Thanksgiving there was news that New Mexico has the second worst state business climate for construction contractors. So says the Associated Builders and Contractors, a national trade group. Only Illinois is worse.
That same day complaints claimed Facebook’s standards for contractors working on its $250 million data center near Los Lunas were too tough. Faced with the whining, ever sensitive Facebook acquiesced to an old New Mexico joke, if the standards are too high, lower the bar. Facebook said it was committed to using local companies and that some of the requirements were only guidelines.
Our review of rating studies continues. The source is the annual “Toward a Competitive Colorado” report, produced by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. (metrodenver.org). The report provides 75 measures gathered under the general headings of economic vitality, innovation, taxes, livability, K-12 education, higher education, health, and infrastructure. We continue braving the statistical gods by averaging the measures within each general heading, some of them averages of yet other measures.
Last week we considered education. We start today with what the report calls “economic vitality,” which comes without a whining sub-topic. The measures are two indices, competitiveness and new economy; two rates, employment growth and unemployment; gross domestic product per employee; income and economic outlook.
Our vitality isn’t as consistent as the K-12 education performance, which had seven of nine ranks in the low 40s. Two of the seven vitality ranks are in the 20s, two in the 30s and three in the 40s. We seem somewhat vital.
The new economy index, one of the vitality categories, considers information technology and innovation. We rank 26th. The foundation says the index covers “knowledge jobs, globalization, economic dynamism, digital economy and innovation capacity.”
Our rank for gross domestic product per employee is also middling at 27th, down from 16th in 2004, and is in the bottom half for the first time, the report said. To be at the bottom as are Mississippi (49th) and Maine (50th), we would have to lack industries generating high dollar output with relatively few people. We have such enterprises—oil and gas, mines, semiconductor manufacturing.
Now for a glance at the remaining five groups.
The average rank for 13 tax categories is 30th (out of the 50 states). The state’s fiscal condition was 40th in 2013, back in the days of high oil prices. Surely now it is lower. Our state and local business tax burden is the fifth highest, administration bragging notwithstanding.
Our livability is less than sunset smugness might suggest. It’s well known we have the nation’s highest percentage of children in poverty. This isn’t new. We were third highest in 2001. Less well known is that we have the nation’s highest crime rate, a position we grabbed in 2013. Crime aside, we are somehow 16th on the “Well Being” index, a 15 place improvement from 2009.
Our average was 23 for the 14 health categories. The outlier is diabetes deaths, fourth highest in 2013 and unchanged since 2003. We have relatively few cancer deaths and take relatively few prescription drugs.
The politically correct part of infrastructure generates high ranks. We do solar, wind and renewable energy fairly well. Otherwise, though, it isn’t good. On the “Infrastructure Index,” we were 45th in 2015, a 23-place drop from 2008.
Innovation has 19 sub-categories and provides our highest average rank at 20.5. We are highest in R&D spending (1st), high-tech exports (6th), SBIR grants (6th), and high-tech employment (8th).
We have big problems, for sure. But we’re middling on many things, not at all an economic death spiral.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES               11/28/16
Education performance still in the bottom ten after years and years
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Each year the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. does New Mexico a favor with its “Toward a Competitive Colorado Report.
The 75 data sets always include a separate posting for Colorado’s “competitor states” of
Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, ranked against Colorado. Under the general heading of “strengths,” the big groups are economic vitality, innovation, taxes, livability, K-12 education, higher education, health, and infrastructure. The report uses “challenges” for those areas where Colorado performs less well.
Find the report at metrodenver.org. Go to the bottom of the page and look under research and reports.
The numbers can be dated; it takes a year or three for some to appear. But even a 2014 number helps paint the picture.
The favor from Colorado is that we get oodles of information with no investment beyond the download and reading time.
Our context this year is that state government has much less than no money. That our state government spending per capita was 42nd (meaning high) in 2014 is illuminating. (Alaska was 50th.) That we have been in the low-to-mid 40s since 2001 says that we habitually spend a lot of money, and /or we route activity through Santa Fe that other states handle locally.
Whatever the reason, the rank and the state’s present financial situation combine to invite rethinking.
Chickens and eggs abound in the report’s comprehensive approach.
The egg of education seems a place to start, if only because of the Martinez administration’s emphasis on the area. More context comes from declarations by incoming House Speaker Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat, that the focus should be more money for early childhood education, workforce training through universities and raising the minimum wage.
The report has nine measures for K-12 and six for higher education. To get an entirely rough idea of our overall education performance, a statistical sin has been committed. It is the averaging of the nine ranks for K-12 education and the six for higher education. The action is improper because the measures come from different places, measure different factors and, in the case of K-12, are from three different years. Still, they all have something to do with K-12.
The K-12 measures cover fourth- and eighth-grade reading, exam scores (SAT and AP) and graduation. Our average is 44th. Pluck the outlier, average SAT scores, where we rank 22nd, and our average drops to 47th.
Our historical performance is about the same over the years. Fourth-grade reading scores and proficiency, 50th in 2015, were 49th in 2009. Eighth graders were 49th in 2015 and 50th in 2003. One measure has improved; for teens aged 16 to 19 and neither in school nor working, the 2015 rank was 40th. It was 48th in 2006. 
The political lesson is that while the strenuous efforts of the Martinez administration haven’t made much difference, K-12 education was a mess when Bill Richardson was governor.
Higher education performance ranks higher. A guess is that those eighth graders who weren’t proficient aren’t in school. Possibly the few out-of-state students are more clever.
The higher education measures skew toward science, engineering and computing science. The “competitiveness” mentality thinks of little else. The six measures average 22nd place. The outlier, where we are third, is science and engineering degrees as a percentage of the workforce. This lofty perch surely has everything to do with the graduates of the MITs and Cal Techs of the world who are hired by national laboratories and other research institutions.  Since 2002 we have dropped 19 places to 38th for bachelor’s degrees and 23 places to 41st for computing science degrees.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                    11/21/16
NM 47th in Ratio of Employment To Population 
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
New Mexicans don’t especially like work, or at least work captured in official statistics.
This work aversion is a continuing theme here. It’s something cultural, one of those rents in the social fabric that is central to our systemic troubles.
The state Depart of Workforce Solutions recently provided valuable additional insight by reviewing the propensity for work in our 33 counties. The measure is the ratio of employment to population (E/P). The ratio reports the percentage of the population age 16 and over that is not in an institution such as a jail and not in the military.
The states stacking on top of Oklahoma lead in diligence. With 68 percent of its population employed in 2015, Nebraska has the highest employment-to-population ratio. Minnesota follows with 67.6 percent and Iowa has 67.3 percent. The other end of line finds West Virginia at 49.4 percent; Mississippi, 52.2 percent; and—ta da—New Mexico, 53.5 percent.
“For the five-year period 2010 to 2014, Los Alamos County posted the highest E/P ratio, at 62.3 percent,” DWS said. For the 2010–2014 period, the national rate was 57.7 percent, with New Mexico at 53.9 percent.
It’s not quite legit to compare the one-year national numbers with the DWS five-year numbers. The county figures are a range rather than a precise number, DWS said. Smaller population counties have a wider range. That said, notice that the ratio for well-to-do Los Alamos was nearly six points behind Nebraska. National Laboratory retirees, perhaps?
The rest of the top five have no such excuse. For the 2010-2014 period, Eddy County was second with 58.9 percent, followed by Bernalillo County, 58.2 percent; Santa Fe County, 57.9 percent; and Lea County, 57.8 percent. That Albuquerque and Santa Fe have a higher E/P ratio is no surprise. They have a million-plus people living reasonably close to one another, making for more economic activity. They remain well short of Nebraska.
The lowest ratios were in Catron County, at 34.2 percent; Guadalupe County, 34.3 percent; Harding County, 35.2 percent; Sierra County, 40.1 percent; and Torrance County, 41.2 percent. These counties have small populations and are rural, though Torrance County is part of metro Albuquerque. The people living in these counties are also old, DWS said, all with a median age well above the state’s 36.8 years.
Fourteen counties trail West Virginia’s E/P ratio. All are rural, though four have urban enclaves. Lincoln County has Ruidoso; Otero, Alamogordo; McKinley, Gallup; and Los Lunas and Belen in Valencia County, which also is part of metro Albuquerque.
To compare employment to population over time, DWS considered the five-year periods from 2005 to 2009 and from 2010 to 2014. Four rural small-population counties had their ratio drop ten percent or more—Union, Mora, Hidalgo and Harding.
Three counties gained—Cibola, Eddy and Lea. The latter two reflected the oil boom that ended in 2014. (While drafting this column, a report appeared at marketwatch.com saying the Permian Basin of New Mexico and Texas has about as many drilling rigs as the rest of the nation combined. Maybe there’s hope.)
Various variables affect the employment-to-population ratio—economic, age geography, DWS cautions. But back to Nebraska, where the population is closest to New Mexico of all other states. Nebraska has one larger city, Omaha, with state capitol, Lincoln, 60 miles away, and is fairly empty outside of Grand Island and North Platte.
Sure, the population demographics are different. But nothing genetic explains the difference in work in the two states.
To argue that something inherent in New Mexico’s rich mix of people, about half of them born in other states, explains our pathetic social and economic situation is just absurd.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                11/14/16
Credit Union Merger To Create Largest NM Owned Financial Institution
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
 Two Albuquerque credit unions are merging. The combination of Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union and Kirtland Federal Credit Union will have total assets of just over $3 billion, which makes for the largest New Mexico based financial institution and more than double the $1.4 billion In assets recorded by Los Alamos National Bank in September.
Los Alamos National has had the “largest-local” title since its bigger brethren were sold to companies such as Well Fargo and Bank of America more than 20 years ago.
Robert Chavez, Sandia president and CEO, will lead the combined company. Chavez is an alumnus of Sunwest Bank.
The two credit unions have an enviable customer base (credit union customers are called “members”) that combines the people from Albuquerque’s research establishment (Sandia National Laboratories) and the military, which is most everything else on Kirtland Air Force Base. These people are steadily employed, decently paid and loyal. Bankers should be so lucky.
After jumping the regulatory hoops, the deal is expected to be done by the end of 2017.
The combination will remain a “local, not-for-profit member-owned financial cooperative,” as the Sandia / Kirtland fact sheet puts it. As is quickly seen, credit union vocabulary differs from bank jargon. My view comes from working for a bank for 16 years and being a credit union customer for nearly 20 years.
A credit union isn’t quite a bank, though for most customer purposes at the retail level, it is a bank. A credit union takes deposits, has the usual services of checking and savings accounts and various cards and ATMs. A credit union loans money, especially for the purchase of cars and houses.
Like banks, credit unions are stewards of people’s money. The big difference is that credit unions don’t pay taxes, which provides a competitive edge. Bankers complain, but too bad.
Some of the relevant numbers are:
Members (customers): Kirtland – 47,000. Sandia – 83,000.
Staff: Kirtland – 136. Sandia - 290.
Branches: Kirtland - 4. Sandia - 10.
Some of New Mexico’s more than 40 credit unions are, well, quaint.  So is some of our state. Another column is for the desire of a few privileged to keep that quaintness for themselves, foreclosing opportunity to others.
Rincones Presbyterian Credit Union is an example. Its assets total $3 million. There are 669 members and two employees. Rincones is located in Chacon, an unincorporated community 12 miles north of Mora with a 123-year-old post office.
The Sandia / Kirtland combo will take the Sandia name: Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union. It won’t be quaint at all.
Albuquerque competition includes Nusenda Credit Union with assets over $1.5 billion and 18 branches from Taos to Socorro and US Eagle with branches in Farmington, Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Both Nusenda and US Eagle have adopted new names the past few of years.
Larger credit unions get the growth these days. Credit unions with assets greater than $1 billion grew 9.4 percent during the year ending June 30, 2016. Small credit unions grew 1.7 percent, according to cunamutual.com, the site for CUNA Mutual Group, an industry insurance firm.
The industry is consolidating and the pace is accelerating due to: “retiring baby-boomer CEOs, rising regulatory/compliance burden, record low net interest margins, rising concerns over scale and operating efficiency, rising competitive pressures and members’ demand for ever more products, services and access channels,” CUNA said.
Post-merger, Sandia Federal should be the third largest financial institution on the state after Wells Fargo and Bank of America and second largest in Albuquerque. Exact numbers are elusive, so I’m reading between the financial lines with this suggestion. The impact will be concentrated in Albuquerque. For sure it means real change.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                    11/7/16
Banking presence declines, deposits grow slightly
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Another year, another bank disappears from New Mexico. And ten more branches slip away, too. We’re down to 58 banks and savings institutions (not counting credit unions) and 487 branches as of June 30, 2016, according to new numbers from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
A year earlier (June 30, 2015) we had 59 banks and 497 branches. In 2010, it was 65 banks and 514 branches.
We have a long-term decline in the presence of banks in New Mexico. We also have a long-term decline in deposit growth. Deposits in the 58 banks around the state were $30.8 billion on June 30, an increase of $644 million, or 2 percent, from a year earlier. That’s a 26 percent drop from the average annual deposit growth of $873 million for the five years between 2010 and 2015, which, in turn, was a 29 percent drop from the average annual growth of $1.2 billion between 2005 and 2010.
Last year’s $644 million deposit increase was just over half the average increase between 2005 and 2010.
No wonder nothing much is happening in the New Mexico economy; there’s no money, onerous new regulations aside.
The 165 branch banks in the four-county metro Albuquerque are home to $14.6 billion in deposits, about 47 percent of the state’s $30.8 billion. Metro Albuquerque has about 905,000 people, or 43 percent, of our population.
The year saw two banking lineup changes.
Vectra Bank Colorado, with its single New Mexico office located in Farmington, had long been part of Zions Bancorporation of Salt Lake City through Zions’ subsidiary ZB, N.A. Vectra had an independent charter based in New Mexico. It relinquished the charter as Zions folded its seven bank subsidiaries into one operation. The Farmington office is now ZB, National Association.
Community Bancorporation of New Mexico, holding company for Community Bank of Santa Fe, was merged into New Mexico Bank and Trust of Albuquerque. The $145 million in Community Bank deposits pushed New Mexico Bank and Trust’s deposits to $1.06 billion on June 20, 2016. The bank now is seventh largest in the state, up from ninth place a year before. New Mexico Bank and Trust is part of Heartland Financial USA Inc. (htlf.com) of Dubuque, Iowa.
“We identified the opportunity created by increased government regulation and pressure on smaller banks to compete in a rapidly-evolving banking environment,” said Lynn Fuller, Heartland chairman and CEO in his September shareholder letter.
The state’s top ten banks remained the same, though the order changed as noted above. The ten are Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Bank of the West, Bank of Albuquerque, Los Alamos National, New Mexico Bank and Trust, First National of Santa Fe, First American, and Washington Federal. Four of the ten gained market share during the 2015-2016 year. Wells, now with 29 percent of the New Mexico market, has gained as steadily as Bank of America has lost. Wells had 27.4 percent of the market on June 30, 2015.
Wells Fargo added deposits of $658 million, 8 percent growth, for the one-year period. Total deposits of the other 58 banks dropped almost $14 million. Bank of America’s New Mexico deposits dropped $187.6 million, meaning that the other 57 banks’ deposits grew $173 million.
The fly in Wells’ national ointment is the fallout from Wells’ employees, spurred by misplaced incentives, opening unauthorized accounts. An Albuquerque Journal report said “up to 18,847 accounts in New Mexico” may have been opened inappropriately.
A further challenge comes from the “unbanked,” the 9.4 percent of state households without a bank account.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                     10/31/16
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
New Mexico Tourism Prospers

Santa Fe seemed full of visitors the last Friday of September. We had come to hang out with childhood friends from the very upscale Washington, D.C. suburbs. Their first New Mexico trip was a week of art and food in Santa Fe.
Our friends rented a condo near the plaza, putting them in the national and local shift of what is called the short-term rental market. Santa Fe has limited competition by capping at 350 the number of short-term rental permits. Between individual investors offering the properties such as the one our friends found and national firms such as Airbnb, Santa Fe’s competition limit has been widely ignored. In May Santa Fe kicked the permit cap to 1,000.
Permit holders cite unpaid lodgers taxes as one problem.
Taos and Ruidoso have the same dilemma.
The lodging choice of our friends and the regulatory situation show in the most recent tourism report, “The Economic Impact of Tourism in New Mexico.” The report comes from Tourism Economics of Philadelphia. It covers 2015 and is dated July 2016. The report starkly contrasts with the recent massively overblown proclamations of “economic death spiral” from the Legislature’s interim Jobs Council and its consultant, Mark Lautman of Albuquerque.
Two general points outside the report’s scope are that something—tourism— is working in New Mexico and actions can make things work better. Making things work better refers to the “New Mexico True” advertising campaign, done by Texans (gasp!) in the early days of the Susana Martinez administration.
By admitting that measuring tourism is “challenging,” the report gets credibility here. Tourism is not a single industry. It covers a dozen conventionally defined job categories.
The big numbers: Visitor spending has grown for six years and is up 21.3 percent since 2010. Direct spending by visitors was $6.3 billion in 2015. The critical definition is, “A visitor includes all overnight visitors and day visitors traveling outside of their usual environment, defined as beyond 50 miles.” The analysis includes business travelers.
Food and beverages got the most spending,22.3 percent, with lodging next at 20.5 percent. Tourism employs 68,031 people. Leisure and hospitality, the job sector that is the proxy for tourism, tends to run second or third among the growing sectors.
An interesting number is the state has “more than 51,500 second homes for recreational use, generating 10.6 percent of all visitor spending.”
The numbers are broken out by county, which can get absurd. Consider Harding County, a favorite punching bag of this column because it has few people. For 2015, the county is claimed to have visitor spending of $1.4 million including a million for second homes. The common vision of a second home is on a lake – we do have lakes – or in the mountains. But Harding County? No. Second home spending is defined as the “upkeep” of properties “for recreational use.”
For Hidalgo County, blessed with Interstate 10 crossing the north side, tourism accounts for a third of the economy, which means people buying gas and a sandwich in Lordsburg and a trinket in Steins.
Bernalillo County snares $2.04 billion from visitors, nearly a third of the overall direct spending. Santa Fe County gets $828 million. Visitors directly support 12.8 percent of Santa Fe’s employment. Visitor spending in Taos County totals $246.7 million.
While tourism is a statewide business, the impact varies widely, as seen from the county numbers above.
Things can be done to build tourism. The Great American Duck Race in Deming was conceived in 1980 during a long night in a bar and was held to be a good idea in the groggy morning aftermath. It’s New Mexico true.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                      10/24/16
Continuing education is part of Prosperity Project
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Worried about the election?
Worried about the not-so-creeping dogmas of control, dependence and redistribution driving the thinking of the so-called “progressives?” Worried about the $350,000 dumped into New Mexico local races during September and October by the Washington, D.C.-based Patriot Majority Democratic political action committee? Worried that the sources of that money were American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($250,000) and the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund ($100,000)?
Wondering if your fellow employees at your organization might find value in issue information but also reluctant to step into the back-and-forth nastiness characterizing campaigns these days, especially because stepping into campaign nastiness would get in the way of your organization’s mission of doing the work and profitably serving the customers?
Communicating with employees about policy and political matters is completely appropriate, observed Jim Gerlach, CEO of BIPAC of Washington, D.C. After all, Gerlach said during his June visit to Santa Fe, everyone else communicates about all sorts of issues. But it is a mistake to assume that candidates and campaigns will direct enough attention to matters affecting businesses and the people involved in businesses, including employees.
BIPAC (bipac.org) calls itself “the engine behind America’s largest grassroots business network,” helping with employer-to-employee grassroots advocacy about elections, candidates and issues. The New Mexico Prosperity Project (newmexicoprosperity.org) is the state partner for the promotion of free enterprise.
“The employer has a special relationship with the employees,” Gerlach said. That’s an obvious enough idea, but one ignored by those characterizing organizational relationships as coldly exploitive.
The idea of BIPAC and the Prosperity Project is that the most credible source of information for employees is the company.
The key is in the delivery of the information. The “right way” is that information comes from a “civic education standpoint” in a strictly nonpartisan, unbiased, objective manner. The point is to arm the employee/voter with information needed before casting that ballot.
Help from the Prosperity Project is available, even at this late date in the election process.
“At this point, what we can do is let people know who are the candidates,” says Robin Otten, New Mexico Prosperity Project executive director. One of the six tabs at the top of the Project website says, “Elections.” Under that tab, one can find elected officials, candidates and how they voted. The search can be by address with the results showing legislative and state officials with responsibility for that address.
When requested, Otten helps individual firms and employees in Albuquerque sort through confusion about where to vote. A few years ago, starting with a city election, neighborhood polling places were consolidated into what are called “voting convenience centers.” A voter can vote at any convenience center. This is especially handy for working people who might be employed at a place across town from the former polling place.
“It really is a whole lot easier,” Otten said. She can remember standing in line for hours to vote. “Now you have no excuse for not voting.”
However, people aren’t used to the new process. Implementing such changes can take a while, your columnist can testify.
“We’re definitely at the get-out-the vote” stage, Otten said. 
The political process doesn’t stop with the polls closing Nov. 8. It is perpetual.
Prosperity Project is already thinking about what it can do in the next election cycle, Otten said. Working with other organizations may be an option. Tracking votes during the legislative session might be possible.
Issues such as jobs and the workplace, energy, taxes, infrastructure and agriculture aren’t going away. Continuing attention and communication is needed.
For more information contact Robin Dozier Otten at robin@newmexicoprosperity.org.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES               10/17/16
Chiles in New York, new chile book in New Mexico
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The two chile plants were big enough that the restaurant staffer carried one in each hand. He hung the plants upside down, each on a hook on the restaurant wall. Dirt clung to the roots. The chiles, each about six inches long and a pure red, were slightly shriveled. A very New Mexican image, except that the restaurant, Rafele, is in Greenwich Village in New York City. An owner of the restaurant grew the chiles on a farm upstate, I was told.
Roasting and processing chile is another fall image, but one not seen so much outside the state.
Since 1997 University of New Mexico alumni chapter members have gathered for group chile processing by the ton. I can’t imagine a ton of green chile. My images stop at a bag or two or the bushel we’ve done the past few years. My daughter’s 2016 chile image was the ten pounds that arrived in New Hampshire as a birthday present the night before she, husband and baby were set to fly to Albuquerque. But there were the chiles and process they did.
UNM’s Washington, D.C., alumni group processed two tons of chile last year, says the alumni office. Maybe they were the bureaucrats who have fled Santa Fe for Washington the past 15 or 20 years as state government competence has eroded. Six other chapters gathered processing crews. Total production was six tons.
Alumni chapters from New Mexico State also process chile during the fall.
Our chile literature continues to grow. “New Mexico Chiles: History, Legend and Lore” was published last year. I found it at the Farm Store at Los Poblanos Inn, the former Simms estate in Albuquerque’s North Valley that has become a pilgrimage point for people around the nation. Los Poblanos’ (lospoblanos.com) national appeal was shared with us at a rest stop in Arizona by a couple who visit every year. The main building, the home of Albert Simms, and his wife, Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms and designed by John Gaw Meem, is considered an architectural treasure.
Kelly Urig, the book’s young (under 30) author, brought a side talent to the project. She’s a photographer. Indeed, the book spun out of her master’s program in television, film and media production. Her degree project was “The Chile Film,” which won a number of awards. Urig’s photos scatter the rich chile red throughout the book.
One photo Urig didn’t shoot is boring but important. The photo is of the sign next to the Chile Pepper Institute Teaching Garden at New Mexico State University. Anyone wishing to commune with chile should visit the garden in late September.
Urig calls herself the “chile chica.” Chilechica.com gets you to her site, kellyurig.com. The Santa Fe native brings the added appreciation and experience from her family assembling in the Mesilla Valley near Hatch every other year for mass production of chile from freshly picked pods that are red but not dry. Urig steps through the process in detail.
The subtitle, “History, Legend and Lore,” is an apt description; this is not a cookbook, luscious photos of chile and plates of food notwithstanding. An appendix provides seven pages of recipes. Urig touches just about everything else: history science, farming, restaurants, businesses such as Bueno Foods, and people, including Paul Bosland, co-founder and acting director of the Chile Pepper Institute. Geography gets attention because it matters. In northern New Mexico the growing season is shorter and the altitude higher, affecting which plants will produce.
The spelling mystery remains unresolved. Our chile is spelled with an “e” because that’s how we spell it. A detail. “New Mexico Chiles: History, Legend and Lore” is a worthy reference.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                 10/3/16
Structural change in education tangles with the Constitution
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The New Mexico Constitution is a new attraction at the capitol in Santa Fe. Maybe “attraction” isn’t the right word for the Constitution’s appearance on the first floor near the entrance to the chambers. “Offering” or “display” might be better. The state’s Constitution will never attract the lines of reverential people who see the United States Constitution in Washington, D.C. But having the Constitution displayed is good.
Rep. Cathrynn Brown, Carlsbad Republican, gets the credit, first suggesting the display during the 2015 legislative session. One bureaucratic thing slowly led to another and now the display, which Brown calls “professionally curated,” is there.
Constitutional contemplation gains relevance from two education matters. The first is Secretary of Higher Education Barbara Damron’s announcement to develop a strategic plan for higher education. Overturning constitutionally enshrined rules for changing school board elections is second.
Damron’s plan, announced recently in Las Cruces, will take a year. New Mexico has 35 public institutions of higher education, making for the nation’s most decentralized higher education system, Damron said, according to the Las Cruces Sun News. Damron said nice things about collaboration and lowering the higher education bar by reducing graduation requirements.
What Damron apparently avoided (everyone does) is the ultimate rub in higher education discussions, the enshrinement in the Constitution of ten institutions.
Jose Garcia, Damron’s predecessor and a former New Mexico State professor, isn’t impressed. In a 748-word Sept. 14 blog post he wrote, “In New Mexico public schools the proportion of costs going to administration is the highest among all states.” For higher education, he said, New Mexico is sixth, “appropriat(ing) fully $1,865 more per full-time student than the national average.” This isn’t surprising; decentralization has to cost.
The school board election situation is a saga this column has followed for years. Our Constitution says, “All school elections shall be held at different times from other elections.” In 1910 when the Constitution was written, the idea, I understand, was to allow women to vote in school elections, but prevent their presence from sullying general election voting. This sexist charade became moot in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution extended the vote to women.
Change was blocked by Article VII, Section 3, the infamous unamendables clause, which requires certain amendments to get 75 percent of the popular vote and at least two-thirds in every county. Amendments failed in 2008 and 2014. After the 2008 election, it took the geniuses in the Secretary of State’s office three months to notice the result.
On Sept. 14, the state Supreme Court overturned the two defeats, essentially ruling the unamendables clause didn’t quite say what it clearly said in the reading of your layman columnist. The confusion is shared by at least one person with massive knowledge of New Mexico law.
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, an Albuquerque Democrat and former state elections director, represented the League of Women Voters of New Mexico, which brought the case. Ivey-Soto has been involved in the issue since the 2008 amendment was developed. He offered a creative argument. The court bought it.
For his trouble, the Republican party complained about Ivey-Soto violating the Government Conduct Act due to his day job of running the county clerks association.
Moving school elections from dark, cold February nights should increase participation. Unfortunately the mode is, ”Hold your horses.” Changing election dates will require changing state law. Municipalities, whose election days will get the school elections, will have to agree. So will school districts, now dominated by an education establishment (unions) fearful of losing control.
It will be a while. But the process has started.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                     9/26/16
Our 863 governments include herd law districts
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Little news came from the 2015 median household income figures released recently by the Census Bureau. The difference between median household income in Colorado and New Mexico remains large and appalling: $59,448 versus $44,968.
New Mexico’s summary page is found at http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml#.
The number of governments leapt from the printed summary pages for New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. New Mexico has 863 governments, which seems like a bunch for our 2015 population of 2.1 million. Arizona clearly is doing something right with a mere 674 governments (which still seem a lot) for 6.8 million people, or 3.3 times the New Mexico’s population. Arizona manages with just 15 counties, compared with our 33.
Colorado, by far the prosperity champ of the three states, reverses the less-government mantra with 2,905 governments, including 64 counties for 5.46 million people. Colorado even manages to consolidate the city and county governments for Denver and tiny Broomfield, a logic applied here only in the case of the special circumstance of Los Alamos and rejected in Albuquerque.
The list of New Mexico’s governments lies somewhere between illuminating and astonishing. These entities live in the background, possibly being useful. See http://www2.census.gov/govs/cog/2012isd.pdf.
Our 631 “special district governments” include herd law districts (yes, having to do with herds), noxious weed control districts, parking authorities, regional transit districts, solid waste authorities, the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority, community ditches and acequias. The other 232 governments include municipalities (103), school districts (96) and community land grants. New Mexico has abolished three governments: the Organic Commodity Commission in 2011 and, in 2007, urban development agencies and community development agencies. 
Making government smaller appears possible.
Other three-state measures include: Population percent increase, 2010 – 2015: New Mexico, 1.2 percent; Arizona, 6.8 percent; Colorado, 8.5 percent. Proportion of 2015 population that is Hispanic: New Mexico, 47 percent; Arizona, 31 percent; Colorado, 22 percent. Median age: New Mexico, 36.8; Arizona, 36.5; Colorado, 36.2.
Number of companies (from the 2012 Economic Census): New Mexico, 151,363; Arizona, 499,926; Colorado, 547,352.
New Mexico and Arizona companies generate similar statistics, with Colorado again the outlier toward prosperity. New Mexico and Arizona count one company for about every 14 people. For Colorado it is one company for every ten people. Putting it another way, significantly more economic activity appears directed toward Coloradans, for whatever reason. About 22 percent of New Mexico and Colorado companies have paid employees as compared to 19 percent in Arizona. Being big enough to pay for staff suggests a more dynamic enterprise.
Hispanic firms are 31 percent of New Mexico companies, well under the 47 percent of the population that is Hispanic. Arizona and Colorado also show proportionally fewer Hispanic businesses relative to people. The three states all have one Hispanic business for about every 21 Hispanics.  New Mexico Hispanic firms show more vigor with 12 percent having paid employees, about a third more than in Arizona or Colorado. 
Another Arizona comparison got attention recently with publication of research arguing that Arizona’s post World War II growth over New Mexico was because of private sector growth. That’s probably true, but Arizona had other things happening.
Under the old branch banking rules, Arizona had statewide branching with the big banks headquartered near one another in Phoenix. New Mexico restricted branching to the county. The Arizona Biltmore was built in 1929.There are other resorts in Scottsdale and Tucson. Frank Lloyd Wright built Taliesin West in 1937. The famous and wealthy visited.
Golf and movies made in Tucson and Monument Valley provided windows on Arizona for people in Los Angeles. Phoenix had significant companies, such as Phelps Dodge, Circle K, and Best Western, making for a tightly knit private sector.
New Mexico? Well…



 

© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                     9/19/16
LFC solvency menu offers a start
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
When a big problem appears, a plan or at least a logical approach reduces flailing as action approaches.
The Legislative Finance Committee staff, under the byline of David Abbey, LFC director, didn’t quite offer a plan for state government’s big financial problem; the plan must come from agreement between the Legislature and the Martinez administration. But Abbey’s menu, presented at the August 24 LFC meeting, brought a checklist of specifics, quite different from the vacuous floated generalities—no new taxes, raid the Permanent Fund, tax booze and smokes.
Some rhetorical smoke intruded at the LFC gathering, courtesy of the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), which displayed oil prices running just under $100/bbl until, “after years of relative stability oil prices plummeted” in 2014. The phrase “years of relative stability” is misleading.
DFA’s world began in 2011 with the Martinez administration. DFA outlined “budget management,” claimed “steady private employment growth” and “increased (employment) growth” (snicker), and “broad job growth throughout the state” (snicker).
Accuracy came from the Taxation and Revenue Department (TRD) where the price graph started in 2004 at around $30/bbl, peaked in 2008, plunged in 2009 and peaked again in 2014. A solvency discussion appeared in 2009.
The two departments apparently used different oil prices. DFA shows the recent peak at $113/bbl in April 2011. TRD’s two peaks reach about $95/bbl.
DFA’s presentation provided a cute state outline with a yellow background to frame the page numbers, which were red.
The discussion here the past two weeks hangs on two numbers: $617 million and $458 million. They are the difference between state recurring revenue and appropriations for the just-completed 2016 budget year and for the current year. State government has money lying around. “Funds” are created to hold the money planned to be spent for various projects. Accessing that money, however, is not like the private sector where the financial manager says, “Write a check,” and a check appears. The funds are created by passing laws. To undo that action allocating money, the legislative process is required again. It’s complicated.
The LFC’s solvency menu has four elements. First, “sweep surplus fund balances to the general fund.” That means move any money just lying around into the operating fund. Second, “sweep” severance taxes appropriated for capital projects into the general fund. Third and fourth, cut spending (appropriations, actually) and increase revenue.
The governor has told agencies under her control (and many aren’t) to cut appropriations 5 percent. Note that money is appropriated through the budget, but it isn’t immediately spent, so appropriations get the treatment rather than actual dollars going out the door. Assuming a politically touchy point, that “key health, public safety and child welfare programs are exempt,” from $25 million to $50 million might be saved. The Legislature could cut other areas such as education, the judiciary, legislative operations and independent agencies.
A few layoffs have happened. More can be assumed. Nearly all organizations should be able to reduce spending by 5 percent. Small item: the colored ink used for the DFA and TRD presentations isn’t cheap.
Increasing revenue means raising taxes (or fees, which really are taxes). While raising taxes may happen despite the governor’s opposition, in a down economy reducing money available to citizens seems dubious at best.
What are called “tax expenditure costs”—deductions, exemptions and credits—invite attention. TRD lists 85. Small-dollar costs include a non-athletic special event at NMSU, organ donations, officiating at athletic association events and geothermal heat pumps. Big-dollar deals include film, high-wage jobs and food.
The LFC requests an annual “tax clean-up bill” to fix errors and deal with complexity. That would help.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES              9/12/16
Growth to remain depressed
By Harold Morgan
In the summer saga of state finances, this week brings a general look at the economy and its prospects. Our principal source is the more than 100 pages of background material provided for the August 24 meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee.
Wage jobs provide the starting point. In July, 825,300 people claimed jobs, among the lowest proportions of population in the nation. Metro Albuquerque was home to 384,500 jobs, or 47 percent of the total. Another 184,300 jobs were scattered among Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Farmington. For all the state’s distance and emptiness, 69 percent of our jobs are in the seven metro counties.
“Employment has continued to grow at a depressed pace,” observed the LFC. For the July 2015 to July 2016 year, jobs in the state grew 1.2 percent, tied for 35th among the states. For depressing perspective, Utah’s growth was second nationally. Colorado and Arizona tied for sixth. New Mexico’s income growth is also depressed.
Professional staff, mostly economists, some with PhDs, works together producing revenue forecasts. This Consensus Revenue Estimating Group comes from the LFC, the Department of Finance Administration (DFA), the Taxation and Revenue Department (TRD) and the Department of Transportation. A more careful, thoughtful bunch would be hard to find. They might be wrong, but they don’t fudge the numbers. If they did, the small world of Santa Fe holds few secrets. 
The outside world enters through two national organizations and the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, which gets the national outlook from IHS Global Insight. DFA uses Moody’s Analytics for state and national forecasts.
Still, the real world of forecasting is not knowing for sure. The Economist put it this way, “…the whole forecasting business has an air of unreality; it's a bit like commenting on seaside conditions without mentioning the tide… The average citizen would be well advised, however, to treat all forecasts with a bucket (not just a pinch) of salt.”
Salt in hand, then, here is the outlook as the Martinez administration and the legislature consider the current projected deficits of $617 million for the just completed 2016 budget year and $458 million for the 2017 year:
The employment growth rate will remain depressed with employment up 0.9 percent for the current budget year (FY 17) and increasing to 1.3 percent annually for the next three years. Nominal personal income will increase 2.9 percent this year, increasing to 5 percent over three years. The income growth rate will be a bit less than projected inflation, so real income will grow a little. The gross state product, the value of the goods and services produced, will grow 1.4 percent this year after falling in FY 16. GSP growth will be around 2.3 percent annually after that. Oil prices are expected to crack $50/bbl in FY 19, two years from now.
Working and getting paid turns into revenue for government. Sales taxes, of which the ubiquitous and annoying gross receipts tax accounts for three quarters, produce 45 percent of recurring revenue. When all is said, done and counted, FY 16 general sales taxes are expected to be down $163 million, or 7.5 percent, from FY 15. The percentage declines from some mineral-related categories draw attention: corporate income tax (-2.8 percent); oil conservation tax (-43.8 percent); federal mineral leasing (-28.1%).
In the future, we’ll consider the mess that is the gross receipts tax system, TRD’s attempt to blow smoke at the LFC meeting and some tax quirks. All reinforce the need for long-term, heavy-duty reform thinking and action, something apparently off the conceptual table for the Martinez administration.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                 9/5/16
State revenues collapse, fix requires compromise
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The day my newspaper brought a front page report about state government’s ugly financial situation, an insert offered a small-scale government extravagance, a 32-page full-color, tabloid touting the wonders of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The insert, an issue of the department’s “New Mexico Wildlife” publication placed in newspapers statewide, sported additional elements that increased the cost.
The cover was a photograph of a hummingbird. 
Outside the budget mess but contributing to the overall national sense of New Mexico lies the killing of 10-year-old Victoria Martens in Albuquerque. Her memorial service provided the CNN.com headline the afternoon of August 28.
Some context is needed before moving to specifics during the next week or two.
Solvency is back as the principal focus of state government, as in, how will the state decide to be able to pay its bills? This isn’t the usual meaning of solvency, which is the question of whether the organization can pay its bills. The state will rebalance the budget. The constitution requires it.
Today’s situation is not quite déjà vu all over again from 2009 and 2010 when projected deficits were $113 million for 2009 (or maybe $226 million) and $454 million for 2010. Current projected deficits are much more—$617 million for the just completed 2016 budget year and $458 million for the 2017 year.
The differences are in how this happened.
Until about 2006, regular state spending grew around 5.5 percent each year. Then additional oil and gas income entered recurring appropriations and kicked growth to 6.5 percent annually. About the same time, real per capita spending on appropriations spiked above personal income growth instead of closely tracking income growth.
Former Gov. Bill Richardson did that. But he got lucky. The feds rescued us with Great Recession stimulus money.
At the time we had the worst economy in the nation, a status we reclaimed a couple of years ago. Wage employment had peaked in April 2008.
Oil and gas employment today is 18,800, about 1,100 more than the 17,100 jobs in June 2010. In between we had a boom masking the rest of the state’s poor economic performance. Oil and gas employment went to 29,000.
The boom busted with what the Legislative Finance Committee called “the severe collapse in commodity prices.” The comment came in a background report for the LFC’s August 24 meeting at Red River. The meeting generated 100 pages of background material. Light reading it is not.
To everyone’s great surprise, the spot price for West Texas Intermediate oil went from $107/bbl in June 2014 to $26/bbl this February. The August price was $47/bbl. The “majority of the state’s revenues are generated from the profits of the petroleum industry,” the report said, offering little explanation.
To the layman columnist, the LFC report suggests a general collapse of state revenue. That’s the conclusion from the year-over-year decline of nine of the general categories of recurring revenue during the 2016 budget year. Only selective sales taxes and investment income (from the permanent funds) increased. The biggest percentage drop was in corporate income tax.
“General fund dependency on oil and gas has increased dramatically in the last ten years,” Tom Clifford, told the New Mexico Tax Research Institute April 28, just before he resigned as Department of Finance and Administration secretary
New Mexico ranks eighth in revenue volatility, Clifford said, citing the Pew Trusts.
Now we are alone. No federal rescues.
Finding Band-Aids for the 2016 budget year will require hard work and (gasp!) compromise. The 2017 fix will be even harder. What we don’t need are accusations of “phony forecasts,” such as were lobbed by Alan Webber, Santa Fe liberal and former Democratic candidate for governor. Nor do we need hummingbirds.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                      8/29/16
Income outlook appears mediocre at best
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Good news for Mississippians. Living costs there are the lowest in the nation at 86.7% of the national cost of living.
New Mexicans pay more—95 percent of the national cost. The detail is that New Mexicans’ real income per capita is about $2,500 per year more than in Mississippi. For 2014, income for each New Mexican was $37,091, about 58 percent of the $64,094 income for each Connecticut resident.
Growth in New Mexicans’ real per capita income—5.2 percent during 2014—was very good, just about the nation’s highest.
These figures come from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. They reflect “regional price parity,” which the BEA calls “regional price levels expressed as a percentage of the overall national price level for a given year. The price level is determined by the average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in each state.”
For the first quarter of 2016, the earnings situation is quite different than 2014. Compared to a year earlier, first quarter earnings dropped in Wyoming and North Dakota, both hit by oil and gas price woes. Something went right for New Mexico farmers during the first quarter of 2016; farm earnings grew 16 percent from the previous quarter.
Our recent personal income history starts with a 2.5 percent drop during the fourth quarter of 2012 from the third quarter. For three quarters of 2013, the quarter-by-quarter growth stays low. Then, during the fourth quarter of 2013, income grew 1.9 percent from the third quarter, nearly a five-fold increase in the growth rate. For the first three quarters of 2014, the rate edges down, but not much. During 2013, personal income dropped in 22 counties from 2012. In 2014, all counties showed increased income.
Income went negative in the fourth quarter of 2014 with a 0.1 percent drop. Growth returned for the first quarter of 2015 with a 1.1 percent increase, but dropped below one percent for the remaining three quarters of the year.
Given the behavior of oil prices, mediocrity may the most optimistic scenario for personal income performance in the near future. Oil peaked at $105.54/bbl (West Texas Intermediate) in June 2014 and bottomed at $28.50/bbl in January.
Per capita income for New Mexicans was $38,457, which was 81 percent of the national per capita and ranked 46th among the states. New Mexicans’ per capita income traditionally ranks in the high 40s. It was 47th in 1995 and 48th in 2000.
Government is the biggest source of our income, but this money does not come from government jobs. It is what the BEA calls “personal current transfer receipts,” which were 24 percent of our personal income in 2015, up from 17 percent in 2005. Personal current transfer receipts include welfare and social security. The increase came from “net earnings,” working, that is, which showed a corresponding seven point drop in the share of income.
“In 2014, the largest industry in New Mexico was government,” with 23 percent of the state’s gross domestic product in 2014, the BEA says. That had to be quoted because it sounds bizarre to call government an “industry.” Gross domestic product is the measure of economic output.
Being an “industry” means contributing to the gross domestic product. An amalgam of services including finance and insurance was the number two industry followed by mining.
In sum, income growth was mediocre in 2013, excellent in 2014 and went back to mediocre in 2015. The August 24 message to the Legislative Finance Committee was one of “weakening economic conditions in New Mexico, predominantly in extractive industries.” Stay tuned.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                 8/22/16
Considering structural issues is useful work; talking about process less useful
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Troll your archives and no telling what emerges.
Recent thumbing of the shelves and the computer led to the report of a legislative committee looking into economic development, Arizona’s consideration of that state’s future, and a discussion of growth with a Colorado economist. The documents illuminate what we’re doing and not doing, over time, in New Mexico.
Interim committees do much of the Legislature’s work. The interim Economic Development, New Technologies and Business Tax Study committee met six times in nine cities between June and November 1983. The chairs were two young and ambitious senators from Albuquerque—Tom Rutherford, Democrat, and Bill Valentine, Republican.
Talk of process was the main product, the committee report indicates. Recruiting businesses and the Business Development Corporation, which eventually failed, were continuing topics. Everyone with half a claim to an economic development portfolio presented somewhere. Some really were involved in economic development. One presentation covered “the social impact of the computer revolution.” Note that the Mac debuted in 1984.
A 24-page list of economic development programs provides the principal specific product. An important process was discussion about oversight of the five university Centers of Technical Excellence created in the 1983 session. The Center for Explosive Technology still exists at New Mexico Tech.
A banking recommendation, done almost casually, helped create high drama in 1984. The committee asked Gov. Toney Anaya to consider changing “the banking laws to allow Citicorp to acquire a national bank and a state bank in New Mexico,” actions needed for Citicorp to locate a credit card processing center here. Anaya allowed the legislation.
Local bankers unveiled the big parochial artillery and trounced the proposal. Citicorp took the card center to South Dakota, where it remains with 2,900 employees.
In Arizona, rigorously considering long-term policy challenges has a permanent home at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. (morrisoninstitute.asu.edu) Today’s focus areas are water, education, governance, demographics, economic growth, criminal justice and human services. Summaries of 31 economic reports are posted.
The institute’s 1999 report that fell from my archives is “The New Economy: A Guide for Arizona.” One of the ten things “government needs to know,” the report said, is to “insist on excellence.” The absence of excellence is one element cited during my continuing series of conversations with New Mexico thought leaders.
“Get the best” people is another element. I’m told that quality senior and mid-level people in state government are disappearing, retiring or getting jobs elsewhere, driven away by gubernatorial indifference and/or manipulation and cabinet secretary incompetence.
The institute and a similar organization in North Carolina, the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, (nccppr.org), provide home-state policy makers the opportunity to ask the difficult questions and seek systematic answers.
Whether New Mexicans really want to grow is one those difficult questions.
Tucker Adams, for years Colorado’s leading economist, considered the question in a May 2000 issue of my Progress newsletter. The question spun out of a conference comparing Denver, Phoenix, both major metro areas, and Albuquerque, a AAA city like Tucson and Colorado Springs.
Track the structural elements over time, Adams said. Examples are taxes and out-of-state university students, who pay high out-of-state tuition, and, from those who stay, new energy and population. Structural elements are tough to change, Adams said, “Once the momentum gets started, it’s really difficult to reverse.”
The New Mexico question may be, “Do we want to prosper?” The argument is that a higher income may degrade quality of life. After all, making space for that big-screen television is a hassle. But doing something about our poverty requires money, and to have more money available, we have to grow.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES          8/15/16
Political Emails: Outrageousness to love
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Like phone calls around the country between potential Gary Johnson supporters, political emails get little attention. That’s unfortunate because the grandiose and stupid style of a good many of these emails supports the notion that the other side is evil and worse, thereby feeding the much-lamented hyper-partisanship of today’s political world.
For New Mexicans, a second reason to notice such messages is that one of our representatives in Congress, Ben Ray Lujan, is nominally responsible for some of them. Luján chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a job he got via appointment by House Minority Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Luján’s duties, beyond electing more Democrats to Congress, aren’t clear, nor is the time required.
Presumably, DCCC time takes Luján away from tending constituent duties, such as follow-up on the 2015 mine waste spill into the Animas River. On July 5, NBCnews.com published a 1,575-word fluff piece without mentioning task and time topics. The story dwelt on Luján’s “Uncle Gus's wingtip shoes.”
I get these emails from both parties and their friends and until a year ago got DCCC emails. Maybe because I didn’t donate. There were ten DCCC emails in August 2015 through the 28th. The DCCC program continues, DCCC said.
This stuff works. That’s why it’s done. It’s also cheap.
Topic headers indicate the tone. “Charles Koch Blasts Obama… This is infuriating.” The Koch brothers are favorite straw men, as was House Speaker John Boehner in his time and Paul Ryan today.
“New Hampshire DEFUNDS Planned Parenthood… SIGN YOUR NAME: Say you stand with Planned Parenthood and denounce the Republicans’ rampage against women’s health.”
Rampage against women’s health? Wow. Similar emails focused on other states.
This month, through his political operation, Sen. Martin Heinrich has pitched, in a fairly civil manner, donations to Democratic senate candidates. “Russ Feingold (in Wisconsin) is a rock-solid progressive champion,” the August 4 email said. In Florida, Patrick Murphy “is facing truck loads of secret Super PAC attack cash.”
The requested donations are modest—ten dollars, three dollars. An odd number, three dollars, literally and figuratively. Something in the technology of these solicitations says that three dollars is a good number for generating a response. The three dollar request fit into a defined framework.
The Trump campaign has a silly email with Eric Trump offering, for a $3 donation, a chance to win a free flight to New York City, a tour of Trump Tower, and, he modestly says, “lunch with me.”
More seriously, on August 10, Donald J. Trump, Jr., through eagle@gopusamedia.com, said, “You know everything the media says about my father is ALL lies and spin – and they are all objectively FALSE. Yet the liberal media are pushing this narrative 24 hours a day!”
Just after the Trump, Jr., email, eagle@gopusamedia.com provided this subject header, “Hillary ignores questions about terrorist father at rally while media blasts Trump for 2nd Amendment quip.” Gopusamedia.com, the email says, is “a division Endeavor Media Group,” which is obscure. GOPUSA calls itself “a private company whose mission is to spread the conservative message throughout America.”
Fifty minutes later, democrats@hmpac.com offered, “Trump’s failing campaign continues to spew out disgusting, violent rhetoric… His comments – especially those that incite violence – have no place in our American political system.”
A good one from DCCC on August 19, 2015, is, “Affordable health care is the law of the land. So when Republican presidential candidates promise to undermine it, they are blatantly disrespecting President Obama.”
Even better is the birthday card signing request. “Have you loved having Barack Obama as our president?” sighs hmpac.com’s August 4 message. If so, click and sign.
Love. Not a bad message.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES           8/8/16
Innovation comes from entrepreneurs, major corporations and children
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Countries become more prosperous by producing and selling more stuff. One approach is having more people produce the same amount for each person. This might apply in New Mexico where a low proportion of our population works. Just hire more people.
Using technology to have each person produce more is better. Or combine old ideas into a new application, the technique of Vasari21 (vasari21.com), a Taos-based website launched by Ann Landi, a four-year Taos resident transplanted from New York City. Landi has been a freelance writer for publications including the Wall Street Journal and ArtNews.
Vasari21, is an online publication directed at artists, not art consumers. “There’s nothing like it,” she says. With decades of contacts at the top of the art world and with the internet, Landi is able to operate from Taos.
Topics include how artists make their way, why critics act the way they do, and talking to a gallery. So far, so good, she says. Vasari21 has “a very low bounce rate.” Landi has learned that means people stick around the site for a while instead of clicking away in a few seconds.
Major corporate innovation came recently to my Gillette brand shaving cream, made by Proctor and Gamble. The shaving cream cap has been a 2.5 inch diameter, two-inch-high plastic item. The plastic replacement is about a quarter-inch high and 1.2-inches across. The new cap uses less material, presumably costs less and fits better into a travel kit.
My lumpy shoelaces also have a major corporate origin—New Balance, the shoe company. The laces came with my latest sneakers, purchased in Albuquerque. The laces have a technical name, “bubble,” I discovered at newbalance.com, which offers 15 lace options. The idea is that the $2.99 laces stay tied, which in fact they do. The “ribbed neon oval lace” is another option for those wanting laces to stay tied.
Another mundane innovation first appeared to us in a hotel parking lot in Santa Fe. The innovation has been around a while, websites indicate, but “wheel stops,” as they are called, aren’t usually a topic of wide immediate interest. Concrete wheel stops, which I have called “bumper barriers,” got my attention when I drove an Audi, my first car with a low slung front end. I hung up on the concrete barriers to the tune of $500. Very annoying.
Crumbling concrete stops are being replaced with stops about half the previous height and made of rubber or recycled plastic. Better still is no wheel stops, says Daniel Chavez, president and owner of Parking Company of America – Albuquerque, LLC. Chavez avoids using them if possible in his five Albuquerque lots. People trip over them, he says. Some newer cars have sensors to detect the barrier.
Training and practice in combining ideas and technology come to children through First Lego League. With a base in FLL’s core values, teams research challenges and then design, test, and program robots.
Each year has a theme. “Animal Allies” is the coming theme. About 1,500 students are expected to participate. Communities cover the state from Farmington to Magdalena and Hobbs. For information about the program email chair@nmfll.org.
For 2016 the theme was “Trash Trek.” Teams attacked problems of waste. Competition winners included a six-person team (four girls, two boys) of sixth and seventh graders considering the situation that people inaccurately sort trash. Their solution was a camera identifying the proper trash bin. An older group developed a plastic composter using bacteria to biodegrade polyethylene plastic. For the winners, see fllinnovation.firstlegoleague.org/teams.
At an Albuquerque competition, we visited with second graders from Ramah who built a hospital bed. These kids will be our innovation salvation.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES         8/1/16
The chile economy is much more than we think                                
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The chile harvest has started in the Mesilla Valley. New Mexico is number one in chile. The informal measure here is the number of phone calls from national media inquiring about things chile that go to the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Chile is the quintessential New Mexico product.  It is New Mexico’s cultural essence.
We need to consider how the entire chile business works, understand how little we know and that we need to know.
True, chile won’t save us, as a leading state economist remarked. Knowing how chile works would better define New Mexico. Our pride would be backed with knowledge. From the knowledge entrepreneurs and economic developers could find structural gaps that might become businesses.
Pride and money—strong incentives.
Starting with chile numbers risks continuing to ignore everything else. In 2014, New Mexico’s chile production sold for $38.7 million. The chile grew on 8,100 acres. Luna County growers produced 23,600 tons, followed by Doña Ana with 20,700 tons. Overall, chile growing is a small business, fragmented into smaller businesses.
Broadly defined job classifications such as retail, manufacturing and leisure and hospitality offer a way to track economies. Agricultural jobs aren’t counted separately.
Agriculture itself is only about 2 percent of New Mexico’s gross domestic product. Including everything else related to agricultural production takes the total impact to around 9 percent, said Emily Kerr, economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, speaking at NMSU in October 2013.
The following list of elements of the chile business is informal. Aggregated numbers don’t exist. The regulatory environment will be everywhere.
Agriculture: Irrigation infrastructure, growing the chile, inputs for the growing, such as seeds, harvesting.
Food Processing: Bueno Foods, Border Foods and others. The inputs: cans, jars, labels, machinery, protective gear for employees.
Transportation: Bags for the chile, shipping the green chile—lines of flat-bed trailers along the main street in Hatch, shipping the canned and frozen chile, cardboard and plastic containers.
Publishing: Cookbooks and other literature; writers, photographers, designers, printers, paper; everything digital.
Marketing and information: NMSU is the (world-wide, possibly) locus of all things chile, which means government and science, the latter referring to NMSU research.
The state Department of Agriculture markets fresh green chile to supermarket firms in other states. One can buy fresh green chile in Rochester, Minn.
The Chile Pepper Institute (www.chilepepperinstitute.org) provides an umbrella for the research and for information exchange, fielding media inquiries, hosting conferences (the leisure and hospitality sector) and being the hub of the network for consumers with cookbooks and souvenirs (retail within government). One institute conference drew people from 20 countries.
Science: Research, developing harvesting equipment. In 2013, the Chile Pepper Institute and Seoul (Korea) National University announced successfully mapping the chile genome. The institute was featured in the June 2013 issue of Smithsonian.
Recreation: Growing chile in home gardens, processing one’s own chile, processing equipment such as latex gloves and small plastic bags.
Another chile network gathers every March in Albuquerque at the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show (www.fieryfoodsshow.com). On the website, producer Dave DeWitt calls it “the largest and most visited show about spicy foods and barbecue in the world.”
Knickknacks of all types: Design, manufacture, sale.
Chile touches four sectors where numbers exist (retail, government, manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality) and three without numbers (agriculture, science and culture). Literature and art come to mind as well.
We should spend a little money on discovering our chile industry. El Paso, Las Cruces and Ciudad have done this for the Borderplex area. It would be good to know.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                  7/25/16
Vote wisely. Vote morally. Vote the future.
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
The 2016 presidential contest is down to two people. That’s what Deborah Maestas, Republican chair, would have us believe.
In a July 17 op-ed she called for “Republicans and conservatives” to unite behind Donald Trump. “Trump’s success represents a shift that our country desperately needed,” she said. However laughable Maestas assertion in the op-ed, she was just doing her job.
But, well, no. While unhappiness is everywhere, more is happening here than an either-or choice. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, as Yogi Berra said.
A phone call came a couple of weeks ago from my sister-in-law in southwest Wisconsin. A Catholic and a Democrat, she works for a branch campus of the University of Wisconsin in a community of 12,000.  She is distressed at the prospect of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump being president. Her protest vote in the Wisconsin primary was for Bernie Sanders.
After a few minutes, the topic of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson entered the conversation, as you might expect. My wife, the Clinton supporter, gave me the phone. I said, “Policies aside, Gary is honest.” The other two are serial, purposive liars, among other things.
The Albuquerque Journal agrees that Johnson is honest. On July 16, the Journal said, “But even critics of his policies remember him as even-keeled, straightforward and honest.”
Googling “Gary Johnson honest” got 768,000 responses.
My guess is that millions of people share my sister-in-law’s frustration. My further guess is that millions more phone calls and emails are going around the country. But what more to do?
I suggest more emails and phone calls to friends and family across the country. Make just five contacts. For each person found to be interested in Johnson (or very unhappy about the current situation), suggest five more contacts. And so and so on. A do-it-ourselves revolt. Fantasy? No doubt. But you don’t know until you try.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican elected in 2014, supplies a moral framework. His essay, “Two Kinds of Voting, Two Kinds of Disruption, and Two Kinds of Unrighteousness,” appeared July 11 at medium.com. In February Sasse did a Facebook post explaining at some length why he could not support Trump. He went from obscure freshman to famous almost instantly. Sasse’s qualifications for serious conversation include a master’s degree from St. John’s College, the Annapolis campus.
On medium.com, Sasse said, “(I)t’s one thing to elect someone who ends up lying to us after the fact. But it’s another thing entirely to conclude in advance that they are both liars, and simply shrug and elect them anyway. That does something to the national soul that tears at the fabric of who we are….
“This discussion is about much more than one election. It is about who we are as a people. It is about what this nation stands for — it is about what America means. Our two dominant political parties will probably come apart… but that doesn’t mean we have to accept fundamentally dishonest leaders….
“Given what we now know about them, choosing to vote for these two individuals is in some ways less about them than it is about us.”
If you agree that Sasse makes sense, vote your conscience. Consider Gary Johnson (johnsonweld.com) or Jill Stein of the Green Party (jill2016.com). Note that Johnson and his running mate, William Weld, have been governors. Stein is a doctor.
Revolt is possible. Remember Joe Skeen in 1980. He was elected as a write-in (as with pencils) candidate, only the third write-in winner of a congressional race.
Doing the right thing with your vote is what matters, especially in the long term. Make a positive choice for the future.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   7/18/16
Is Romantic, Exotic “Land of Enchantment” Overlay Useful Today?
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
With her energy, money and international company of luminaries, Mabel Dodge Luhan helped create New Mexico as a romantic ”Land of Enchantment.” By the time Luhan and others wrote in New Mexico Quarterly, Summer 1951, she had been in Taos for 33 years. It is likely her leadership time had passed. Luhan died in 1962.
(My complete notes from the New Mexico Quarterly are posted at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com.)
Drawn by romance and exoticness, pilgrims continue to come. In 1980 I met an aspiring poet who couldn’t spell.
I mock the pilgrims occasionally for their mantra, “I came to New Mexico, saw the sun set over the mountain and found God.”
Such folks are prone to overlooking the details of paying the bills. Unless, like Luhan, they bring money, such details catch them. Then they return to New York or wherever, mumbling about stupid New Mexicans. Very annoying.
The sixties brought hippies and communes. In 2013, New Mexico Magazine said that by the late 1960s, the state had 25 communes, “according to one count.” The reception was mixed. One view shows in an essay, “Taos: Hippies, Hopper and Hispanic Anger,” in “Telling New Mexico A New History.” Other perspectives appear in “Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie,” by Iris Keltz, published in 2000.
An enduring institution, the Lama Foundation (lamafoundation.org) was founded near San Cristobal in 1967 by Steve and Barbara Durkee. In 1971 Lama produced “Be Here Now,” roughly the story of spiritual leader and former Harvard professor Ram Dass. Wikipedia says “Be Here Now” has sold more than two million copies. The first perhaps 500,000 were printed in Albuquerque. As an administrator with the printer, Newspaper Printing Corp., I handled production of 330,000 copies.
Steve Durkee also founded the Dar-al-Islam Foundation in Abiquiu.
The actor Dennis Hopper bought Luhan’s house in 1970. The idea was “to create a creative counterculture,” his daughter, Marin Hopper, wrote in New York Times Style Magazine in 2014. There were also wild parties. Things got out of control and Hopper sold.
Supposedly a classic tale, “Milagro Beanfield War,” published in 1974, enshrines the noble peasant view. Only on my third reading did this background objectification ideology emerge. The author, John Nichols, came to Taos from New York in 1969.
Peter Van Dresser, a pioneer in many things including passive solar design, lived in El Rito from 1949. He died in 1983. His 1972 book, “Landscape for Humans,” described specific strategies that I believe offer the best economic development plan for northern New Mexico.
My favorite Taos tale tells of locals with money who happened to be Hispanic proposing a 40-turbine wind farm on private land northwest of Taos. Eliu Romero, attorney and founder of Centinel Bank of Taos, led the wind farm team. People in the 18-home, off-the-grid (i.e., solar powered) subdivision next door objected. I only saw Anglo names associated with the opposition. In December 2009, a year after project preliminary approval, the Taos County Commission denied the proposal.
More prosaic businesses exist in Taos. Ernie and Rhoda Blake founded Taos Ski Valley in 1955. The Blake family operated it until 2013, when Louis Bacon, a hedge fund billionaire and Taos skier, bought it.
Olguin’s Sawmill and Firewood has been around for 40 years. Dan and Della (Olguin) Barrone bought Olguin’s 15 years ago. Recent changes include a substantially enlarged yard, says the website, olguinssawmill.com.
Whether Mabel Dodge Luhan or any other rich New York Anglos smitten with northern New Mexico have saved anyone remains an open question. I’m skeptical. The further open question is whether the romantic, exotic Land of Enchantment overlay from Luhan and others remains useful as the state someday confronts its myriad systemic issues.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   7/18/16
Is Romantic, Exotic “Land of Enchantment” Overlay Useful Today?
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
With her energy, money and international company of luminaries, Mabel Dodge Luhan helped create New Mexico as a romantic ”Land of Enchantment.” By the time Luhan and others wrote in New Mexico Quarterly, Summer 1951, she had been in Taos for 33 years. It is likely her leadership time had passed. Luhan died in 1962.
(My complete notes from the New Mexico Quarterly are posted at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com.)
Drawn by romance and exoticness, pilgrims continue to come. In 1980 I met an aspiring poet who couldn’t spell.
I mock the pilgrims occasionally for their mantra, “I came to New Mexico, saw the sun set over the mountain and found God.”
Such folks are prone to overlooking the details of paying the bills. Unless, like Luhan, they bring money, such details catch them. Then they return to New York or wherever, mumbling about stupid New Mexicans. Very annoying.
The sixties brought hippies and communes. In 2013, New Mexico Magazine said that by the late 1960s, the state had 25 communes, “according to one count.” The reception was mixed. One view shows in an essay, “Taos: Hippies, Hopper and Hispanic Anger,” in “Telling New Mexico A New History.” Other perspectives appear in “Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie,” by Iris Keltz, published in 2000.
An enduring institution, the Lama Foundation (lamafoundation.org) was founded near San Cristobal in 1967 by Steve and Barbara Durkee. In 1971 Lama produced “Be Here Now,” roughly the story of spiritual leader and former Harvard professor Ram Dass. Wikipedia says “Be Here Now” has sold more than two million copies. The first perhaps 500,000 were printed in Albuquerque. As an administrator with the printer, Newspaper Printing Corp., I handled production of 330,000 copies.
Steve Durkee also founded the Dar-al-Islam Foundation in Abiquiu.
The actor Dennis Hopper bought Luhan’s house in 1970. The idea was “to create a creative counterculture,” his daughter, Marin Hopper, wrote in New York Times Style Magazine in 2014. There were also wild parties. Things got out of control and Hopper sold.
Supposedly a classic tale, “Milagro Beanfield War,” published in 1974, enshrines the noble peasant view. Only on my third reading did this background objectification ideology emerge. The author, John Nichols, came to Taos from New York in 1969.
Peter Van Dresser, a pioneer in many things including passive solar design, lived in El Rito from 1949. He died in 1983. His 1972 book, “Landscape for Humans,” described specific strategies that I believe offer the best economic development plan for northern New Mexico.
My favorite Taos tale tells of locals with money who happened to be Hispanic proposing a 40-turbine wind farm on private land northwest of Taos. Eliu Romero, attorney and founder of Centinel Bank of Taos, led the wind farm team. People in the 18-home, off-the-grid (i.e., solar powered) subdivision next door objected. I only saw Anglo names associated with the opposition. In December 2009, a year after project preliminary approval, the Taos County Commission denied the proposal.
More prosaic businesses exist in Taos. Ernie and Rhoda Blake founded Taos Ski Valley in 1955. The Blake family operated it until 2013, when Louis Bacon, a hedge fund billionaire and Taos skier, bought it.
Olguin’s Sawmill and Firewood has been around for 40 years. Dan and Della (Olguin) Barrone bought Olguin’s 15 years ago. Recent changes include a substantially enlarged yard, says the website, olguinssawmill.com.
Whether Mabel Dodge Luhan or any other rich New York Anglos smitten with northern New Mexico have saved anyone remains an open question. I’m skeptical. The further open question is whether the romantic, exotic Land of Enchantment overlay from Luhan and others remains useful as the state someday confronts its myriad systemic issues.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES        7/11/16
Luhan Brought Artists, Romantics, Intelligentsia and Radicals To Taos
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Maybe Mabel Dodge Luhan didn’t do everything required to create a romantic overlay on Taos and northern New Mexico. But she did a lot.
An excellent show at the Harwood Museum of Art (harwoodmuseum.org) in Taos, running through September 11, tells Mabel’s tale without quite making the leap to one significant result.
An article in the Summer 2016 issue of the Museum of New Mexico’s “El Palacio” (elpalacio.org) magazine, “A ‘Creator of Creators,’” parallels the exhibit. The author, Lois Rudnick, now retired to Santa Fe, apparently is the expert on all things Mabel.
I brought to the exhibit general knowledge that Luhan lived in Taos a long time and famous people such as D.H. Lawrence visited. At the exhibit, a page from the New Mexico Quarterly, summer 1951 issue, was open to view. It said, “For the world Taos has become a living symbol…” This symbol creation appears something that happened as a layer on top of the locals who weren’t especially involved.
In late 1917, Luhan was summoned to New Mexico. Husband three, Maurice Stern, wrote her from Santa Fe, “Save the Indians, their art—culture—reveal it to the world!”
Save the Indians! They are objects, artifacts.
Born in Buffalo, NY, in 1879, Mabel Dodge Luhan was smart, rich, highly energetic, fond of men (and women), a decent writer, and, the Harwood guide says, had among her “lifetime principles: devotion to la grande vie interieure (cultivating an inner life of spiritual beauty) and to the pursuit of art ‘for life’s sake.’”
Now if that ain’t romantic, I’ve never seen romantic.
Luhan’s route to New Mexico went through Paris, briefly, Florence, Italy, Paris again, and Greenwich Village in New York.  Having cast herself as a salon hostess in Florence and Greenwich Village, Luhan attracted a talented international cast of artists, romantics, intelligentsia and radicals. In Taos, Luhan dumped Stern for Tony Lujan of Taos Pueblo, and, in 1918 with Lujan, built the 17-room house and five guesthouses to Taos that today is an inn and conference center (mabeldodgeluhan.com). Note the spelling: Mabel is Luhan; Tony is Lujan.
After reviewing the New Mexico Quarterly articles, (courtesy of UNM’s Zimmerman library; Harwood was no help) the sense that Luhan’s group operated separately from the locals was reinforced. The dozen short articles were by Luhan and friends including Frieda Lawrence (widow of D.H. and then still living in Taos), Dorothy Brett, Frank Waters, Andrew Dasburg and Laura Gilpin. While I didn’t read every word, the only mention of a Taoseno was of a group of Indian kids dancing one night.
Rudnick is more charitable. Closing her article, she says, “Mabel Dodge Luhan and her ‘company’… can also be lauded for the remarkably progressive and inclusive foundations they laid for an understanding of our multicultural national heritage, embracing the cultures of Hispano and Pueblo peoples, which have historic precedence and a still living presence on this land.”
OK. But what about the locals? What about today?
To describe Luhan’s contribution to New Mexico Quarterly, stick with “romantic.”
She said, “People used to come to Taos almost as though they had to.
“Taos brings out the particularity in people. This is the most interesting place in the world, I think.
“There is no standardization here, no social structure.
“Taos does things to people…mysterious enlightenment of our Taos ambiente” (atmosphere or environment).
Today, nearly 100 years after Luhan hit Taos, a legacy is one of her guests, Georgia O’Keeffe, being celebrated with a show at the Tate Modern gallery in London featuring 115 major works emphasizing flowers and landscapes, a goodly number of them depicting New Mexico.
Others followed Luhan to the ambiente. More next week.

 © 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                7/4/16
Cool Cloudcroft, Gateway to Space, Has New Energy at The Lodge
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
With 41 degrees the January average high and 72 for June. Cloudcroft is cool. So cool that the Cloudcroft Chamber of Commerce added the word to its website which is now http://coolcloudcroft.com. The change has come since 2009 when I last produced the chamber Visitor’s Guide.
Another change in the Visitor’s Guide is shifting the cover illustration to the sky from the old railroad trestle. This is good. Cloudcroft is the gateway to a group of solar and sky attractions scattered in the Sacramento Mountains south of the village, starting with the Sunspot Astronomy and Visitor Center. Sunspot is part of the National Solar Observatory, which does “ground-based solar astronomy,” says its website, NSO.edu. NSO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. (aura-astronomy.org).
Astronomy is a piece of New Mexico’s world-class research and development sector with arenas such as computing and materials science. Institutions include the national laboratories and, yes, are paid for by all of us—the taxpayers. Astronomy may be underappreciated because the facilities are off the beaten path in places such as mountaintops.
Cloudcroft is off the beaten paths. The village is 46 miles from Ruidoso via NM 244 and US 70, 90 miles from Artesia on US 82, and also via US 82, it is 20 miles to Alamogordo. The short distance to Alamogordo is offset by the 4,332-foot altitude change from 8,668 feet in Cloudcroft to 4,336 feet in Alamo.
The 2010 Census population was 674, about the same as Harding County. Businesses come and go. That’s the nature of our free enterprise system. Others stay.
Off the Beaten Path (offthebeatenpathstuff.com) has stayed, offering eclectic gifts and artwork for 20 years. Over time Berle Van Zandt and Donna Rand expanded from family-produced works to showing artists from North Carolina to Washington state and Canada and New Mexico artists from Cloudcroft, Lamy, La Luz and Chimayo.
A relative newcomer is the Cloudcroft outlet of Noisy Water Winery of Ruidoso. Products include Relleno Brothers brand cheese made in New Mexico. Even newer is the store, now under construction, for New Village Hardware.
A big piece of new energy came 15 months ago with the purchase of The Lodge (TheLodgeResort.com) by Joe and Lanna Duncan of Fort Davis, Texas, near El Paso. The Duncans are business people, not romantics. Their business sounds romantic until one considers the work involved. They buy, rehabilitate and run historic hotels.
The 117-year-old Lodge brings the Duncans’ group back to three. They own hotels in Marfa, the arts and cultural center (visitmarfa.com), and Van Horn, Texas. When the Duncans bought El Paisano Hotel in Marfa, windows were boarded; the roof had holes. The renovation was a little bit at a time.
A steady renovation is the plan for the 59-room Lodge. They “are trying to get to know the business first,” Joe said.
The third floor rooms were nearly done when we stayed a couple of weeks ago and met the Duncans. “It’s going to take years,” Joe said. They come to Cloudcroft for a week or two, alternating with time and continuing work at the other two hotels.
The property was the purchase. The Duncans knew little about New Mexico. They learned, Joe said, that “Texas is more entrepreneurial. Texas has more of a do-it-yourself attitude.” California, where they have a home, is the same as New Mexico. It’s tough to get stuff done.
While at The Lodge, we visited with a couple of former New Mexicans who are music faculty at a Florida university. It was their first visit in 17 years. They would quickly return here—if there were jobs.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES      6/27/16
Complicated, costly process of making a well requires luck and science
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
As a rule, New Mexico oil and gas production is out of sight and, therefore, out of mind. Even in the production areas of the southeast and northwest, I suspect a goodly proportion of people not directly involved have only a general sense of what happens.
Even the financial impacts manifest only in a general way. In good times, state government gets oil and gas money and expands. In less good times, such as today, less money appears and government, though crunched, expands anyway. Local effects, though, are immediate for good or bad.
At the recent Legislative Finance Committee meeting in Artesia, staff at Elite Well Services and Nick Agopian of Devon Energy walked through the steps in making an oil well. Overall, the Delaware Basin in New Mexico and Texas within the Permian Basin is a “world class oil and gas play,” Agopian said. The term “play” means (thank you Wikipeda) an area with the same geology (to over simplify).
Each well costs from $1 million to $8 million. In most communities, an $8 million business investment merits a headline.
The tasks are complicated, difficult, technical and not obvious to the passerby. The work requires much science and a fair amount of luck.
To start, a well must be planned. Wells don’t go just anywhere. The company must ask permission to drill. Getting permits isn’t free; there are fees. Federal authorities need 180 days to consider a typical application.
Governments own much of New Mexico’s oil and gas production areas. For San Juan County, 60 percent of the land is Native American with 34 percent federal and state. Eddy County is 79 percent federal and state with Lea County at 48 percent.
Agopian’s sample southeast New Mexico well goes 8,900 feet down and 4,500 sideways, accesses the second Bone Springs formation, takes 18 days to drill and 35 days to complete. With permit in hand, preparing the site costs $108,000. Dirt must be moved, power provided and inspections done.
Drilling costs $2.4 million (spent in the few days), and involves 19 production elements starting with the contract drilling company and renting the drilling equipment, needed because producers don’t keep rigs lying around. There are consultants, service companies for inspection, safety, welding, trucking, casing, cementing, disposal, and more.
Drilling generates $117,000 in gross receipts taxes.
Completing the well costs another $2.5 million and produces gross receipts taxes of $89,000. The 15 elements of the process include the frack crew and materials, equipment, roustabout, well testing, wellhead equipment, casing and pumping.
Drilling requires 71 contractors at the site with another 134 for completion. The two processes support 71 indirect positions.
Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” a technology dating to 1947, is an essential component. Fracking is injecting liquid, about 99 per cent water and sand, into the well to create fine cracks in the oil-bearing rock to allow oil to flow into the well. Without fracking, 95 percent of Permian Basin wells would be uneconomic; they would lose money and not be drilled in the first place. The improved efficiency from sideways (lateral) drilling makes a huge positive difference.
The final step, tie in, costs $75,000 and involves pipe, fittings and flanges.
The Oil Conservation Division of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department deals with well inspection, releases of oil and produced water, which average 4.4 per day, and plugging wells. OCD director David Catanach told the LFC that 63 percent of spilled oil is recovered and 45 percent of the spilled water. Egregious behavior may generate criminal charges.
In contrast with all the excellent information presented to the LFC, the silence about the administration’s ballyhooed energy plan shines.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                6/20/16
LFC in Artesia: Ominous federal regulatory clouds over oil and gas
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Just how little we know about the New Mexico world around us is one lesson from the mid-June visit to Artesia by the Legislative Finance Committee’s traveling summer road show.
Massive danger from Obama administration regulatory overreach (putting it politely) is another lesson.
Holding meetings around the state allows legislators to get some direct knowledge of people and activities and provides an opportunity for those, such as Eddy County Commissioners Stella Davis and James Walterscheid, who both attended the Artesia session, to get acquainted with respected senators and representatives.
LFC members coming to Artesia included Sen. John Arthur Smith, Deming; Rep Jimmie Hall, Albuquerque; Rep. Paul Bandy, Aztec; Sen. Carlos Cisneros, Questa; Rep. Jason Harper, Albuquerque; Sen. Carroll Leavell, Jal; and Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, Gallup.
Oil was the topic for the day in Artesia. One illustration of different legislator perspective came as the group toured Elite Well Services (elitewells.com). The firm and its facilities are a long way from Sandia National Laboratories where Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, earns his living. Employment of the highest technologies connects Elite and Sandia. A layman-level summary of extracting oil was a highlight at Elite Services.
After Artesia, the committee went to Roswell. I went to Cloudcroft. The LFC will be in Ruidoso in July and Red River in August.
For committee members and the remaining 2.1 million New Mexicans, two conceptually simple but extraordinarily complex factors lay over the meeting.
First is that oil-and-gas related revenue provides about a third of the money going into the state’s operating account, the General Fund. Oil prices are way down and so is that financial flow. The poor condition of our economy is second. Member comments repeatedly expressed frustration and worry. Solutions aren’t appearing.
Gabrielle Gerholt, an attorney with Concho Resources Inc. of Midland, Texas, summarized coming federal “rulemaking initiatives” and the costs. Concho, a New York Stock Exchange listed firm, also has offices in Santa Fe, Artesia and Houston. It leads state oil production and is “running” eight of the 18 rigs operating today in the Permian Basin.
The policy argument, Gerholt emphasized, is with Washington, D.C., bureaucrats. There is a good working relationship with federal staff in New Mexico.
Gerholt summarized 18 bright new federal ideas that have appeared during the past three years. The feds project the overall cost at $800 million. Industry guesses $1 billion. Some costs remain unknown.
Whatever the exact costs, the situation is a perfect storm of reduced oil prices and increased compliance cost. Even proposals that come with numbers are uncertain. The official cost guess is $700 per well for an “information collection request” from the Environmental Protection Agency for more information about emissions controls at wells. One industry consultant figures $7,000 each, Gerholt said. Nor are the proposals simple. Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, observed that methane emissions proposals ignore naturally occurring methane.
Regulations on new wells have a bureaucratic tendency to slide onto old wells. “That would be devastating,” said Peyton Yates, semi-retired from Yates Petroleum.
Even as industry scrambles to cut production costs, the logic of the result is simple. Some of the state’s 57,000 oil and gas wells that presently are marginally profitable will become losers and will be shut. The effect goes directly to the state’s operating income, a problem that has the LFC’s attention.
For now, the effect on New Mexico is unknown but ominous. Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs and an engineer, fears losing a quarter of the wells. Bandy projects that each abandoned well will cost the state $30,000.
Amidst the challenges and pressures, Yates said, “There are some creative solutions out there. The Oil Patch is full of optimistic entrepreneurs.”
Good thing.
 

© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                6/13/16
Legislative decisions range from schools and crime to “solo workers”
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Recently, this column looked at the Legislative Council Service (LCS) report on the legislative session and considered the budget (the biggest part of the picture), listed state government’s major functions, and briefly discussed Medicaid.
Today we look, from the policy view, as before, at legislative decisions affecting those major functions and touch on a few of the tiny and always interesting items. “Less than very seldom” is how often really big changes happen in state government.
Scrounging money required considerable creativity during the session. The term “skimming money” isn’t usually associated with doing good, legal things. But skimming money is the LCS description for pulling money from “various reserves.” House bill 311 did the deed.
Public schools get 44.3 percent of the money budgeted through the General Fund, the state’s operating account. Education changes amounted to bits and pieces, the same as for all of state government in this year of reduced spending. One change, following the precedent from the 2008 recession, allows school districts to change requirements for class size, length of the school day and other factors. This suggests Santa Fe doesn’t know all the details of running the schools.
The K Plus program providing extended schooling for some disadvantaged kindergarteners was extended though the fifth grade as a pilot. Breakfast availability was expanded. Some standardized test preparation was reduced. All this and more came in the seven bills signed by Gov. Susana Martinez out of 123 education bills introduced.
Changes for health and human services functions outside Medicaid included expanding availability of an upload antidote, tightening upload prescription requirements, and creating brain injury protocols for young athletes.
Democrats accused the administration of an “all crime all the time” approach to the session. Measures dealt with child pornography, children taken into state custody, people whose violent behavior started young, getting more federal money, malpractice claims, and record keeping by sellers of secondhand metal.
A few brief items follow, indicating the activity of general government.
The Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Department will be part of two interstate compacts, one dealing with preventing and fighting forest fires and the other providing discussion and training about mining issues, especially coal mining. A fund for reducing forest fires now can be used for more things. And here’s a big one for someone; dealing with geothermal matters is being moved to a new place in the department.
If sponsorship means anything, House Bill 177 must be a big deal. The sponsors were House Speaker Don Tripp and Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, and the bill came from the legislative Jobs Council. The bill creates a “solo-worker program” in the state Economic Development Department to recruit individuals with full time jobs, either self-employed or working for an employer elsewhere. The program will match other money to support development agencies. Such situations happen. My daughter worked from Lincoln, Neb., before moving to the company office in New Hampshire. A neighbor followed her husband to Albuquerque but kept her Minneapolis job. Efficiently making more such situations happen remains a mystery. It appears to be a good deal for the development agencies.
One bit of fluff that stayed was $75,000 for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s dream of a hiking trail north to south across the state.
Real government work—suing the feds over the Gold King Mine mess—got $1 million for the Environment Department. The state filed suit May 23 against the EPA and the mine owners.
Setting the stage for further discussion is one legislative function. A guess is that will be the result of the veto of 25 local acquits and water projects costing $836,000 proposed by the Interstate Stream Commission. What about those acquits anyway?


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                6/6/16
Gary Johnson: Reminding Us of Our Liberty?
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Twice each year we’re reminded of what a privilege it is to be an American. The reminder comes courtesy of Public Broadcasting with its concerts that celebrate the United States and remind us of the sacrifice of those who have served the country in the military and especially those who have paid the ultimate price of their service with their lives.
The PBS concerts are Memorial Day and the Fourth of July from Washington, D.C.   
The Memorial Day hosts are Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise. In one of those little ironies, Mantegna stars in the long running television series “Criminal Minds,” which has contributed to coarsening our culture through having serious sociopaths as bad guys and offering long, slow camera pans across the bodies of victims. Sinese has moved to a “Criminal Minds” spinoff which has, I presume, the same lovely visual style. I quit watching “Criminal Minds” some years ago and haven’t tried the spinoff.
The two concerts offer what might be called the American Gospel with the Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, Battle Hymn of the Republic, God Bless America, This Land Is Your Land, military anthems and more.
In honor of American culture, this year’s Memorial Day concert put the Beach Boys in the middle with a long set.
The words to America the Beautiful came to Katharine Lee Bates on Pikes Peak in 1893. Inspired? For sure. Divinely inspired? Well, maybe.
Liberty is what it’s all about. Liberty is the magic ingredient allowing human ingenuity to create the other inalienable rights, the quest for life and the pursuit of happiness. This twist on old ideas is delivered in a new book by Deirdre McCloskey, “Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capitalism or Institutions, Enriched the World.”
Our military provides protection of our liberty. I did not serve, a Vietnam era copout. My dad was in the Army Air Corps (which became the Air Force) in Africa during World War II. My Army son-in-law did a tour in Iraq and one in Korea.
What a privilege also it is to be a New Mexican.
Our cozy, laid back, sunset-rich privilege is threatened, most recently by the riot after the Donald Trump speech in Albuquerque.
The regulatory environment is a new addition to the list of systemic issues, courtesy of one of my continuing conversations with thought leaders. Regulations are society-wide and industry-specific.
Despair is afoot. “I have given up on New Mexico,” one of the state’s leading economists observed to me the other day. Giving up makes sense, except for the moral problem.
A chance for changing direction for the nation has emerged with the Libertarian Party candidacy for president of our former governor, Gary Johnson. This is good, or at minimum, some fun. Without Johnson, our choice has come down to Liar/Bigot Trump or Liar Clinton. If nothing else, Johnson is honest.
The conservative-leaning side of the mainstream national media—the Wall Street Journal and The Economist—has responded enthusiastically. Libertarian purists have begun whining, a possible indication that Johnson may have some broader appeal. Liberal pundits are chattering.
In a lead editorial May 31, WSJ noted the obvious—that Johnson will need millions of dollars, that “he also isn’t the most charismatic candidate,… but can still play a useful role…” Super PACs are forming, various news reports say. For the headline on its two-thirds’ page article, The Economist of London chose, “Guns, weed and relevance.” Johnson, the magazine said, “comes across as almost goofily unaffected…With publicity (think Trump) he could catch on.”
And if Johnson did catch on and win, Taos Ski Valley might be the Winter White House. Think about that! Anything is possible.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES   
5-30-16                         
Legislature Report: Medicaid Gets More money Than Higher Education
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Late spring has rolled around and with it the annual two-part summary of the actions during the year’s session of the Legislature. The source is “Highlights of the Fifty-Second Legislature, Second Session 2016,” published by the Legislative Council Service (LCS), the staff for the legislature,.
The New Mexico Legislature alternates between 30 and 60 day sessions. Occasionally there are special sessions if the legislature fails to complete its work during regular session or if something “special” happens. The 30-day sessions are, more or less, limited to financial matters with completion of the budget being the task at hand. The 2016 legislature was a 30-day gathering.
The surprise of the session, as was well reported, was the disappearance of so-called “new” money, defined as the difference between recurring appropriations for the current budget year and recurring revenue expected for the next year. By the end of the session the new money forecast became negative to the tune of $95 million, meaning that state revenue is forecast to be $95 million less in the budget year ending June 30, 2017, than during the current year.
Additional ugliness appeared with the estimate that revenue for the current year (which ends June 30) would be $145 million less than previously forecast. The legislature did produce a budget and adjourned worrying, the report said, that “the option for short term fixes will be mostly exhausted.” The legislature passed 101 bills.  Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed nine.
Complicating matters for Gov. Martinez is the departure for two top policy hands, Scott Darnell, deputy chief of staff, and Tom Clifford, secretary of the department of finance and administration.
A quick look at state government’s major functions will set the scene. For the 2017 budget year starting July 1, the budget, officially titled the General Appropriation Act, calls for spending $6.2 billion, a slight decrease from the current year. Another $7.4 billion comes from the federal government.
In general, state government educates, maintains order, takes care of people, provides roads and builds stuff. The public schools get the most, 44.3 percent; followed by human services, 26.6 percent; higher education, 13.3 percent; public safety, 6.9 percent; judiciary, 4.4 percent; everything else, also known as general government and the legislature, 4.3 percent. Highways get about $825 million from sources such as the gas tax, outside the general appropriations. The department of building stuff, known as “capital outlay,” gets around $158 million, mostly from borrowing against severance taxes on mineral production.
In the state government financial world, Medicaid is the elephant moving from the table to occupying the entire room. “Continuous growth in the number of Medicaid enrollees” is the LCS description.
Medicaid is a government health insurance program for low income people unable to pay for medical care. Besides the low income, eligible people must fit certain categories. As of a year ago—May 2015— healthinsurance.org/new-mexico-medicaid estimated that 700,000 New Mexicans were covered by Medicaid with about 250,000 added since 2013.
Spending from the general fund for Medicaid will be $928.6 million. That’s twelve percent more than the $828.4 million planned for higher education.
While the notion of any government spending less is extraordinary, all the heavy intellectual lifting did not produce any real change in New Mexico’s administrative state, which is embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike. An example is the Spaceport Authority, a possibly boondoggle remnant of the Richardson administration. It got a $1.2 million special appropriation to cover the coming year’s operating deficit.
Entities such as universities, unable to hit state government for more money, will resort to other approaches. Tuition and fee increases loom. So do piecemeal hikes in the ever so sneaky gross receipts tax.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 
       5-23-16                        
NM (Lack Of) Excellence Seen In Nuke Museum Approach
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Mediocrity is on full display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque. I assume that the mediocrity, an aggregation of little things, wasn’t there on purpose. But it was there.
Lured by well executed publicity, I went to see the underwhelming (small and crowded) exhibit, “America’s Road: The Journey of Route 66,” that opened May 14. My idea was to consider New Mexico as a road, no particular beginning or end, nothing specific happening except magnificent sunsets to inspire political rhetoric and cultural impressions on the horizon.
First, let’s be certain; the museum (nuclearmuseum.org) is well worth seeing for the history of the Manhattan Project and of the atomic bomb. It is on Eubank Blvd., a few minutes south of I-40.
In the Route 66 exhibit this sentence grabbed. “Route 66 became an icon for travel in the 1950s.” I think that means Route 66 became a symbol for travel, similar to a religious icon in church. The signs describing Route 66 items were loosely mounted and just enough askew that I noticed.
Then there was the statement that oil was found in 1928 in Oklahoma City. That turns out to be true. The Oklahoma City No. 1 well blew out on December 4, 1928, and began production. However, oil was first produced in the state in 1859, according “Early Oklahoma Oil.” Production passed 100 million barrels a day in 1916.
Like the 1928 oil production date, the city population figures are true, but misleading. The population of St. Louis is cited as 772,897 in 1920 and 318,172 in 2012. A point is made of the decline. But metro St. Louis had around 2.9 million residents as of 2015. The Oklahoma City metro had 1.4 million people, rather more that the 599,000 reported for just the city.
Outside, there is what the museum calls “Heritage Park,” a sort of micro-version of the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson with three bombers, three fighters and sundry rockets and missiles.
A Minuteman missile lounges in the northwest corner, surrounded by weeds. The sign leans against the missile.
Other outside items had no sign at all. Best of all, for lack of explanation and maximum incongruity, is the large black structure sitting on the sand with no identifying sign. A number, 645, is the only information around.
The structure, I discovered later, is the 30-foot-high, 53-ton “sub sail” from the submarine James K. Polk. The numbers come from the museum’s website. The website did not explain what is a sub sail. Wikipedia says a sub sail sits on the top (dorsal) side of the submarine and is a stabilizer underwater.
Second for incongruity goes to a DeLorean automobile, shoehorned into the crowded main exhibit hall. A poster for a “Back to the Future” movie, in which the DeLorean starred, is nearby.
The recitation above comes, first, from annoyance at sloppiness in what should be one of our premier institutions. More important, the museum situation provides a proxy for one theme of recent conversations about New Mexico’s dilemmas. The idea of missing excellence has emerged from these discussions with thoughtful people about the state’s systemic troubles the past few months.
The museum should know better. So should the state. The museum’s brochure brags about being an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. With apologies to Waylon Jennings, who wrote and sang, “I don't think (the Smithsonian) done it this way, no I don't think (the Smithsonian) done it this way.” The song was, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”
To close the first verse, Jennings wrote, “It's been the same way for years. We need to change.” Jennings must have been talking about New Mexico.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                
5-16-16
Comparing cities’ appeal for “successful aging,” crime hurts
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
As the oldest Baby Boomers turn 70, there is an opportunity to compare among cities the factors in successful aging. Disclosure: The Baby Boomer group includes me.
The analysis comes from the Milken Institute (milkeninstitute.org) of California.
While Milken talks of aging, boomers in the audience need to admit something obvious and un-boomerlike; 70 is old. So is 68, which is Hillary Clinton’s age. Donald Trump is 69. This old-people-for-president bit is the weirdest part of this very weird presidential year. But I digress.
Milken provides two lists, one ranking large cities, one ranking small cities. The title is “Best Cities for Successful Aging.”
Of the 100 large cities, Albuquerque places 67th. Among the 252 small cities, Santa Fe is 76th; Las Cruces, 140th; and Farmington, 169th.
Cold places rank highest for aging. Madison, Wisc., is best large city. Iowa City, Iowa, 177 miles away, leads the small. Both are state-university cities, home to, respectively, the University of Wisconsin and University of Iowa. Both are in the Big Ten. All coincidental, I presume. Weather gets the biggest weight among the general factors. Other than drinking, weather is Madison’s worst rank. Madison and Iowa City must do well on other factors.
The general-indicators category covers cost of living, crime, binge drinkers, employment growth, unemployment rate, income distribution, weather and fatal car crashes. The other broad categories are health care, wellness, financial, living arrangements, employment/education, transportation/convenience, and community engagement.
Milken says the rankings judge cities’ “capacity to enable people to age independently and productively, with security and good health.” For nearly everyone, that means aging in place and at home, redundant concepts that depend in part on the definition of “home.” The report “identifies age-friendly living environments that foster well-being, which in turn can mitigate age-associated decline.”
Albuquerque’s population is 900,464 with 119,727 over 65, or 13.3 percent. In our second city, Las Cruces, the population is 213,952 with 27,862, or 13 percent over 65.
By percentage, Santa Fe is the oldest. The population is 146,456 with 17.2 percent, or 25,248, in the 65-plus group. The population in the Farmington metro is 128,340, with 11.7 percent, or 15,007, over 65, making it the least old of the New Mexico metro areas. Among the small cities, Farmington places 207th in the percentage of the population over 65.
For aging urban New Mexicans, we offer crime.
Albuquerque’s crime rate places 92nd among the large cities, even lower than employment growth, which is 89th. Santa Fe’s crime rate is 186th among the small cities. Las Cruces is 136th; Farmington is 107th.
Farmington is hit by the transportation-convenience category, placing 249th. The metro places 227th in average commute time to work, 225th in the percentage of seniors near a grocery, and 231st in grocery stores.
Some of these low ranks may reflect the nature of the Farmington metro area, which is San Juan County. (Metro areas are defined by counties and New Mexico has large counties.) The population of the city of Farmington is just over 45,000. The remaining 80,000 live in small towns—Aztec, Bloomfield and Shiprock—and across the county’s 3.5 million acres. Bigger city transportation criteria simply don’t apply.
The Milken Best Cities evaluation is thorough and worth attention from legislators, the administration and city officials.
However, the San Juan County situation of urban concentration with large rural and sometimes empty areas fits the other three metros. Once again we return to the need for understanding our situation so as to devise our own approaches to our own massive, systemic problems.

  © 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                5/9/16
Regulatory insight from Colorado, New Mexico and insight From Chicago
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
CHICAGO --  Be careful who you talk to in bars. That’s one lesson from a conversation in the elegant bar at the Palmer House hotel in downtown Chicago.
We talked to a manager from a large nationwide financial institution. This man is a market supervisor (or something like that) for New Mexico, El Paso and Oklahoma. Our discussion considered the differences between Arizona and New Mexico. It included the usual banking structure differences from 30 years ago, but also got to factors including resorts such as the Arizona Biltmore and Camelback and professional golf, which decades ago put a national focus on Arizona.
The understanding from the conversation is that this manager and, by extension, his very, very large financial institution employer, is mystified by the New Mexico economy.
The Chicago chat is just one happening from our recent two-week road trip through the Midwest.
Driving northeast through Colorado on I-76, we came across the welcome center in Julesburg. The men’s restroom was closed. In its place were seven porta-potties.
Back to the southwest, in tiny Keenesburg, Colorado, we stopped for gas. The station included a convenience store selling prepared food. The retail area had a display case for the business permits and licenses. There were eight. Topics included selling gas, food, beer, worker’s comp withdrawals from wages.
Regulatory overkill also came at a new I-35 rest stop just north of Des Moines. Signs listed seven prohibited behaviors, including not driving on the grass.
The owner of Keene’s enterprises will be the one dealing with all the paper. This use of time takes away from managing the business, meaning the business will managed less well. More important is the time taken from figuring out how to be more productive and grow the business. 
Wind turbines abound in Colorado, Iowa and the Texas Panhandle. Perhaps ten turbine blades passed us in Iowa, headed for installation somewhere. Clouds put solar out of business; there is some solar in Iowa. But the turning turbine blades in the ample wind under cloudy skies illuminated a piece of the renewable energy discussion commonly overlooked by the renewable people—that when the sun and/or the wind quit, conventional electrical generation capacity is required to replace the renewable. Wind, it seems, helps back up solar on cloudy windy days. 
The road brought us to two small cities—Janesville, Wisconsin, and Bentonville, Arkansas. Janesville, population about 63,000, is the much-cited home of Paul Ryan, speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives. If you have seen midwestern towns, Janesville is what you expect—a troubled downtown, some cool old buildings, many run down, little new and churches everywhere—Baptist, Episcopal, Catholic, one Spanish church. We passed what appeared to be the closed General Motors plant, large industrial buildings, fences with grass poking through parking lot cracks.
Rapidly growing Bentonville, home to Walmart headquarters, is also what one would expect, not that the topic gets much thought. The population was 40,000 in 2013 and 35,000 in 2010. For the 2010 census, the three-county metro area added a third to the 2000 population of about 347,000. The real growth has come since 1970, when Bentonville’s population was 5,500 and Walmart’s expansion accelerated. Given the growth, Bentonville is filled with commercial buildings with standard and boring conventional design. Really big buildings housing Walmart corporate facilities are tucked discretely among the commercial. The life fitness center was one. 
Curiosity about the hometown appearance of the world’s largest retailer might be considered weird. Alice Walton’s magnificent Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (http://crystalbridges.org) is the real reason for going to Bentonville. 
After being wowed by the museum, we drove home through the wind, dodging storms, to consider the tiny business regulatory burden.

 © 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                   
5-2-16                
Outsider “sustainability” proposals don’t pass muster
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
“Sustainability” permeates our world. But what is sustainability?
Consider this comment from new Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Raquel Reedy: “The fact is that our students move many times. Consequently, there is very little sustainability, very little consistency where children stay at one school the entire time.”
Likely, whatever Reedy means by “sustainability” and APS sustainability measures is different from the meaning of the people who proposed sustainability resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting of PNM Resources Inc., parent company of Public Service Company and a Texas utility.
PNM’s board of directors wisely recommended voting against the proposals.
For those not owning stock, a brief primer is that corporation divides ownership into shares. People can buy those shares. I bought 1.5 shares of Disney for my new grandson, Christopher. Shareowners have a slight say in what a company does, depending in part on the number of shares owned. But shareholders can also ask the company to do things thorough proposals to the annual meeting or by asking questions at the annual meeting.
Besides Christopher, many other children own small numbers of Disney shares. During the annual meeting, the children can ask questions and they do. I saw this when Disney held its annual meeting in Albuquerque a few years ago. The children got serious answers from Disney’s boss. Christopher could ask questions once he learns to talk.
The proposals came to PNM shareholders via the proxy statement, a document telling shareholders about the past year’s performance and plans for the coming year and asking that management be delegated to vote the shareholder shares. I voted my 165 shares online, following management’s recommendations, because the May 17 meeting is in Lewisville, Texas, home to PNM’s Texas operations.
Some will claim I’m a management lackey. Hardly.
Sustainability Proposal One said “shareholders of PNM request” that “measures of sustainability metrics including reductions of annual greenhouse gas emissions” be part of setting executive pay. The proposal said, “Sustainability is defined as how environmental, social and financial considerations are integrated into corporate strategy over the long term.”
Proposal Two, another “request,” sought a “sustainability report” about “key environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities.”
Look at Proposal One. It’s all politics and process, about “how considerations are integrated.” One could be sustainable by saying, “We talk a lot about this stuff.”
Supporting arguments were big on conditional words drawn from studies. The conditional words were along the lines of “firms that operate in a more responsible manner may perform better financially.” Or they may not. The meaning of “responsible” may go back to the mystery metrics, which I did not see in the proposal. A cited study from the United Nations, that paragon of impartiality, said CEOs “expect” or “believe” or “regard” certain things. But nothing definite.
Proposal Two claimed “investors increasingly request” such reports. As usual in such uses, “increasingly” was not specified. Going from one-tenth of one percent to half a percent could be “increasingly,” however trivial. Proponents reference a report from an apparently expert firm, MSCI, Inc., without providing an Internet source.
PNM’s response is that the company already does and reports what is proposed without the bureaucracy of added reporting.
PNM puts up with this stuff partly because, as a public company, it must. More important, PNM has long since made the environmental commitment mostly because that is the right thing to do. As regulated utility, PNM operates in a political environment. Sensible risk control approach for any organization is minimizing public hassles with people disliking you. While PNM certainly won’t say so in public, logically, going with the sustainability flow is an appropriate strategy.

 © 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES      4-25-16   
Brooks, Ryan seek civility, get slammed
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Local Democrats responded to Gov. Susana Martinez’s April 14 speech to a big Republican dinner in New Mexico with: “The policy priorities New Mexico has been suffering through the past five years under Governor Martinez are exactly in line with the reckless and racist priorities of Trump and other Republican candidates,” said Debra Haaland, Democratic Party chairwoman.
While it’s tough to argue Donald Trump is anything other than reckless and racist, pasting that label on Martinez is hardly civil. Democrats note: Haaland’s comment is simply the first one I noticed to provide the contra-example for today’s consideration of political civility. Republicans say the same stupid stuff.
Further, I consider the labeling an attack by one candidate on an opponent’s record as “negative campaigning” to be weak. Candidates must discuss the opponent’s record and ideas in order to create contrast. The question is how that record is discussed.
Recently Paul Ryan and David Brooks provided meditations on political civility. Consideration is in order as we swing into our campaigns in New Mexico.
In his Feb. 26 column in the New York Times, Brooks argued in favor of politics as the best way to accomplish things in our society, the alternative being authoritarianism.
The same day, Brooks was slammed by people who write much faster than I do, perhaps because their arguments have become one with their DNA or their computer. At salon.com, Sean Illing hit Brooks for his pathological “blind spot for Republican nihilism.”
I looked up “nihilism.” It is one of those words that sounds intellectual and vaguely disturbing, but isn’t used enough to offer a firm meaning. Nihilism, Wikipedia says, sees all knowledge as unable to be known (got that?) and morality as false.
At Huffington Post, Peter Dreier, said the problem was “the cancer of big money.” Right. Check with Jeb Bush, the money champ of the primaries. All that money got him nowhere.
The instant critics’ utter and quick dismissal of Brooks defines the problem. Apparently no willingness exists on the part of these national-level pundits to engage in what Brooks calls the “endless conversation” recognizing “the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions” and through which people “settle for less than they want” while getting something done.
The critics must have missed Brooks’ 2015 book, “The Road to Character,” an exploration of morality and inner life. At last year’s book signing and fund raising event at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, Brook indicated that such topics are becoming more interesting than politics.
Not only is Paul Ryan worth attention because he is the best Republican idea guy, he is a protégé of Jack Kemp, from a small Wisconsin town, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, placing him second in line for presidential succession.
Ryan spoke March 23 to a group of House interns.
Ryan talked of “a confident America, (where) we aren’t afraid to disagree with each other. We don’t lock ourselves in an echo chamber, where we take comfort in the dogmas and opinions we already hold. … We don’t insult them into agreeing with us.”
As Speaker, Ryan “aim(s) for a brighter horizon… I want to talk about what politics can be. I want to talk about what our country can be…about what our founders envisioned it to be. America is the only nation founded an idea—not an identity. That idea is the notion that the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life. Our rights are natural. They come from God, not government.”
Be confident. Our challenges here are large. Seek real solutions. Quit whining and quit the stupid stuff.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                         4-18-16      
Amazing! Harding County Population Increases!
By Harold Morgan

New Mexico Progress
Population changes are the result of babies, death and people moving. Better news in the northeast and worse in Albuquerque and Farmington summarize county-level population changes from 2014 to 2015.
Overall, people continue to leave the state, which we know, and they’re not returning. The most recent anecdote is my neighbor’s daughter, who is wrapping up a bachelor of science degree in Colorado. Asked if she plans to come back to New Mexico, she always interrupts to say, “No way.”
Migration is the term for people moving into or out of some specific area, a state or a county. “Domestic migration” is movement within the United States. “International migration” is obviously movement into or out of the nation.
Five of the nine counties with more people arriving (positive migration) had more people leaving the year before (from 2013 to 2014). Four of them are small-population counties in the northeast: Quay (+15); Harding (+12); De Baca (+19), Mora (+1). The numbers are small, but positive, which beats negative. Harding County’s population increased by 21 to 698.
Five counties, while still having more people depart than arrive, saw the departure rate drop. They are Cibola, Socorro, Luna, Union and Torrance.
Insight comes from Pat Vanderpool, executive director of Tucumcari Economic Development Corp. Vanderpool focuses on Quay County and Tucumcari, but his thoughts have broader application.
“Our ag economy has seen a rebound, now that we've had good rainfall and watershed the past three years – first time that's happened in three decades,” he said in an email. “Couples from other walks of life bought and restored some of our historic Route 66 motels. We now have a significant expansion at Tucumcari Mountain Cheese, a manufacturer producing the Firelight, a survival flashlight (check it out at ruggedinc.us), and Buena Vista Labs, a manufacturer of eyeglasses.”
In other counties, led by San Juan (the Farmington metro area), the departure rate increased. During the first half of the decade—2010 to 2015—16,525 people moved from the county with 6,116, or 37 percent, leaving in the past year. This made Farmington the nation’s metro area population loss leader for the five years, beating even Flint, Michigan. San Juan is our fifth most populous county with almost 119,000 people in 2015. With a 4.2 percent one-year population loss, the county’s population percentage change ranks last among the 33 counties.
Population fortunes switched for four counties in 2014-15. Chaves, Otero, Curry and Los Alamos lost population during the year but gained over the five-year period.
McKinley County’s 3.9 percent one-year population growth led the state. The McKinley growth came from 2,204 people moving into the county from other counties or states during the year. The previous four years, 695 people left the county.
The five-year total effect of people moving into and out of four-county metro Albuquerque was negative with 402 more departures. The migration gain of 4,681 in Sandoval County didn’t quite offset the combined loss of 5,083 from Valencia County (-2,266), Bernalillo County (-1,871) and Torrance (-946).  Some of those leaving Bernalillo County go to Rio Rancho in Sandoval County for cheaper housing.
Departures from Bernalillo County increased the pace in 2014-2015 when 40 percent of the five-year departure total (-7,951) left. Other counties with increasing departures include Taos and Roosevelt.
Outside Bernalillo County during the past five years, Otero County had the most international migrants with 2,152; followed by Santa Fe (2,088); Curry (1,298); and Doña Ana (1,062). Otero’s immigration total may get hit by the 2019 departure of the German Air Force from Holloman Air Force Base, announced April 15.
One result from all these numbers: I cannot add the words “and dropping” when citing the Harding County population.

© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                          4/11/16
Song starts path to 206 commissions
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Follow a random path and the journey can get a little strange. This path started with a song, a terrible song, it must be said. I heard the song, “Truth or Consequences,” when I paused my dial flipping at KUNM, the public radio station at the University of New Mexico.
What I could understand of the lyrics indicated unkind things about Truth or Consequences and about New Mexico. The song seemed to fit our situation.
By email, I got the name of the song and the artist, Fish Karma of Tucson, aka Terry Owen. The lyrics, in part, say:
“Well I was on my way to Santa Fe to take a brief vacation.
“Feeling hungry I pulled in here to get a bite to eat.
“That was about a month ago and they won’t let me leave.
“I’m stuck in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
“Ain’t no way out that I could see…
“…the deepest pit of hell has gotta be better than this.”
Unfortunately, the song appeared in 1992, just as we began an Intel-driven boom.
Seeking current commentary, I Googled, “songs insulting New Mexico.” The results brought no songs, but the state Music Commission appeared. From a look at its website, its value is just above zero, which raised the value question about other commissions. A search of the governor’s website for “commissions” led to http://www.governor.state.nm.us/boards__commissions.aspx and a list, by my count, of 206 commissions, boards, councils, committees, partnerships, and authorities. The list links to each one.
Some of the 206 appear useful: university boards of regents, the State Fair Commission, the Mortgage Finance Authority, the State Investment Council, the Spaceport Authority, the Parole Board.
As to others, well, if Gov. Martinez had any interest in real change—which she doesn’t—then some of the 206 could disappear. The actions would be tweaking at the margin, but fewer commissions would mean less government and paying fewer people a per diem to chat.
The music commission appears to be a part-time operation. The commission’s Santa Fe office opens only weekday mornings. Former Gov. Bill Richardson created the commission in 2005. Richardson also created a sports authority, which has disappeared.
The prize of the bunch appears to be the “Board of Review.”
That’s right, the name of the organization is just, “Board of Review.” The site, governor.state.nm.us/Board_of_Review.aspx, fails to say what is being reviewed or where this board is located. However the three members could make up to $12,000 annually reviewing cases. A further turn in the detective path led to a statute indicating the cases being reviewed have to do with worker’s compensation.
So much for transparency.
An “Economic Development Commission” might be taken to mean something. Not exactly. The commission’s website says, “develop and recommend policies and provide policy and program guidance; review, modify and approve annual updates to the five-year economic development plan.” Trouble is, that plan means nothing.
The 16-member Commission for Community Volunteerism has an even weightier task: “The Commission’s mission is to engage citizens of New Mexico of all ages and backgrounds in community based service,” the website says.
Some commissions must make for good conversation, such as the 28-member Blue Ribbon Task Force on Water. So might the Sonora Commission, which is supposed to “provide a forum for discussion and resolution of issues of mutual concern…”
The Selective Service Board is to draft people, but there is no draft now.
Others have the aura of regulatory overreach and restrictive trade. Still others may be ghosts. There is a board of trustees of the New Mexico veteran’s museum. But there seems to be no museum. How much more of our state government is a phantom?

 © 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   4/11/16
Revisions show rural areas doing better; 2016 outlook is blah
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Our rural counties did better last year than we first thought.
The news is due to the annual revisions called “benchmarking” to the initially reported job numbers.
Statistics get revised; it’s a rule. Frustration results and becomes anguish in our current situation. We get reports of one number, but no mention that it really is “the number,” plus or minus, depending on the mechanics of the survey. When more and better information becomes available, the number is revised. So it is with job numbers.
The complication is that the numbers and associated expectations drive policy and business decisions. Change disrupts the decisions.
The newest revisions, published in mid-March, take our monthly average employment for 2015 down by 3,000 to 825,600. The state’s job performance started decently and eroded during the year. Nine of 2015’s 12 months were revised downward. The numbers come from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state Department of Workforce Solutions.
The biggest change in percentage terms went to mining, revised down to 25,600 jobs, a 5.9 percent change. Professional and business services, a key sector, was thought to be doing better during 2015. But no. The revisions statistically destroyed 2,200 jobs, a 2.2 percent decline. Metro Albuquerque proved to be doing worse than the state. The revisions removed 3,100 jobs, a 0.8 percent drop.
Struggling Farmington took a further hit with a 1,200 job downward revision to 51,300 jobs as the 2015 monthly average employment.
Revisions added 700 jobs in Las Cruces, a one percent hike and good news as the metro (Doña Ana County) has struggled. Santa Fe added 800 jobs, a 1.3 percent upward change.
Combining the effect of the metro job performances shows 2,800 revised jobs lost, almost accounting for the 3,000 jobs eliminated by the statewide revisions. Together, then, revisions cost a net total of 200 jobs in the rural counties, a figure including the 1,600 lost mining jobs; the revisions showed the 26 rural counties performing a bit better than originally thoughts.
Before moving to the forecast and resuming gloom, bright spots are worth mention. To start, the $2 million, 3,600-square-foot home of Peter and Maria Grazia Selzer outside Taos got two paragraphs mention and three photos by Kate Russell (katerussellphotography.com) of Santa Fe in a March 25 Wall Street Journal article about spread-out houses.
International exports were 4.2 percent of the New Mexico gross domestic product during 2015, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Astonishingly, our exports are more than Colorado and Wyoming. About three quarters of New Mexico’s exports go to Mexico and Israel.
In the comics, the Blue Hole at Santa Rosa is being visited by Sherman the Great White Shark and his wife, Megan, lead characters in the widely syndicated strip, “Sherman’s Lagoon.”
National media outlets continue asking the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State about chile. In this case, the Wall Street Journal checked with Institute director Paul Bosland about the Scoville scale, the measure of chile heat, for a March 19 article.
For the future, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico sees 0.6 percent growth in wage jobs for the budget year ending June 30. Given that forecasts have a plus-or-minus interval, job losses could be within the forecast range. For the year ending June 30, 2017, growth is expected to nearly double to 1.1 percent.
The performance is on track. For February the year-over-year “gain” was 300 jobs, which means zero. For January 2015 to January 2016, we lost 1,800 jobs.
Overall we find more general bad news, slightly leavened by isolated good. For close contrast, there is El Paso with 8,800 new jobs from February 2015 to February 2016.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   3/28/16
 Fewer work here: proportion of employed New Mexicans is 48th
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
One number and one question.
Those are where the New Mexico economic discussion goes.
The number is the ratio of employment to population. The question is why we are so low.
A second number lends insight. That is the percentage of our population on Medicaid, which is approaching 50 percent. That half our population needs a form of welfare is astonishing, but the situation goes back to work. If more people were working for more money, there would be less Medicaid.
Employment occupied 53.5 percent of the population in 2015. Our average employment ratio for 2014 was 56.6 percent, a decline from 2013. The definition is what you would expect. The Pew Research Center defines the ratio of employment to population as “a measurement of employed people as a percentage of the entire adult civilian non-institutional population” 16 and over. Nationally the ratio is 59.8 for February and has been nudging fitfully up since mid-2011.
For employment-to-population, we placed 48th nationally, our usual position. Two of the other states in the bottom four—West Virginia and Kentucky—have coal as a simple explanation for their troubles. Check with Barack Obama on that issue. Mississippi’s explanations appear more complicated, although, from what I have read, racial legacies are a big part.
A Pew publication, “Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis,” shows New Mexico leading nationally with a drop of more than seven percentage points in the employment ratio between 2007 and 2015. See http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/states-fiscal-health.
Employment gets a second whammy. Not only are fewer people in the labor force—working or looking for work—fewer are actually working.
Framing today’s employment picture starts with the unemployment rate, 6.5 percent in January. Alaska (6.6 percent) and Mississippi (6.7 percent) follow us. Our year-over-year unemployment rate change, from 6.4 percent in January 2015 to 6.5 percent in January 2016, was not statistically significant on a seasonally adjusted basis, nor was our employment change.
The number of wage jobs, properly called “employees on non-farm payrolls,” grew by a seasonally adjusted 1,700 year-over-year, a tiny percentage of 0.2 percent, two tenths of one percent. Take out the seasonal adjustment and we lost 1,800 wage jobs, also two tenths of one percent, but down this time. If you are wondering what’s real, I sympathize.
Mining, which we presume mostly means oil and gas production, took the big hit for 2015, dropping 7,700 jobs year-over-year for a 26.6 percent decline. While the number of lost jobs is important, the points are that mining is suddenly the second smallest employment sector, with fewer well paid basic sector jobs, and the industry provides a big portion of state government’s operating budget.
By contrast, the education and health services sector added 7,300 jobs year-over-year, a 5.6 increase, growing the sector’s lead as the state’s largest. The growth, though, is only sort of private sector. It comes from Medicaid, a welfare program (not debating the necessity here), meaning that the money comes from taxes.
On top of everything else, the data have been fiddled. The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains, “At the beginning of each year, the four (employment) measures are typically revised for the previous five years as updated inputs to the models become available.” OK, it’s legitimate fiddling, a process is called “benchmarking.”
Things happen, though. A year ago the revised numbers eliminated months of job losses from 2014. The administration, through the Department of Workforce Services, happily proclaimed consecutive months of gains. This year’s changes turned the October 2015 jobs gains into losses.
Where we are is nowhere. Some are up—education and health services. Mining is down. The net is zero or less.
 

© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   3/21/16
Padilla transcends checklists at Democrats’ pre-primary, states principles
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Boos for the state chairwoman and bunches of Bernie babies with signs, cigarettes and slot machines. All appeared at the Democratic Party pre-primary convention March 12.
For their pre-primary convention, Democrats needed a bigger room than Republicans. Around 1,200 people attended the Democratic show at Isleta Casino. The Republican convention drew about 500. For the Democrats’ meeting, people came and went, nametag or not. The Republicans had people at the entrances, looking for nametags. No nametag, no entry.
Draw your own conclusions about inclusiveness.
The cigarettes and slot machines came with the location—the “Bingo Showroom” at Isleta Resort and Casino south of Albuquerque. The cigarettes and slot machines were next door in the casino. As the program got a little tedious—no criticism, such events get tedious—conventioneers drifted to the casino and the slots.
With no contested races, Chairwoman Debra Haaland observed that the purpose of the convention became making new acquaintances and renewing old acquaintances.
Haaland began her remarks by saying, “I want to talk today about the need for unity in our party.”
“Our core principles are more important” than getting buried in crabbiness. “It seems as though we have stepped out,” Haaland said, instead of “stepping up” to compete in the light of Republican bad behavior.
Haaland began her core principles checklist with, “We will continue our fight against so-called right to work.” The rest included infrastructure, environment, “honor(ing) our commitment to Native Americans” and teachers, raising the minimum wage, unions and right to choose, which drew the greatest applause of any item.
The boos came when the convention parliamentarian, a man from Union County, sporting a straw fedora, came across the straw vote and had to check its status. Haaland said it was her decision—“an executive decision”—to not hold the poll because she was concerned about the integrity of the process (whatever that means).
Before moving to candidate nomination speeches, the convention paraded party grandees, all of them men.
Attorney General Hector Balderas, the highest ranking Democrat elected statewide, wore a blazer with no tie and stayed behind the podium. “New Mexico will have one of the most aggressive attorneys general in the nation,” he promised.
State Auditor Tim Keller wore a polo shirt. He detached the microphone and walked around. Keller ask the audience, “Who’s proud of” Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? By applause volume, Sanders garnered the most pride. A Clinton supporter brought the tallest sign, one with a Clinton logo standard topped by a New Mexico flag and an American flag.
“Let’s make sure Gov. Martinez is held accountable” for sitting on a pile of unspent capital project money, Keller said. Finally Keller made a political plea. “Let’s get organized. Help the little races… the local candidates.”
State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, wearing a tie, stood back from the podium. “We need to make sure that the failed policies of Gov. Susana Martinez are not blamed on our state senate leadership,” Eichenberg said.
That was the opening for Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque, majority whip, to defend the virtues of Democrats and “the programs of the Democratic party.” Padilla, wearing suit and tie, stayed at the podium. And defend Padilla did, offering effusive praise of majority leader Sen. Michael Sanchez.
Rep. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe, house minority leader, looked the coolest with boots, jeans, jacket, no tie and a short beard. Crowd chatter grew during Egolf’s presentation. He said, “Enough is enough of Republican Don Tripp (of Socorro) as speaker of the house. I can’t take it anymore.” Egolf did not stomp his feet.
Padilla offered the best statement of principles. For the rest, the platitudes came in checklist form.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   3/14/16
Regular life is often about information
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Those of us deeply involved in “consequential matters,” such as politics, the Legislature, the potential $417 million shortage for estimated Medicaid expenses, the non-performance of the state economy, sometimes need reminding that life exists outside the arenas.
The national political overlay doesn’t help, what with Hillary Clinton’s lies, Bernie Sanders’ delusions, Donald Trump’s destructive offensiveness, the youth of the two senators and John Kasich’s decency.
A massage therapist in Albuquerque feels doubly pressured. She finds Trump scary and fears the effect on her customers when Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s bus rapid transit fiasco destroys Central Ave. in front of the building where she has been for 17 years.
A recent Sunday had, as bookends, regular life on Saturday and the governor on Monday.
For us, regular life meant the sunny and warm Jemez Springs Cabin Fever Festival Feb. 21. Festival vendors included artisans from four pueblos—Acoma, Zia, Jemez and Taos.
Cars lined the main street. The Bodhi Mandala Zen Center filled its grounds with cars parking at $2 each. Restaurants overflowed with people. After checking the legendary Los Ojos Bar, we ambled a few blocks south for a dandy pastrami sandwich at the Highway 4 Café.
A few elements of street theater appeared. For one, a diminutive blonde woman wearing light-colored clothing corralled a group of large and darkly clad motorcyclists and posed in front of them for a photograph.
Candidates came. Supreme Court Justice Judith Nakamura was doing the candidate thing—walking and talking— as she campaigns to win in November and keep her job. So was Gino Rinaldi of Bernalillo who is running to be Sandoval County Treasurer. Rinaldi, a Democrat, was secretary of the Aging and Long Term Services Department for two years under Gov. Susana Martinez.
Troy Meeks of Jemez Springs, a potter, was another of the artisans. Meeks represents a standard breed of New Mexican—national class but unknown in the state. He does gorgeous and not inexpensive raku pottery. His website, troymeekceramics.com, describes “each… as a one-of-a-kind artwork.”
Overall the Governor said little in her legislative report to the commercial real estate group, NAIOP. But there was little to say. Thanks to the swoon in oil prices, the state has little money. “I want to stress that we are not alone,” Martinez said.
Big deal, I thought.
She called the state’s situation a “budget crunch,” an understatement for sure.
“Overall I am pleased,” Martinez said of the session, despite Democrats’ “total lack of interest” in her education proposals being “extremely disheartening.”
Outside festival fervor and back in regular life, one development, new to us, along U.S. 550 as we drove to Jemez Springs was a bright yellow sign. The copy, in red, said. “Zia Pueblo, Home of the Zia Sun Symbol,” which was long ago appropriated as the state’s symbol.
Zia’s sign exports information about the pueblo. On a larger scale, so does Presbyterian Health Plan’s deal—a letter of intent at this point—to provide Medicaid managed services in North Carolina and to own part of the new organization overseeing the work. Presbyterian sees around 600 new jobs in Albuquerque. The product will be information, something easy to ship.
Books are information in a paper or electronic wrapper.
Radius Publishing in Santa Fe, a non-profit, produces monographs, specialized books done working closely with an artist. Printing tends to be done in Italy, reports WSJ Magazine. More than 700 copies of every title are donated to schools, libraries and arts organizations. Limited edition sales are though galleries and radiusbooks.org.
In many respects real life in New Mexico is about information. We need to do more.

 © 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   3/7/16
Incompletely told state history gets an encyclopedia
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Consideration of history in New Mexico usually stops around Socorro and the year 1900, with passing mention of Roswell for aliens, Lincoln and Billy the Kid for murder, and perhaps White Sands for the Trinity atomic bomb test in 1945.
OK, that’s an overstatement. But a brief survey of my four-volume New Mexico history book collection finds them well short of mentions of Clovis, Hobbs, oil, Silver City and more.
The history of New Mexico is taught in the public schools, more often than I thought. Seventh graders get a year. State history appears in elementary school and high school. How well the history is taught could be another story.
Thinking of our history was spurred by three comments.
For a Smithsonian magazine article, Richard Grant is in Jones County Mississippi, “to breathe in the historical vapors…” The article is “The Raging Rebellion of Jones County.” Historical vapors are well breathed in New Mexico, too.
In a newspaper review of a book about Romania, “Trapped by the New Iron Curtain,” Edward Lucas chides the author, Robert Kaplan, for saying, “I liked having the place to myself.” People complain about New Mexico’s growth, which has reversed the past two years, with the same whine.
“Almost all countries rely on some kind of founding myth to set the rules by which they live,” Lucas says. Mythology is fine, but “entrepreneurs, artists, students and regular workers are not slaves of the past; they shape the future.”
     Josephine Livingston, a writer and academic, got to the New Mexico issues, no doubt unintentionally. She said, “‘Environmental determinism’ and ‘geographical determinism’ are some terms you can use to refer to the idea that the place you’re born in (the weather, the location, which of Noah’s sons founded your continent, etc.) has an effect on your inner life.”
      Geographical determinism appears in the standard litany, “My family has been in New Mexico for 400 years, and therefore I have special claim to expertise about (the topic at hand).”
     Even if the claim made sense, it forgets two details: those New Mexicans born in another state or another country, and those 329,000 (in 2014) born in New Mexico who live in another state, my kids for example.
     The Census Bureau says our population was 2,085,572 in 2014. Of those, 53 percent, or 1,103,744, were born in the state. Very few can claim a 400-year family history.
     For this argument, 382,360 of the native born, or about 35 percent, don’t count because they are 17 or younger. Presumably nearly all live where their parents live.
     Geographical determinism omits the remaining 981,828 New Mexicans. They lack the special birthright expertise. Of the left out, 751,903 were born in another state, including 97,942 who are 17 and under. The remaining 205,653, about ten percent of the total population, were born in another country. Both groups chose New Mexico, for whatever reason.
     The histories suggest New Mexico natives know little enough of the state’s history. Immigrants, lacking the public school intellectual drive-by, know less.
     A new way to consider the history of almost the entire state has appeared. Don Bullis and Rio Grande Books (RioGrandeBooks.com) recently released the “New Mexico Historical Encyclopedia.” It describes more than 700 events and places and provides each a bibliography. Clovis and Silver City get entries. Hobbs is listed under Lea County.
     In many instances, “no two sources can agree,” Bullis says. Billy the Kid is one. Though “a participant in the Lincoln County War, he was not a significant player.” The Kid’s bibliography is significant, though. It lists 46 items. Good enough for a myth, perhaps.
     But what about Oñate?


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   2/29/16
Nakamura, Pearce Rock Republican Pre-Primary Convention
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
     Republican faithful filled the ballroom at Albuquerque’s Crown Plaza hotel for the pre-primary convention. The crowd was around 500 plus staff and security.
      The room’s fullness on a sunny Saturday less than two days after the legislative session ended is worth noting. In some previous years, one veteran observed, the room had not been full.
     As people entered the hall, bunches of buttons and brochures introduced them to Judith Nakamura of Albuquerque, appointed last fall to the New Mexico Supreme Court. Because Nakamura was appointed to fill a vacancy on the court, to keep her new job, she must run in the 2016 general election. The run requirement is in Article VI, Section 35 of the Constitution, one of those long, detailed parts of the Constitution that add length and require amendment to make even small changes.
     Nakamura gave a vigorous speech, something often lacking in judge candidates. The buttons and brochures suggest her campaign is well underway. Judicial campaigns come with restrictions unknown to other campaigns. Basically judge candidates can only say how much the law infuses their soul.
     Standing ovations both during and at the end of Nakamura’s speech measured the audience reception. Nakamura said she is the only female Republican to be on the court. As a court candidate, her loyalty is to the law and the constitution.
     “I’m damn proud to be your candidate,” she said, “One person can make a difference and I am that person.”
     Congressman Steve Pearce got louder ovations than Nakamura. That figures. Pearce has been in congress for more than ten years. Pearce even got cheers and whistles during his talk. “My friends, it is time to stand up and retake this country,” he said. His job is “protecting your rights to live in freedom.”
     The northern congressional district, where Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is the incumbent, will have a treat; two of the candidates have similar names: Michael Romero and Michael Lucero. The difference is three letters.
     Such coincidental name similarities are not unknown here. Tony Hillerman related a slightly different circumstance in “The Great Taos Bank Robbery,” published in 1973. The tale’s title is “Mr. Luna’s Lazarus Act.” A Santa Fe Democratic state representative Hillerman calls Tomas Luna was concerned about his ability to survive the primary election. Like magic, six extra candidates filed in the primary race. Voter splitters in hand, Luna won just barely.
     A third candidate, Jerald McFall, may not even be on the ballot. He got 11 percent of the convention votes, short of the 20 percent required for a place on the ballot. To continue he must get more petition signatures, a serious challenge for candidates who do poorly at the convention.
     Romero won the convention delegate vote with 60 percent, which gives him first position on the June ballot. Lucero got 29 percent of the vote.
     On Romero’s website, the headline under the “Meet Romero” tag (not “meet Mike”) says, “Michael Romero A Native New Mexican.” So his birth state is his first qualification for congress.
     If speech performance indicates anything, incumbent Democratic Rep. Michele Lujan Grisham will beat Richard Priem, the only Republican running, by a huge margin. Priem leaned on the podium, unimpressively reciting his standard conservative platitudes.
     Early in the meeting, delegates got conservative platitudes from Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, who remains articulate and handsome, just as he was in 2002 when Bill Richardson soundly beat him in the governor’s race. “Elections have consequences,” Sanchez said. (Wow!)
     In addition to the specific jobs of introducing a newcomer (Nakamura) and winnowing the congressional District 3 race, the convention seemed to well serve the broader purpose of putting people in a room and letting them visit with one another.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   2/22/16
Despite bipartisan good intentions, Senate Bill 9 did not pass
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
     Evaluation of bills introduced in the Legislature would have become more thorough if Senate Bill 9 had passed in the just completed 2016 legislative session. Because it often takes several years to pass a bill, this one could return.
     The bill had to do with state budgets and what it calls “evidence-based, research-based and promising sub-programs.”
     It had bipartisan sponsorship, but with a double minority. The Senate sponsor was a Republican, Sander Rue of Albuquerque. In the House it was Gail Chasey, a Democrat from Albuquerque. In their respective chambers, Chasey and Rue are in the minority.
     SB 9 would not apply to all of state government, though that isn’t clear from the bill’s text. Chasey told New Mexico in Depth, a news website, that the bill built on the present application to early childhood education and some adult criminal justice programs of the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. Working with the Pew Charitable Trusts, starting in 2011, the Legislative Finance Committee did the research and put the program in place.
     Evidence and research will require numbers, meaning good numbers. The requirement, boring though the topic is, gets to a recurring theme here—that we don’t know what is happening in the state. Still, we’re better off than Argentina where Mauricio Macri, the new president, is having to rebuild the statistics institute.
     All this admirable good stuff begs what should be the first question, what I call the Paul Ryan question: Is the proposal government-centered or society-centered? Ryan favors society. The distinction is moral, really. Making it evidence-based would be tough. Still, asking the question in the context of an articulated vision would focus the thinking.
     Evidence-based means a program has been done elsewhere and, SB 9 said, “incorporates methods demonstrated to be effective for the intended population through scientifically- based research, including statistically controlled evaluations or randomized trials; can be implemented with a set of procedures to allow successful replication in New Mexico; and when possible, has been determined to be cost beneficial.”
     Fiscal impact reports, prepared by legislative staff, are the existing mechanism for bill analysis. FIRs, as they are known, summarize bills, estimate the cost and/or income, and list comments from affected agencies.
     In cost terms, SB 9 was not expected to be a big deal. That would seem to omit the cost of statistics and the randomized trials, which don’t sound cheap.
     The FIR said the bill amends the requirements for agency performance-based program budget requests under the Accountability in Government Act. The bill told agencies to prioritize and promote use of evidence-based, research-based, and promising sub-programs. The budget division of the Department of Finance and Administration and the Legislative Finance Committee both produce a budget for state government, a New Mexico curiosity. They must include in their respective budget recommendations the amount intended for evidence-based, research-based, and promising sub-programs.
     The bill required the budget division and the LFC to list programs requiring a program inventory (the meaning of “program inventory” is unclear) each year. Each agency that is required to submit a performance-based program budget would be notified of the programs selected for inventory. Affected agencies would be required to identify sub-programs within each program based on bill criteria and to compile an inventory for each sub-program that includes the goals and objectives, current and past budgets, target population to be served, and other factors intended to demonstrate whether the sub-program is cost beneficial, effective and efficient. Agencies would have to include the results of the program inventory in their performance-based program budget requests.
     This all sounds good. If the proposal returns in 2017, that elusive articulated vision would provide the base.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   2/15/16
Crony capitalism benefits a few, hurts the economy
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
     Corruption, crony capitalism and economic growth had not linked in my mind. An oversight, to be sure. Or just dense.
     The Committee for Economic Development of Washington, D.C., the Thornburg Foundation of Santa Fe and Michael Rocca, University of New Mexico political science professor, have combined to argue the three are quite connected.
     The factors are “a key reason for New Mexico’s lackluster economic growth,” Rocco says.
     The report is “Crony Capitalism, Corruption and the Economy of the State of New Mexico.” Rocca’s team included one undergraduate honors student and two Ph.D. candidates. The project came from discussions at the Thornburg Foundation. The Committee for Economic Development went to Santa Fe at Thornburg’s invitation, says Mike Petro, CED’s executive vice president. Rocca says he was contacted by CED and Thornburg.
     In the introduction, Rocca and his team say, “(Crony capitalism) refers to the unhealthy relationship between some private interests (e.g. business, anti-business interests, professions, and social groups) and government. Deals are struck that reward winners on the basis of political influence rather than merit.”
     Note that the references are to far more than business, something unusual in his type of report. Rocca focuses on the business-government relationship.
     Crony deals revolve around the economic concept of “rent,” defined eloquently by Joel Mokyr as extracted by “predators, pirates and parasites…who found it easier to pillage and plunder the work of others than to engage in economically productive activities themselves.” That means people and companies cut sweet, self-enriching deals with the government.
     Such deals are inevitable in small communities, it seems to me, more so when the stakes go to money and power. State government is a small community.
     New Mexico has what Rocca calls “a long history of corruption.” The case list takes a page. It starts in the 1800s and goes to last year with the Diana Duran disaster. Not to defend Duran, whose criminal activity drove her from being Secretary of State to the Santa Fe County jail, but her actions stemmed from agambling addiction. That’s quite different from explicit bribes and kickbacks.
     Our state government has a continuing inclination toward public corruption, making government a candidate for crony capitalism. “There are degrees of crony capitalism,” Rocca says, just as there are degrees of sin, I suppose. In legal deals the beneficiary gets something such as a targeted tax subsidy that helps a few. Political support comes in return.
     Then there are deals where narrow benefits are much less than the cost to the public. Finally there are the explicit and illegal exchanges.
      “The investment of taxpayer money appears to be at the heart of most cases,” Rocca says.
      After lengthy examples of these situations, the report says, “Corruption may therefore be thought of as a subset of crony capitalism, which makes it reasonable to conclude that crony capitalism may also have detrimental effects on economic performance.”
      The great economic damage may come from “the perception of pervasive corruption.”
     A 16-page references list follows the recommendations. If Rocca and his team didn’t quite read everything available, they surely dented the material.
      The three recommendations were chosen with reality in mind, meaning some chance of being implemented. The recommendations are:
     More disclosure of campaign finance activity and lobbying, including donor employers, more political action committee disclosure, lobbyist disclosure of bills and issues promoted ( implied by the lobbyist’s client list) and an easy-to-use website.
     An ethics commission.
     Rigorous and regular “evaluations of tax subsidy programs.” This is a good idea.
     Rocca dislikes our citizen legislature, but no change was recommended, maybe because such a proposal would fail the reality test. Good.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                   2/8/16
Business groups seek state override of local wage regulations
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
   A vast business coalition has massed behind a proposed state law that would preempt local laws. The proposal comes in the form of House Bill 211 from Rep. Jason Harper, Rio Rancho Republican, and Sen. Mark Moores, Albuquerque Republican.
   The Association of Commerce of Industry leads the effort with Jason Espinosa, ACI president, as the campaign’s public face.
   I presume HB 211 in part comes in response to the so-called Fair Workweek Act introduced last summer by Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton and Klarissa Peña. Much tearing of hair was the Albuquerque response to the detailed regulations of the Benton-Peña proposal.
   ACI’s Jan. 26 release cited “the recent wave of local governments developing complex mandates for employers.”
   The bill says, “A political subdivision… shall not adopt or continue in effect a law, policy or resolution that regulates or attempts to regulate: the relationship between a private-sector employer and its employees or potential employees if the law, policy or resolution contains a requirement exceeding that imposed by New Mexico or federal law; or the hours, scheduling or leave that a private-sector employer provides its employees; or requires or attempts to require a private-sector employer to: pay an employee a wage higher than the New Mexico minimum wage; or provide an employee: paid or unpaid leave; a fringe benefit; or a benefit for which the employee would incur an expense.”
   The efficiency of centralizing authority in state government contrasts with another theory—keeping government close to the people.
   ACI’s news release about HB 211 quoted Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce as saying, “We have the perfect solution. Let the state decide and avoid different laws in different places. If the state decides, we have one set of rules and regulations that everyone can live with.” 
   Not necessarily. It’s more than possible the communities scattered across New Mexico’s 77.8 million acres might have differing thoughts. Residents of Catron County have expressed definite opinions on occasion. So have Santa Feans. Cole’s faith in the state is touching.
   The coalition is “New Mexicans for Fair Labor Laws.” The dozen groups comprising the coalition represent real estate, contractors, small businesses and petroleum firms. Other groups support the effort but won’t go public, casting doubt on the sincerity of their support.
   The New Mexico Restaurant Association is a coalition member. In a LinkedIn post, Restaurant Association CEO Carol Wight said, “House Bill 211 is intended to clear up confusion about the state’s labor laws — which in many cases vary wildly between its 100 independent municipalities — and make it easier for employers to follow them.”
   The association’s website, nmrestaurants.org, says the state has 3,317 restaurants. Restaurants are small businesses. Even the local stores of national chains are small. The franchise restaurants tend to be owned by local franchisees, something forgotten or ignored by people condemning the homogenization of the culture.
   Especially ugly effects from the Benton-Peña proposal would hit the small, family-operated, one-outlet restaurants. Such businesses, whatever the industry, lack the expertise for such detailed regulatory nonsense.
   National chains have the expertise but don’t need the hassle and expense of dealing with “a hodgepodge of laws all over the state” (as Lynne Anderson of NAIOP put it). These companies can easily find larger, richer, friendlier markets, some of which do what the political environment desires.
   Seattle’s minimum wage just hiked to $13 per hour for firms with more than 500 employees and goes to $15 next year. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The Seattle metro population is 3.6 million. Seattle can say, Take it or leave it.”
   We can’t. Firms will leave or never come.

 

© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES    2/1/16
Public Policy Institute Proposed. Could Offer Long-Term Solutions
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
     Conferences, policy institutes and the like are useless when it comes to considering nasty problems such as the New Mexico economy, argue many people, including some action-oriented types in Albuquerque.
      They are wrong.
      The action types have recently grabbed the initiative, providing money to push specific agendas such as right to work. But this totally commendable argument for short term specifics misses the point of considering the longer term.
     Perhaps the action types are motivated in part by the failure of talk efforts such as New Mexico First and the long-gone Business Leaders Forum at New Mexico State.
      A market for longer term, broader scope policy consideration clearly exists. The Albuquerque Business First newspaper lured 300 “business leaders” to a January conference to hear a national economist say nothing new about New Mexico, as best as I could figure from the newspaper’s stories about the conference.
     “The crowd was searching for some solutions,” one story said. None appeared.
     The annual Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces is less talk fest than listen fest with presentations from national and a few regional policy leaders. There are no coffee breaks, a serious limit on communication among people attending.
     In 2015 topics ranged from the Middle East to transportation to a useful introduction to the Borderplex Alliance Economic Development Strategic Plan, to which I devoted a column, and to North Carolina’s transformation, which also got a column.
     The conference brings national leaders to New Mexico, hopes to find local applications of their ideas and to involve students. The student involvement works fairly well. The grand applications, beyond being enlightening, not so much.
     Depending on the agenda, I will continue to attend.
     A health policy institute is on the way to Las Cruces. Dan Burrell of Santa Fe is adding the Burrell Institute for Health Policy and Research to his Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine at New Mexico State University. Burrell has mining interests and significant real estate interests,
     Another approach to the long term, Colorado College's State of the Rockies Project, features research, much done by students, on topics such as water, a speaker series and annual conference. The website says the project “seeks to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rocky Mountain West.”
     The Beacon Hill Institute for Public Policy Research at Suffolk University in Boston annually produces the BHI State Competitiveness Report using student researchers.
     Beacon Hill’s list construction approach seems less useful for New Mexico. OK, we’re 49th in (whatever). So what. We need to understand the elements affecting the particular issue in order to effectively respond. Why are we 49th?
     That brings us to the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, formed in 1977 early in that state’s comprehensive transformation effort. The center’s “about us” statement would make a good starting point for a New Mexico organization. It says, “… the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan, research organization.  We are dedicated to the goals of a better-informed public and a more effective, accountable, and responsive government.  We believe solid, objective research is the key to good public policy decisions.” 
     Other similar organizations exist. A trade group, the Government Research Association has more than 30 policy organization members.
     New Mexico needs something done.
     I am discussing the best approach with serious thinkers as I find them. The framework appears, so far, to form a policy research group, raise money, do research, raise more money, hold a large conference to announce the research results, publicize, publicize. Repeat.
     If you are interested, especially financially interested, email me at w.nmopinions.com.         
     Time’s wasting.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES      1/18/16
Session Looks To Be Nasty; Life Goes On
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
   The legislative session looks to be nasty, Steve Terrell, political writer for The New Mexican newspaper, told Albuquerque Press Women a week before the Jan. 19 session start. The big difference between 2015 and 2016 is that this year’s gathering will shorter, mostly focused on finances.
   But as to contemplation of fundamental reforms for our floundering state, much less action, uh, no. The exception is the continuing tax crusade by Republicans Rep. Jason Harper of Rio Rancho and Sen. Bill Sharer of Farmington.
   Outside the legislative bubble, the world continues with people not working, government investing in businesses, an athletic discussion and world-class research.
   Nationally the labor force participation rate was 62.6 percent in December, a near-record low. That’s the proportion of people either working or looking for work. The rate has dropped for five years.
   The rate was 57 percent for New Mexico in November, says the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. No doubt we were affected by all the commonly cited factors, from aging population (retiring Baby Boomers) to welfare systems, with little push to find work. Indeed, as unemployment benefits increase, the value of work goes down. Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago works on these topics.
   But given the historic labor force participation rate difference between New Mexico and the nation and now between New Mexico and Colorado, where the rate was 66.3 percent in November, something cultural is happening and we don’t seem worried.
   In a classic move, the private sector continues to turn to government for money. The government must think that it can make the marketplace work better. The private sector guys, I think, just want the money.
   The State Investment Council, which tends to the Severance Tax Permanent Fund, will put $20 million into a new investment fund that in turn will parcel the money to other, smaller startup investment funds and to entities helping startup firms. The entities getting money must match the state money.
   The investments supposedly will cover the state. Note that the startup entrepreneurial environment in, say, Lincoln or Carrizozo, is radically different from Los Alamos or Aztec. The efficiencies here baffle me.
   Albuquerque Republican Rep. Jimmie Hall is a thoughtful man. His youth in the Texas panhandle qualifies him as a football expert. In House Bill 24, Hall proposes that each year at least half the athletic scholarships available from New Mexico colleges “have been offered” to someone attending a New Mexico high school, and – here’s the scary part – the accountability, that each school certify the offerings.
   The intent, Hall says, is to open college athletics to more New Mexicans. Members of the college athletics tribe have gone bananas. These people must think it useful that Western New Mexico University goes 1,084 miles to play in Spearfish, South Dakota, or that the WNMU tennis team be filled with Europeans, as has happened.
   News releases from Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory provide an indication of the daily research. Sandia recently announced a signal filtering technology called nano-optomechanical coupling “that could revolutionize signal processing systems.”
   No, I don’t know what nano-optomechanical coupling means, but that’s not the point. For us lay people, three things count. One is that this $5 million annual budget project is just one of a bunch at the national laboratories. Second, if it ever hits production, I doubt it would become an economic big deal. Rather it would just fold into the nation’s industrial and defense infrastructure.
   Finally, it shows the geographic breadth of the research. Besides the Sandians, the involved scientists are at Yale, University of Texas at Austin, Rockwell Collins and Pohang University in South Korea.
   Government dependence. World class, world wide. Cool.


© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES                                    1/11/16
Millennial Creatives Fill New Mexico Magazine
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
     From its conceptual box of chile, art and opera for the January issue, New Mexico Magazine stepped to the millennial bright lights of arts and technology entrepreneurship.
     The issue, the magazine says, features “some of the creatives who are shaping 21st-century New Mexico culture (and the business incubators that love them)… Neo Santa Fe: America’s oldest capital city has an exciting new vibe (and) ABQ Awakening: New Mexico’s urban core is being reinvented as a hub of creativity and commerce.”
     New Mexico Magazine is the state-owned tourism and lifestyle promotion publication. The nmmagazine.com description is, “Functioning as an enterprise fund in state government, the magazine is self-sufficient with virtually no funding from the taxpayer other than office space.”
       The description sounds about right, based on my brief stint long ago as the magazine’s business manager. I also scored a cover story about the border, which was highly instructive to me. The other side of state ownership is jumping through incredible bureaucratic hoops to get anything done. My boss, publisher Bob Davis, had some inventive techniques for subterfuge.
     “Neo Santa Fe” offers something of an oxymoron, given that Santa Fe chose, a bit more than a century ago, to turn itself into “a picturesque ancient city,” as Chris Wilson said in “The Myth of Santa Fe.” The phrase from my ex-wife was “adobe Disneyland.” Both are accurate.
     The Albuquerque story opens with a gushing tribute, with the first paragraph printed in red ink, to Laurie and Jared Tarbell and their Levitated Toy Factory studio and workshop located in the southwest corner of downtown in the former and long vacant Albuquerque Publishing editorial offices.
      For those of us forever followers of the downtown Albuquerque tribulations, it is no small irony that just before the New Mexico Magazine story appeared, Albuquerque Business First newspaper reported, with attribution to Laurie Tarbell, that  “operations will be ‘dialed down’ at Levitated for an unspecified period.”
     Jared Tarbell has been through the startup bit before. In 2005 he was co-founder of Etsy.com, a NASDAQ listed website focused on handmade or vintage items.
     The Santa Fe story, also with a red opening paragraph, starts with the House of Eternal Return, an attraction being developed by Meow Wolf, an “art collective,” in a former bowling alley. Science fiction writer George Martin (Game of Thrones), a major backer, calls House “a fantastic interactive art exhibit.”
     In a full page photograph, Vince Kadlubek, Meow Wolf CEO, joins “Becoming Human,” a large orange sculpture touted as “a Zozobra for the new Century.” Meow Wolf won a competition from Creative Startups (creativestartups.org), an accelerator of “creative economy” firms whose board members include New Mexico heavies such as Tom Aageson, former director of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, and Doug Brown, former leader of many organizations including UNM’s Anderson School of Management.
      A helpful map showed the 21 places covered. Just eight of the 21 were outside Albuquerque and The North triangle, lending credence to the old charge that New Mexico Magazine tilts north. Three of the eight were in the Silver City area. Run a line from Raton to Anthony and across that vast country, only Roswell’s Pecos Flavors Winery (pecosflavorswinery.com) gets editorial attention. To be fair, though, covering all the state in one issue or even two would be impossible.
     Much praise is due the magazine’s initiative. Same old, same old gets boring. Our summary only barely indicates the scope of the magazine’s challenging and successful project. For the full story check your neighborhood newsstand or download from nmmagazine.com.
     This stuff is really, really interesting.

© 2016 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES   
1-4-16                                
When People Leave, Unemployment Should Drop. Not Here
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
     When people leave an area, unemployment should drop. That’s because, so the theory goes, the people leaving (migration is the technical term) have some tendency to be unemployed. That doesn’t seem to apply here. Migration declined ever so slightly in 2015 from 2014, but unemployment stayed essentially the same.
     The applicable theory appears to be the old Lew Wallace maxim, “Every calculation based on experience elsewhere fails in New Mexico.” Wallace was governor of New Mexico from 1878 to 1881.
     During the year ended July 1, 2015, there were 13,352 people pulling up their New Mexico stakes and leaving, according to the annual population estimates released by the Census Bureau Dec. 22. The population dropped 458 during the year.
     For the year ending July 1, 2014, it was 14,154 departures and an overall population decline of 1,323. The decline in out migration was 802 people, or 5.7 percent,
     The departure total since the April 2010 census is 43,041 with 27,506 going during the last two years.
     Our July 1, 2015, population of 2,085,109 puts us 43rd nationally. Seven states lost more during the year than New Mexico. The two biggest losers, Illinois and West Virginia, have specific things happening – fiscal disaster and coal, respectively. Mississippi and Maine seem more like New Mexico, with many things not happening.
     The state’s unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted, was 6.5 percent for July 2014 and 6.5 percent in July 2015. (The rate was 6.6 percent in June 2014.) However, during the year that those 13,352 people left, the unemployment rate moved around.
     Through the second half of 2014, the rate dropped and then, for 2015, posted a monthly increase that brought the rate to 6.8 percent in September 2015, where it has stayed. The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed grew from 55,875 in November 2014 to 62,000 a year later. That is an increase of 6,125, or 11 percent.
     People leaving New Mexico are the trend. This movement from sunsets and enchantment started four years ago when the departure figure was 7,577. Well over 40,000 people have left. That’s like eliminating Carlsbad and Taos. Note that this figure is a net number. People do move to New Mexico, such as my neighbor, late of Minneapolis, who is doing Medicaid work. People leave, too. My son is an example. He now resides in Las Vegas and is employed.
     A reduced trend is migrating here through being born.  During the 2010-2011 year, the state recorded 35,620 births. During the next year, 2011-2012, baby production dropped 21 percent, or 7,314, to 28,306. Presumably the migration figure being within three percent of the reduction in births is coincidence. But assuming the pregnancy rate was about the same, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that the parents of some considered the prospects of the incipient child and departed. Maybe they went to Colorado, the nation’s second fastest growing state with a 1.89 percent one-year increase.
     Fewer births aren’t all bad. Babies are expensive, what with public education and health care.
     Population change calculations come from two numbers: “natural increase” and “net migration,” which each come from two other numbers. Natural increase is births combined with deaths. Total migration is domestic migration (to and from other places in the U.S.) combined with international migration (to and from other countries).
     New Mexico’s figures for the 2014-2015 year are: Total population change, -458; natural increase, 9,236; births, 26,286 (a further seven percent drop from 2011-2012); deaths, 17,050; net migration, -9,721; international migration, 3,631; domestic migration, -13,352.
     Once again, we’re left with a conundrum of the rules not applying here and with the mission, should we accept it, of figuring out why.

 © 2015 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES
12/28/15
 Money constraints will limit 2016 legislative agenda to basics
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
          Most action during the 2016 legislative session beginning Jan. 19 looks to come in bits and pieces.
          Beyond the bits, the action will be political posturing for the 2016 election and, maybe, incremental movement on the big topics of tax reform and highways.
          This conclusion comes from more than four hours of listening to senior state government officials, “interested stakeholders,” four legislators and Scott Darnell, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Susana Martinez. The occasion was the annual legislative outlook conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute, held Dec. 17 in Albuquerque.
          The constraints are lack of money for anything exciting and the governor’s agenda, or, crabby types might say, the non-agenda other than education. “New money,” projected at $231.7 million, is defined as expected recurring revenue in the coming year minus recurring spending this year. That $231.7 million is up 3.7 percent from the current year appropriation but down $62 million from the August forecast.
          David Abbey, director of the Legislative Finance Committee, began with recounting past crunch times for the state. “I am confident we can get through it again,” he said.
          The consensus economic forecast starts with oil and gas price volatility and uncertainty being “extraordinarily high.” The forecast assumes oil averages $44 a barrel for fiscal 16, the current budget year that ends June 30, 2016, and $49 for FY 17. The present price for oil and gas futures is below the forecast. Price changes bring real effects to the state’s general fund, the money for everyday government operations.
          For natural gas, a dime change, one way or the other, is a $7-to-8 million change in the general fund. A dollar change in oil brings a $10 million general fund change.
          The good news about oil production is that the Permian Basin, source of most New Mexico oil, is “described as the basin where you want to be,” said Clinton Turner, chief economist for the Department of Finance and Administration. The Permian, in West Texas and Lea and Eddy Counties, is regarded as a very profitable production area.
          For job growth the forecast is not much—maybe 0.9 percent, which is less than one percent, this budget year and then jumping to 1.4 percent for FY 17.
          Medicaid “is a huge budget driver,” Abbey said. He understated. For the 2018 budget year that starts in 18 months, it will cost $94.3 million “just to open the doors.” That figure goes to $115 million in FY 19 and $155 million in FY 20. In 18 months when FY 17 ends, more than 900,000 New Mexicans, almost half our population, will get health insurance through Medicaid. Throw in Medicare and other programs and the number of New Mexicans “not on government insurance is pretty tiny.”
          Abbey expects the Legislature to find “common ground” for keeping K-12 education spending at about the same proportion of overall spending. That would mean education would grow $101 million, about 44 percent of the new money. The discussion (or disputation) will be about directed spending versus appropriation according to the established formula.
          Roads appeared with both Bill Fulginiti, of the Municipal League, and Tasia Young, of the Association of Counties, saying the their members were raiding general fund money for road work the state wasn’t getting done.
          Sen. John Arthur Smith, Deming Democrat and LFC chair, will again propose increasing the state’s gas tax. “We need a systematic improvement in our infrastructure,” Smith said.
          The outlook, then, is to keep on keeping on. Little choice exists, really. The administration, Darnell told the conference, is about restraining government growth, keeping a healthy reserve, not raising taxes, that sort of thing. No railroads or spaceport appear on the horizon. That’s good.

 © 2015 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES
12-21-15
New Mexico Context: Remote, Isolated, Cashless, Unemployed
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
          Tomas Chavez, one of our leading historians, observes, “Nothing happens without a context, nor can it.” The assertion rings true.
          Writing in the introduction to “New Mexico Past and Future,” Chavez continues, “An event always occurs as a result of its context and many events that preceded it.” One New Mexico context is that “the area can easily appear, as one of its early Spanish governors described it, ‘remote beyond compare.’”
          Another leading historian, John Kessell, puts it this way, “Seventeenth century New Mexico was like no place else.” This statement began Kessell’s “Pueblos Spaniards and the Kingdom of New Mexico.”
          New Mexico remains like no other place, a combination of world-class excellence and the poverty and isolation that have determined much of our direction. That isolation was “the single most significant aspect” of the New Mexico context for around two centuries until the United States’ conquest in 1846, says Nancy Hunter Warren in “Villages of Hispanic New Mexico.” Nothing much happened during those two centuries.
          These days New Mexico might be considered a set of enclaves including, in no particular order, spiritual communities, world-class research and development (Sandia National Laboratories got five R&D100 awards for 2015; Los Alamos got one), art, chile (at NMSU), oil and gas, art, music, cattle growing, caves and more.
          Organizations broadly evaluating the 50 states don’t think much about context or sunsets. They think about numbers.
          One such outfit is the Beacon Hill Institute for Public Policy Research at Suffolk University (Beaconhill.org) in Boston.
          Like the “Toward a More Competitive Colorado” report discussed here recently, Beacon Hill takes a wide approach in its consideration of state business climate. The annual BHI State Competitiveness Report steps well beyond the tax actions that seem to dominate state development policy discussions (especially in New Mexico) to use 45 indicators with eight sub-indexes with further division into details such as exports per capita.
          The sub-indexes are government and fiscal policy, security, infrastructure, human resources, technology, business incubation, openness and environmental policy.
          Beacon Hill’s competitiveness index was the first factor of the 109 on the Competitive Colorado report. Given New Mexico’s 48th place on the index, it was worth a closer look.
          Beacon Hill’s factors hit some areas not mentioned in the Colorado report. Under government, we are 42nd in state and local government employees per 100 residents. Even with all those government employees, we remain low—47th—in the percentage of adults in the labor force. Not only are we worst in crime, we are next worst (49th) in the annual crime change for 2012 to 2013.
          While every teenager seems to have a phone, we are 47th in mobile phones per 1,000 and 48th in high-speed lines.
          A new insight is that we are 49th in total commercial bank and savings institution deposits per capita. The measure leaves out credit unions, which I doubt are a big factor in business banking. On the business side, I suggest that the main reason banks left downtown Albuquerque, former locale of the state’s largest banks and their large deposits, is that the money went away. Had it stayed, that money would have become loans to existing and new businesses that would have hired people and paid them.
          If we care about the real world where numbers define context, then we need to change the perceptions of ourselves. No more reveling in our poverty. (“We’re a poor state.” You’ve heard that excuse.) We need to look at the numbers in depth and detail and then do something.
           The newest number is 6.8 percent. That’s our unemployment rate for November. The rate leads the nation. See capitalreportnm.blogspot.com for details.
          Without action, we’ll remain remote enclaves surrounded by sunsets.                                                    

© 2015 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES
12/14/15
New Mexico Leads The Nation in Crime. The Fix Should Be Priority One.
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
          We are the crime leader among the 50 states. Fixing that situation, or at least mitigating it, should be our first priority. Nothing else counts. If we aren’t safe, we can’t function. Talk to the people of San Bernardino, where the incident was terrorism, or Colorado Springs.
           I admit to not focusing on crime in general. I figured that while the Albuquerque police had a nasty problem, probably it was a culture and training problem and would be tended in time. Silly me, middle class and all that, living in a semi-upscale Albuquerque neighborhood near the University of New Mexico that is, yes, complete with the occasional crime.
          While I admit my naiveté, I have some acquaintance with crime, albeit of the mild sort. My dad did 4.5 months in the federal pen on some fraud matters. I have been on a couple of criminal jury panels. My mom at age 91 was mugged on her driveway.
          Here is the relevant statement: “Colorado’s total crime rate (2,840 crimes per 100,000 population) has decreased by 36 percent since peaking in 2005, leading to an improved ranking. Vermont (1,620) ranked first in 2014 while New Mexico (4,140) ranked last. The crime rate decreased in all but four states from 2013 to 2014.”
          Washington places 49th, Louisiana 48th. In 2010, we were 42nd and dropped steadily until hitting bottom in 2013. The numbers come from the FBI.
          The quote comes from, “Toward a More Competitive Colorado,” an annual publication ranking the performance of the 50 states on 109 factors. The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation produces the publication. The insights remain for us to discover. See http://www.metrodenver.org/research-reports/toward-a-more-competitive-colorado.
          Colorado provides New Mexico two favors in addition to Broncos and much Taos-level skiing. Favor one is the razor sharp contrast in economic performance. The performance contrast is useful because, though Colorado’s economy is quite different from New Mexico’s, similarities exist (research labs, the military), and Colorado is (a) next door and (b) not Minnesota.
          Favor two is Denver EDC doing the research and attractively packaging the results. “All” we have to do is think and act.
          Nearly all the 109 factors each get three views. Bar graphs show the best and worst states and compare Colorado as compared to “competitors,” a group containing Utah, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Georgia. A table shows all 50 states alphabetically, usually for several years.
          The data sources are national and credible. The factors go into eight groups: economy vitality, innovation, taxes, livability, K-12 education, higher education, health, and infrastructure. Very comprehensive, in other words.
          In addition to crime, the things where we are outstandingly bad, ranking 45th or lower, start with the state competitiveness index where we are 48th. The state competitiveness index gathers, the report says, “46 indicators to identify which states are poised for long-term prosperity,” including government and fiscal policy, security, infrastructure, technology, telecommunications infrastructure, workers’ compensation rates, infrastructure and environmental policy. Other negatives are population growth, child poverty, welfare spending, infrastructure, sales taxes, business tax burden and seven of the ten K-12 education factors.
          There are a few good things: research and development spending (i.e., the national laboratories), Small Business Innovation Research grants, high-tech exports, and comparatively few retail prescriptions, cancer deaths and stroke deaths.
          A differently framed list of fundamental issues facing the state and the 2014 column about the Colorado report are both posted at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com.
          For crime, I don’t have the answers. But maybe Gov. Susana Martinez does. She should have the background—her years as the district attorney in Doña Ana County—to lead the search for answers. Such tasks are her job.

 © 2015 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES
12/7/15
Worst State Economy Competition Resumes; Meanwhile, Colorado Prospers
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
          As 2015 closes, it’s déjà vu all over again for the New Mexico economy. As in 2014, we’re competing for the dubious honor of the nation’s worst performing state economy.
          The differences this time are the measure—unemployment rate instead of job losses—and the competition. The preliminary figures for the first six months of 2014 showed job losses. In October, only climate-change-regulation ravaged West Virginia had a higher rate, at 6.9 percent. Ours was 6.8 percent.
          But we beat West Virginia in a key area, reports the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said, “The only significant over-the-year (unemployment) rate increase was in New Mexico (+0.6 percentage point).”
          By way of comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate was five percent in October. Colorado’s was 3.8 percent. Some maps illustrate the Colorado contrast. The maps accompany the announcement of the new edition of the “Toward a More Competitive Colorado” report, released Nov. 18 by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. See http://www.metrodenver.org/research-reports/toward-a-more-competitive-colorado.
          For population growth, employment growth, innovation, higher education and thinness (lack of obesity), Colorado is in the top five of the states. For population growth, New Mexico is in the bottom five. Maybe New Mexicans are moving to Colorado. Another Colorado contrast comes with a concept, that of a “retail resort,” something I hadn’t heard of until shopping in south Denver a few weeks ago.
          In 2014, we lost jobs from January through June. However, revisions made those losses go away, allowing the administration to proclaim months and months of job gains. Albuquerque was the laggard in 2014, for example, losing 4,500 jobs between April 2013 and April 2014.
          The October numbers, year-over-year, start with a statewide gain of 2,800 wage jobs.
          Albuquerque, which is doing decently well, added 7,200 jobs, a 1.9 percent increase. Farmington chipped in with 700 jobs. The job-gain total for the two metros comes to 7,900, leaving the rest of the state down 5,100 jobs (7,900 minus 2,800). Las Cruces and Santa Fe accounted for 1,800 of those lost jobs (1,500 in Las Cruces, 300 from Santa Fe), with the 26 rural counties dropping 3,300.
          Lea County, whose oil production spent some years saving the state from itself, lost about 2,000 jobs during the October-to-October year due to declining drilling, while unemployment increased around 800. The Lea County performance has turned since 2014, just as has Albuquerque’s, but the other way. Between April 2013 and April 2014, Lea County employment grew by 1,500. Since April 2014, Lea County employment has dropped 4,000—from 31,750 to 27,725.
          Our sector check starts with professional and business services, which includes consulting engineers and scientists, lawyers, accountants and landscape architects. The sector added 3,800 jobs in Albuquerque year-over-year. The statewide growth was 2,900 jobs, meaning that, outside Albuquerque the sector lost 900 jobs. Las Cruces lost 900 professional and business services jobs, suggesting that the rest of the state broke even.
          Education and health services (Medicaid and money from government) led the statewide sector gains with 3,100 new jobs. Albuquerque scored 2,100 of those jobs.
          Leisure and hospitality (tourism and local restaurants) added 1,700 jobs during the year with 800 jobs in Albuquerque. Las Cruces dropped 800 leisure and hospitality jobs.
          Mining, which includes oil and gas production, lost 1,800 jobs during the year, a good many of them in Lea County as indicated above.
          In Albuquerque, construction added 1,500 jobs. Doing what, I wonder?
          To close, another downer. The labor force dropped during the October-to-October year. Not much. Only 2,000, two-tenths of a percent, seasonally adjusted. The result: Fewer people interested in work and more remaining unemployed.
          Merry Christmas.