Thursday, December 25, 2008

Population: Growth Rate Plummets

If plummet means a 25% drop, then New Mexico's population growth rate did indeed plummet between 2007 and 2008. The growth for the state's population was 1.02% for the year, according to Census Bureau figures released this week. That's a 25.6% drop from the 1.37% population growth from 2006 to 2007.
The 1.02% 07-08 growth rate tied for the second lowest growth rate of the decade with the 1.02% increase from 2002 to 2003. The 1.37% growth between 2006 and 2007 was the top rate to date for the decade and, as it proved, finished a four-increase in population growth rate. The lowest growth rate for the decade was the 0.4% increase between 2000 and 2001 when only 7,626 people were added to the New Mexico population.
At 1,984, 356, New Mexico's population continues nudging, but more slowly, toward the two million mark. Between 2007 and 2008, there were 19,954 people added to the state population. The previous year, 26,486 new people found a place here.
New Mexico's population growth rate ranked 18th nationally. The New Mexico population is 36th among the states.
The 2007 - 2008 population growth rate is one economic measure where we cannot cheerily (if irrelevantly) claim some consolation for performing better than a lot of others. Yes, 32 states grew more slowly than New Mexico. But our neighbors, a far more meaningful comparison, all were in the top ten for 07-08 population growth.
These are all net figures. People come to the state and they leave. Natural increase—births minus deaths—accounted for about three quarters of the New Mexico 07-08 growth. The big news is the near disappearance of "domestic migration," people moving to the state from other places in the United States. The people in this group provided only 5% of the population growth. They are important because, mostly they are adults or adults plus children. Most of the adults, retirees being a big exception, have jobs on the mind. They build the economy. The other population increase category is net international migration, legal and otherwise.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Legislature: Budget Outlook

Political blogger Joe Monahan asked for my two cents worth about the budget and the upcoming legislative session. The full email exchange is here. -HM

On Dec 19, 2008, at 11:10 PM, Joe Monahan wrote:

Harold--do you have any thoughts on the state budget shortfalls for this and next fiscal year and how it should be approached? (for my blog) -J

On Dec 20, 2008, at 5:51 PM, Harold Morgan wrote:

Joe: By the way, my blog is Capitol Report will return as a newspaper in January which means I'm paying close attention to the financial situation.

The LFC's approach makes sense, but then I'm a huge fan of the LFC. The "FY 09 Solvency Plan" has three general approaches: One-time revenue actions, across the board reductions (of varying percent) in FY 09 spending, and reviewing capital spending. Little things tucked into these three big groups include reviewing the extra money allocated in the 2008 special session for school bus fuel.
The hard part will be pulling state spending back to tracking personal income and back to a 5.5% growth trend. Tom Clifford of the Tax Research gets credit for these two insights.

Personally, what I see is happiness with new taxes at all levels of government—small municipalities to the state level. ACI has caved on this point. Maybe more tax money is necessary. But while most of our problems stem from, first, the national situation, and then the Richardson administration being in George Bush mode and spending all the money, a contributing factor (at some level) is that the Richardson administration has raised taxes, overall. I have reported the tax increase situation in my column for several years. Caving on the tax question means failing to do the hard work on the spending side.

What I don't see is much willingness to not do things. The $20-plus million mobile (Mesa del Sol to the fairgrounds) equestrian center has been criticized. But it is still alive until the legislature pulls the money. Unreported is the detail that there already is an equestrian center—in Las Cruces. Eastern New Mexico University wants more money (it already has some) for what I see as a true frill, a student weight room, I think. A veteran's museum is proposed for Las Cruces. This amounts to rewarding the Museum of New Mexico system for massively dropping attendance. In Albuquerque the newest "traffic calming" device is a concrete island in the middle of the street. There is one on Girard NE at about Hannet and another on Mountain NW at about 15th. I have no idea what these hazards cost, but why now? Etc., etc.

If you quote any of this, as via pasting, look for typos. There are always some. Enough. Ask questions. Link to the blog. -HM

On Dec 20, 2008, at 6:18 PM, Joe Monahan wrote:

what about 2010 fiscal?

December 21, 2008 10:27:12 AM MST

No one has talked about FY 10 much. The immediate task—FY 09—is large and challenging. The FY 2010 shortfall figures are smaller, but still large. I suspect, therefore, that the FY 10 options will remain that everything is on the table and the actions will be "all of the above."

By the way, we're not yet in a recession, statewide. BBER unveiled one of its secrets the other day—the definition of a recession in the state which is two quarters of declining wage employment. Santa Fe is on the way; wage employment has dropped for four months. Metro Albuquerque has lost jobs for two months. This means that for the FY 09 wage job forecast to come true—a 0.1% decline in FY 09—all of the statewide job losses must come during the rest of the fiscal year. In turn, that means the next six months will be ugly for wage jobs.

New job numbers are due Thursday. Merry Christmas. -HM

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Political Notes: A Whole New Car?

Yesterday Tom Taylor was only talking about the state's tax system, but his comments could be generalized to suggest the approach Republicans need to take the next two years. Taylor, Farmington Republican and House Minority Leader, was part of a panel of legislators at the annual Legislative Outlook Conference sponsored by the New Mexico Tax Research Institute. During the introductions, Taylor was teased a bit about a penchant to drive fast.
Taylor took the kidding as an opportunity to offer an analogy about the tax system. "Our boundaries have changed," he said. Actually, as a practical matter, the fiat boundaries of governmental entities such as counties and municipalities are irrelevant because of the Internet and because of business flexibility. yet, changing the tax system is dangerous because "we have no earthly idea" of the effect due to lack of data about how the tax system really works.
Yet, "we continue to try to reform" what he called our '57 Chevy tax system when the parts and technology do not exist to allow the system to function in our Porsche Carrera 911 world, much less the world of the 911 GT2. We have great challenges and a great opportunity to redesign everything, to build a whole new car.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Economy: Small Business

It's said so often New Mexico is a small business state that it is a cliche.
The numbers come from the census Bureau. In the publication, County Business Patterns 2006 (The latest available), the New Mexico page is: For the week of March 12, 2006, there 628,681 employees working in 45,940 establishments:. An establishment is a location. A firm, Blake's Lota Burger, may have a number of locations. Thus, the firm, Blakes, accounts for a number of establishments.
We have 24,312 establishments with fewer than 5 employees, 6,171 with 10 to 19 employees, 43,774 with fewer than 50 (I added the first four groups), and 16 with more than 1,000.

Number of Establishments by Employment-size class
Total Estabs 1-4 / 5-9 / 10-19 / 20-49 / 50-99 / 100-249 / 250-499 / 500-999 / 1000 or more
45,940 24,312 / 9,159 / 6,171 / 4,132 / 1,299 / 628 / 157 / 66 / 16

Business without employees are also of interest and importance. (
In 2006 New Mexico has 117,752 firms (not establishments) with no employees and with receipts of $4.5 billion.Of the 100,000-plus firms with no employees, a bunch will be doing nothing or have slight economic activity. These might be corporations still paying the corporate tax or proprietorships, businesses in the garage, doing little or nothing. However, I think my wife and I are much more representative of the nonemployee group. We both work from our home. With our combined income, we do in fact generate real economic activity and we do pay enough gross receipts tax that the amount is real money.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Energy and Environment: Otero Mesa

I was reminded over the weekend that 70 oil wells have been drilled on Otero Mesa, the allegedly "pristine" desert grassland south of Alamogordo.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Energy: Wind vs. Solar in Taos

Taos seems the perfect place for a battle between wind energy and solar energy advocates. Actually, the solar folks are much more than advocates, passionate prophets, perhaps, in the intensity of their opposition to a 40-turbine wind farm on private land west of Taos proposed by Taos Wind Power Inc. of Ranchos de Taos. Opponents' unhappiness covers the usual basics, reported The New Mexican on Sunday, "health impacts of noise and low-frequency vibrations from wind turbines, flashing strobe lights changing the night sky, turbine blades killing birds and giant structures forever changing the open plateau's landscape." The opponents are more than unhappy, they are angry, The New Mexican said.
Some of the opponents live in the Cielito Lindo subdivision near the site. Homes in the subdivision mainly use solar power. In the subdivision there are off-the-grid homes. Construction materials include straw bales. Supposedly the homes have no negative impact on the environment, except, of course, the impact of building the homes and of people living in them.
Another element in the story is: Establishment vs. counterculture. The establishment is Eliu Romero, Taos attorney and founder of Centinel Bank. After nearly 40 years in business, notes the bank's Web site,, "Today Centinel is one of very few minority-owned financial institutions in the United States."
Yesterday the Taos County planning commission voted 5 - 2 to approve the application for the wind farm. The commission attached 31 conditions to the application by Taos Wind Power.
Opponents have created a blog to present their views, The opponents were outraged at the commission's action yesterday. The blog said, "But tonight the worst of modern America was on display. Entitlement, arrogance, cronyism and ignorance ruled, while our regulatory protections were stomped on. We thought tonight was going to be about Taos Wind Power, but it turned out to be about one very broken regulatory system."
The Web site for Taos Wind Power is: The site says the company is working on projects in Colorado and Montana.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Culture: Natural History Museum

Our visit to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque last weekend was impressive overall and disappointing in some details. The exhibit of the history of the personal computer is worth seeing. Especially gratifying was the statement, contrary to myth, that Microsoft founder Bill Gates did not leave Albuquerque due to any failure on the part of people in Albuquerque. Rather, with the sale of the MITS company, Gates and Paul Allen lost any reason to be in Albuquerque and returned to Seattle, land of Gates' family and money.
Some of the details:
A University of New Mexico Press book about the allegedly pristine wonders of Otero Mesa was printed in Singapore. Somehow the fuel used for shipping takes a little of the shine from the environmental paean. A carrying bag with an environmental slogan was made of polyester,
We concluded that the Museum does not have English majors write the material explaining exhibits. Two examples jumped at us. A description of the photography of undersea animals indicated that the film was processed underwater. A description of the cast of a dinosaur skeleton suggested that the cast of the skeleton was found near Tucumcari rather than the skeleton itself.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Political Notes: The Rs Future?

Yesterday I happened to briefly visit with a 30-year national level political (Republican) and corporate affairs consultant. This man mostly lives on airplanes but sometimes stops in Abq to do laundry and say hello to his wife.
With regard to Republican woes in NM and nationally, he offered the theory that organizations in society including professions operate with a social contract. Society says: Do your thing and don't mess up too much, too often and you are generally left alone. Accountants and Enron provided his analogy. Corporations and accountants got Sarbanes-Oxley and other joys in return for their errors and misbehavior, Mortgage bankers might be today's analogy.
The consultant argues that Republicans nationally and in NM have defaulted on the social contract. Therefore, he says, any mere "back to basics" is irrelevant. It's more than "rebranding." I didn't get to stick around for the solutions part, but I find the notion fascinating.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Education: Reform Not Rocket Science

There are "four straightforward things," writes former IBM CEO Louis Gerstner in today's Wall Street Journal, needed 'to bring fundamental changes to K-12 education." Everything else either doesn't matter or supports the four items, which are:
1. High academic standards for all with a rigorous curriculum.
2. Greatly improve teaching quality and pay the best teachers a lot more.
3. Systematically measure student and teacher performance via tests and assessments.
4. More time in school each day and more days in school.
Gerstner wants President-Elect Obama to convene the 50 governors and cut a deal to:
1. Abolish all local school districts. Keep state-wide districts and districts in the 20 largest metros.
2. Set a national core curriculum starting with reading, math, science and social studies.
3. Test every 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th grader against national standards.
4. Set national teacher certification standards. Pay the best teachers more than $100,000. Fire the worst.
5. Extend the school day and year.
As a skeptic about national involvement in K-12 education, I'm cautious but intrigued. To start, there is the source of the ideas. Gerstner saved IBM. How about the schools? Certainly it ain't working in New Mexico where the latest proposed fix is massive tax increase. We have huge governance problems, not even counting the existence of a 100 or so districts in the state. That's because we have a state department of education that controls the money, therefore making all local decisions subject to state override and making mockery of any claims to local control.
The other intriguing aspect of Gerstner's proposals is that they are a gift to Republicans, who could offer a package in the coming legislature and begin to stand for something.