Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Policy Band-Aids From Barela, Jennings a Variable

Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela brought a menu of economic policy band-aids to commercial real estate developers in Albuquerque on Monday. The organization was NAIOP NM. His rhetorical bumbling (I'll be polite) was discussed in the previous post.

The policy list, presented under the mantle of a "New Century Jobs Agenda," seems mostly to be good stuff. However, the new century started 12 years ago. The proposals are technical, reflecting what I see as the Martinez administration's lack of vision. Whatever. Here is the list:

1. Allow companies to elect a single sales tax factor.
2. Cut the corporate income tax.
3. Put $10 million into the Local Economic Development Act for paying for local infrastructure for companies.
4. Put $4.75 million into JTIP, the well regarded job training program.
5. Capital outlay reform.
6. An informed consent law for the Spaceport.
7. Main Street program: Double the capital outlay money.

My problem with Main Street is that while it nicely renovates small town downtowns, it does so without regard as to whether there is a functioning economy around the community. The only difference between an empty store with a renovated facade and an empty store with a crumbling facade may well be the tax money spent on the facade.

After the election next Tuesday, Barela said the administration will "come together" (with legislators?) and see what else can be done.

Senate Pro Tem Tim Jennings of Roswell will be a variable. The Governor, through her political guru, Jay McClesky, has run a vicious campaign against Jennings. Even if Jennings loses to Cliff Pirtle, a 26-year-old high school graduate, which would surprise me a lot, Jennings' many friends in the Senate will remember and the Senate's leadership may become less conservative. If Jennings wins, he retain his strong commitment to doing good for New Mexico, but, well, he's human and he will remember.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Barela Misleads

Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela brought economic good news to commercial real estate developers in Albuquerque today. Unfortunately on one key point, he, ummmm, misspoke and on another he misled.

"Las Cruces is doing very well," Barela asserted. Not exactly. Las Cruces lost 1,500 jobs, year-over-year, according to latest job report.

The joys of New Mexico's dropping unemployment rate got Barela's kudos. Unfortunately, as apparently everyone but Barela knows, that dropping rate is solely a function of people dropping from the labor force. If these people were still in the labor force, they would be unemployed and the rate would be higher.

The occasion was the meeting of NAIOP, the commercial real estate developers group.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Double Job Dip Continues

The second dip in New Mexico’s recession continued in September, according to figures released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the New Mexico Department of Workforce Services.

Between September 2011 and last month, the state lost 9,200 wage jobs. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal effects. For the month between August and September, the state gained 6,900 jobs, thanks to a 9,000-job increase in government for the month. Nearly all the government jobs—8,600 in total—were in education, the result of students from prekindergarten to university returning to school. For the year, government lost 5,100 jobs.

The private sector lost 2,100 jobs between August and September and 4,100 year-over-year.

The private sector performance supports the obvious lunacy of the policy demand of the left to raise taxes to keep intact those government jobs.

Among the sectors, professional and business services led the year-over-year losers, down 3,200. The other year-over-year losers were construction, -3,000; information and other services, both down 1,200; financial, -1,000; and retail -500.

Sector winners were leisure and hospitality, up 2,700 for the year, though down 800 from August; and educational and health services, +1,000. The small sectors of mining and manufacturing, both keys to the state’s basic or core economy, added jobs, 900 and 700 respectively.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Political Direct Mail Finally Appears

The lack of direct mail advertising from political candidates has surprised me this fall. We were buried in such solicitations during the primary election.

A piece came today from the Republican Party of New Mexico. Two pages of the four-page 8.5" x 11" item attacked President Obama and Martin Heinrich, candidate for the U.S. Senate. The other two pages were an application for and absentee ballot. As such, the piece doesn't quite count as candidate direct mail.

A further curiosity is that the mailer came to my son (or current resident). He hasn't voted from my house for years. When he registered recently in New Mexico, we simply assumed that he had long since been deleted from the rolls. Just after he registered, a mail item came from the county clerk to my address, not the one where he registered. In between, he was in Colorado, registered there and voted there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Albuquerque Home Sales Up From September 2011

Albuquerque seems to have a new paradigm for selling more single family detached homes, year-over-year, in the metro area: lose jobs. The concept is bizarre, but that’s what has happened the last few months—more homes sold, continuing job loses.

September saw 653 homes sold. The performance followed the seasonal pattern of declining sales from summer months, down 78 units or 11% from August. The happy surprise is a 61-unit 26.3% increase from September 2011. The September 2012 sales even beat July and August of 2011. The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the numbers today.

Buyers chose from fewer homes than a year ago when the metro had 4,703 total listings available during September. September 2012 had 4,081 listings available.

September’s sales took a little longer than during August—70 days on average versus 66 days. However the average September 2012 sale took 15 days less than during September 2011 when the sales period was 85 days.

Median and average prices increased from August and from September 2011. The September median was $172,000, up 4% from August and up 0.3% from August 2011. The average for September was 203,016, a 0.6% increase from August and 3.4% more than September 2011. The average sale price has stayed above $200,000 since April.

Using pending sales as a predictor, single family detached sales closed during October can be expected to show a further decline from September. Pending sales during September were 884 homes, a 9.3% increase from September 2012, but down 143 units or 14% from August.

The 653 sales closed during September were 64% of the 1,027 sales pending during August. If 64% of the sales pending during September closed during October, that would be 565 homes sold.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Painted Overpasses: Only in NM?

We just got back from 12 day trip that included eight days on the road. It was a ten-state circle of the midwest: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado.

A few days in, it dawned on me that I wasn't seeing the painted concrete on overpasses that exemplify wasteful spending for me.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation told me recently that money for paint comes from the feds, from something I remember being called community enhancement funds. NMDOT said it takes and spends the money in order to not create a hassle with getting the rest of the federal money.

New Mexico budgets no money for maintenance—i.e., repainting, allowing the colored overpasses to become gray and slimy-looking over time.

OK. But what about these other states? To be sure, I didn't check off the overpasses as we passed under. Still, I don't remember painted concrete on overpasses. For sure, I don't remember any from when I started paying closer attention in South Dakota. Sometimes the steel supports are green. And Wheatland, Wyoming, has lovely sculptured steel supports on two bridges that are dark blue. The concrete remains concrete-colored.

Clearly something different happens here, something Lew Wallace noticed decades ago.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Class B Road Maintenance, An Approach For NM?

In executing the necessary rethinking of transportation in New Mexico, here is a possibility.

Iowa has what it calls Class B maintenance. This was what the sign said on the entrance to a "road" (trail, really) outside a small south Iowa community east of Interstate 25. A gate barred entrance to the road. We didn't check to see if the gate could be opened. The sign cautioned drivers that they entered at their own risk.

The road offered plenty of weeds.

The difference with New Mexico is that the Iowa approach explicitly people informs what isn't happening, namely maintenance. New Mexico neither maintains roads, nor tells anyone.