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Policy Publications

Shortcuts to Report Summaries:

Making Health Care More Affordable Health Care Transparency
Addressing the Jobs Crisis Addressing the Jobs Crisis
Rethinking the PRC Report Rethinking the PRC
Pay to Play Report Restoring Trust
Small Schools Report Smaller Schools
Title Insurance Report Title Insurance Reform
Lottery Reform Report Averting the Crisis: Lottery Reform
Individual Development Accounts Report Individual Development Accounts
Re-Allocating Resources Report Re-Allocating Resources
Rio Vivo Report Strategic River Reserve
Food Tax Repeal Report Food Tax Repeal
School Reform Report School Reform
Setting Priorities Report Setting Priorities
Full-Day Kindergarten Report Full-Day Kindergarten

Think New Mexico produces one major policy report each year. These reports are summarized here. Most are available as PDF documents, which can be opened with Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you are interested in ordering a printed version of any of these policy reports, please complete and mail in our order form.

Fixing Public Infrastructure Spending ReportThe Story of the Christmas Tree Bill: Fixing Public Infrastructure Spending in New Mexico (2015)

Think New Mexico's latest policy report begins by describing the state's public infrastructure crisis, from leaking dams to crumbling roads to half-finished public buildings. It explains that a major cause of this crisis is New Mexico's dysfunctional system for funding public infrastructure. The report traces the history of that system to the creation of the annual "Christmas Tree Bill" in 1977. This bill allows each individual legislator to select projects for their district, without any statewide prioritization or planning. The report then details the specific problems that result from this process, including the politicization of the process and the way that a lack of transparency favors the interests of lobbyists for special interests over the public. In addition, urgent priorities tend to be neglected or underfunded while hundreds of smaller, less urgent projects are funded. This underfunding of large projects means that millions of dollars sit idle while state agencies and local governments try to scrape together the rest of the funding. The report then contrasts New Mexico's system with models of infrastructure funding in other states, including Oklahoma and Utah, and highlights examples where the New Mexico legislature and governor have improved the process for funding certain types of infrastructure, including public school buildings, water projects, tribal infrastructure, and colonias infrastructure. Finally, the report lays out a detailed proposal for replacing New Mexico's Christmas Tree Bill with a transparent, merit-based process. That process includes the creation of an independent Capital Outlay Planning Board to guide the prioritization of the state's infrastructure needs and ensure that they are fully funded. Order a copy of this report.

Making Health Care More Affordable Policy ReportMaking Health Care More Affordable By Increasing Transparency and Ending Price Discrimination (2014)

Think New Mexico's 2014 policy report describes how the development of the health care and insurance system over the last century divorced patients from the cost of their medical care. This history has contributed to the soaring cost of health care and has made it impossible for New Mexicans to shop around for the most affordable, highest quality care. To address this problem, the report recommends two major reforms. First, health care prices and relevant, risk-adjusted quality metrics should be disclosed on a user-friendly public website, similar to those in fourteen other states. Second, the report proposes ending price discrimination by requiring hospitals to charge the same price to every patient for the same procedure, regardless of who is paying the bills. The report describes how these reforms have been recommended by health care economists and other experts for many years and how similar reforms have helped limit the growth of health care prices in other states. Finally, the report explains how stakeholders including patients, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and state taxpayers can all benefit from the proposed reforms. For example, by reducing unnecessary administrative costs, the reforms would result in cost savings of about $1.7 billion annually, or $868 per New Mexican per year. Order a copy of this report.

Addressing the Jobs Crisis Policy ReportAddressing New Mexico's Jobs Crisis (2013)

This policy report begins by describing how New Mexico is lagging behind the rest of the nation in recovering from the 2008 Great Recession and how the historical development of the state’s economy has contributed to the crisis. It then recommends three specific reforms. First, attract more entrepreneurs to the state by offering in-state tuition to international STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and Business students at New Mexico’s public universities. Statistically, these students are most likely to start new companies and create jobs for New Mexicans. Second, reduce administrative burdens on businesses by creating a one-stop business portal for all fees and filings, similar to those in 18 other states. Finally, establish a post-performance incentive that offers businesses a rebate of up to 30% of the new tax revenue they produce when they relocate to or expand operations in New Mexico—but only after new jobs and new state revenues have been created. The report concludes by identifying seven special interest tax loopholes that could be closed in order to pay for the proposed reforms. Order a copy of this report.

Rethinking the PRC Policy ReportRethinking the PRC (2011)

Available as a PDF

Think New Mexico's 2011 policy report explains how the state's Public Regulation Commission (PRC) can be fundamentally reformed by reducing its jurisdiction and increasing commissioner qualifications. The report begins with the story of how the PRC was created almost by accident in the late 1990s, and then traces the history of regulation in New Mexico back to statehood, illustrating how the state's regulatory agencies resulted more from politics than from any rational design. The PRC now has the broadest jurisdiction of any state utility regulatory agency in the nation, and PRC commissioners tend to be less qualified than their peers in other states. To reform the PRC, the report recommends decentralizing the PRC's jurisdiction and improving PRC commissioner qualifications by requiring candidates to have either a four-year degree from an accredited college or five years of relevant professional experience. Finally, the report documents how these reforms would not only improve utility regulation in New Mexico, but would also save taxpayer dollars. Order a copy of this report.

Restoring Trust Policy ReportRestoring Trust: Banning Political Contributions from Contractors and Lobbyists (2009)

Available as a PDF

This policy report recommends prohibiting government contractors, anyone seeking major government subsidies, and registered lobbyists from making or bundling political contributions to state or local elected officials. The report begins by describing New Mexico's long struggle against political corruption, dating back to well before statehood, and notes that the common denominator in many of the state's most recent scandals is government contractors and lobbyists making political contributions to the elected officials who can award them public dollars. In 2007, New Mexico's Legislature and Governor took an important first step toward addressing this problem when they enacted the Gift Act by a strong bipartisan majority. The Gift Act prohibits state contractors, seekers of major government subsidies, and registered lobbyists from making gifts worth more than $250 to state candidates or public officials. The report proposes building on these reforms by extending the prohibition to include political contributions as well as gifts. The report concludes by describing how these reforms have helped change the political culture in the seven states where they have been enacted and how they will strengthen the voices of everyday New Mexicans if enacted here. Order a copy of this report.

Small Schools Policy ReportSmall Schools: Tackling the Dropout Crisis While Saving Taxpayer Dollars (2008)

Available as a PDF

Think New Mexico's 2008 policy report makes the case for small schools as a strategy to improve New Mexico's dismal graduation rate and student performance. The report describes the history of how New Mexico's public education system was transformed from a network of small community schools to large, centralized dropout factories. It then reviews the research demonstrating that small schools have higher graduation rates, higher student achievement, more participation in extracurricular activities, lower levels of student alienation and violence, and higher levels of satisfaction among students, parents, principals, and teachers. The report reveals that the conventional wisdom that large schools are less expensive to build and operate is false; in fact, high schools larger than about 900 students cost more than small high schools due to inefficiencies that result from increases in bureaucracy, security, and transportation. The report highlights successful small schools in New Mexico and concludes with Think New Mexico's proposal to cap the size of new public schools built in the state and implement smaller learning communities in existing large schools. Order a copy of this report.

Title Insurance Policy ReportThe Secret Story Behind New Mexico's Title Insurance Law, How it Harms Working Families, and How We Can Fix It (2007)

Available as a PDF

This policy report tells the story of how New Mexico came to have a title insurance law that prohibits free market competition and requires the state Superintendent of Insurance set a single rate that all title insurance companies must follow. The result of this law is that New Mexico's working families face the eighth highest closing costs in the nation, a serious obstacle to homeownership. The report outlines a three step solution for reforming title insurance in the state: first, allow the free market, instead of the government, to set the price of title insurance. Second, encourage lenders to leverage their market clout and purchase title insurance policy on behalf of their consumers. Finally, end the title insurers' immunity from negligence liability. These reforms would save New Mexico homebuyers approximately $40 million annually. Order a copy of this report.

Lottery Reform Policy ReportAverting the Crisis: Making Lottery Success Scholarships Sustainable (2006)

Available as a PDF

Think New Mexico's 2006 policy publication proposes the "30% solution" to make Lottery Success Scholarships sustainable: dedicate 30% of lottery revenues to the scholarships. Today the scholarships only receive 24%, while operating and administrative costs receive nearly 20%. The report demonstrates that the cost of running New Mexico's lottery is very high even when compared to other states that have low populations, rural populations, and low ticket sales. It then provides suggestions for where money can be saved on lottery operating and administrative costs and re-allocated to scholarships, such as re-negotiating the state's overly expensive online gaming contract with multinational corporation GTech, and reducing the relatively high retailer commissions. The report concludes with a discussion of Minnesota's recent success in cutting operating and administrative costs while increasing sales and delivering record revenues to the beneficiaries in that state. Order a copy of this report.

Individual Development Accounts ReportIndividual Development Accounts: Expanding New Mexico's Middle Class by Increasing Access to Asset-Building Opportunities for Working Low-Income Families (2005)

Available as a PDF

In this policy report, Think New Mexico describes a strategy for increasing New Mexicans' access to Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), interest-bearing bank savings accounts where every deposit is matched with state and private dollars. In order to receive the matching funds, IDA account holders attend financial literacy classes, where they learn the basics of how to save, invest, budget, reduce debt, and manage their finances for the long-term. The report describes the success of IDAs in other states, and proposes a strategy for expanding access to IDAs in New Mexico that builds on the existing network of nonprofits, small business development centers, and financial institutions. The report also includes a plan to pay for the IDAs by reducing the operating costs of the state lottery, currently among the highest in the nation on a percentage basis. Order a copy of this report.

Re-Allocating Resources ReportRe-Allocating Resources: How to Pay for Voluntary Prekindergarten for Four-Year-Olds Without Raising Taxes (2004)

Available as a PDF

This policy report lays out a strategy for funding prekindergarten by cutting administrative costs in the education system. The report begins by describing the many benefits prekindergarten would provide to New Mexico's children. It then lays out a plan to pay for the classes based on the fact that only 55.9 cents of every dollar spent on public education in New Mexico are used for "instructional" purposes - the lowest proportion of any state in the nation. Over 44 cents of every dollar are spent on administration and support services. The bulk of the report analyzes New Mexico's spending on the public schools and describes specific reforms that, if implemented, would result in nearly $96 million of savings - strategies such as utilizing cooperative purchasing, consolidating some administrative functions at the Regional Education Cooperatives, restructuring ineffective districts, and reforming administrative salary structures. Every dollar spent on administration and support services is a dollar that could directly benefit students if spent on prekindergarten instead. Order a copy of this report.

Rio Vivo Report¡Rio Vivo! The Need for a Strategic River Reserve in New Mexico (2003)

Available as a PDF

In its 2003 policy report, Think New Mexico proposes a way to improve the state's river management policies by creating a Strategic River Reserve, a pool of publicly-held water rights dedicated to protecting and restoring the benefits provided by flowing rivers - including averting lawsuits filed under the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, meeting our interstate river compact obligations, and promoting river-dependent economic development such as boating, fishing, and tourism. The report first describes the challenges faced by New Mexico's rivers, including drought, population growth, and the competing demands of the federal government, bordering states, and internal conflicts. It then describes how a Strategic River Reserve could be implemented, managed, and funded, and how such a River Reserve would benefit New Mexico's communities by providing a buffer against both drought and conflict. Order a copy of this report.

Food Tax Repeal ReportWhy New Mexico Needs to End the Food Tax and How to Do It (2001)

Available as a PDF

Think New Mexico's fourth policy report begins by making the case against the state's food tax. In 2001, New Mexico was one of only nine states that fully taxed food. The state instituted its tax on food as an emergency measure to increase state revenue during the Great Depression. Though that crisis ended over six decades ago, the food tax has more than doubled in the intervening years. It ranges from 5.125% to 7.1875% throughout the state, and costs the average family of four more than $225 each year. The food tax is extremely regressive, as low-income households spend a greater percentage of their income on the food tax than do households from higher income brackets. The food tax is also an anti-family tax: households with more mouths to feed buy more groceries and therefore pay more food tax. The food tax really punishes large families, which tend to be disproportionately Hispanic and Native American in New Mexico, according to Census figures. The report concludes by offering ideas for making the repeal of the food tax revenue neutral, such as by increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol. Order a copy of this report.

School Reform ReportMaking New Mexico's Public Schools World Class through Decentralization, Competition and Choice (2000)

Available as a PDF

This publication proposes a "third way" to improving New Mexico's public schools, a middle path between the extremes of the status quo and vouchers. The report describes Think New Mexico's proposal for moving more power down to the state's individual schools by allowing New Mexicans to choose to implement site-based management. Site-based management would allow the principal, parents, and teachers at each school to make decisions about curricula, budgets, and hiring and firing. In tandem with New Mexico's open enrollment law, this would allow public schools to set their own paths, and students and parents to choose the school that is best for them. Order a copy of this report.

Setting Priorities ReportSetting Priorities: How to Pay for Full-Day Kindergarten (1999)

Available as a PDF

This publication follows the initial proposal for full-day kindergarten by identifying specific ways to pay for it by cutting wasteful government spending. In order to pay the net annual operational cost of full-day kindergarten, estimated at about 1% of the General Fund, the report proposes a variety of cost-saving measures determined through a detailed examination of New Mexico's General Fund budget. The measures discussed include: cutting non-essential spending in professional service contracts; ending the volume discount on taxes paid by tobacco distributors; abolishing non-essential and duplicative boards and commissions; cutting non-essential spending at the Public Regulation Commission; and ending New Mexico's Animal Damage Control subsidy. All of these proposals emphasize making public spending decisions that reflect the best interests of all New Mexicans, rather than the special interests of a few. Order a copy of this report.

Full-Day Kindergarten ReportIncreasing Student Achievement in New Mexico: The Need for Universal Access to Full-Day Kindergarten (1999)

Available as a PDF

Think New Mexico's inaugural publication explains why full-day kindergarten is a vital first step to increasing student achievement in New Mexico. The report first traces the history of kindergarten in New Mexico and attributes the origins of the half-day schedule (a misnomer, since it is only 2 hours and 45 minutes) to an accident of history: World War II. The report also describes the benefits of full-day kindergarten for three key populations: students, parents, and teachers. For example, full-day students outperform their half-day counterparts on learning achievement measures, experience an enriched curriculum, and have a smoother transition into first grade. Teachers are given half as many students with twice the time to teach them. The report concludes with a discussion of the finances of full-day kindergarten, including the savings from reduced transportation costs and reduced Special Education costs. Order a copy of this report.