If there were an overall theme for New Mexico’s current political situation, it would be the ongoing attempts by Democrats to placate their environmentalist base, which opposes traditional energy sources, while at the same time keeping energy dollars flowing into the state’s coffers.

The Biden administration’s moratorium on oil and gas permitting on federal lands is the most notable example of this conflict. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has publicly spoken out about it, but Attorney General Hector Balderas has refused to join a lawsuit challenging the policy that was recently filed by a dozen states. None of those states have as much to lose as New Mexico, but our elected leaders are unlikely to challenge a president of their own party.

The internal conflict was on full display in the recently completed legislative session as well. Thankfully, the most radical bill on energy, which would have banned “fracking” (an oil and gas drilling process without which New Mexico’s oil and gas industry would be immediately decimated), failed without gaining traction.

Making it much further in the process only to fail unexpectedly was Sen. Mimi Stewart’s “clean fuel standard,” Senate Bill 11. In 2019, Lujan Grisham made national headlines stating New Mexico was going to increase vehicle mileage to 52 miles per gallon by model year 2022.

SB 11 instead would have forced motorists to use “alternative” fuels with the goal of reducing carbon emissions while passing off the hard work of actually developing the technology onto the private sector. Presumably, blame for higher fuel costs would have been shifted as well. The bill faltered after passing the Senate.

Anti-energy bills that did make their way into law included Senate Bill 8, which allows local governments to enact more restrictive air-quality regulations than are imposed by the federal government. It is unlikely that conservative counties where much of the industry is located (and people are far more supportive of the industry than liberal Albuquerque or Santa Fe) will enact such regulations, but this is about politics, not policy.

Speaking of politics, Senate Bill 112, which also made its way into law, creates a “sustainable economy task force.” The task force’s stated goal is “diversifying New Mexico’s economy while reducing reliance on traditional energy sources.” Of course, New Mexico Democrats have controlled the Legislature for years, and with total Democratic control under Lujan Grisham, they have had ample time to enact the public policies necessary to “diversify” New Mexico’s economy.

Unfortunately, Santa Fe has repeatedly failed to reform the gross receipts tax, eliminate Social Security taxes, reduce onerous regulations and expand educational choice, which would improve workforce preparedness. In recent legislative sessions, we’ve instead seen tax hikes passed at times of big budget surpluses. During both the 2019 (House Bill 6) and 2021 (Senate Bill 317) sessions, tax hikes were adopted.

Such cash grabs do nothing to diversify New Mexico’s economy. At best they diversify government revenues. In addition to tax hikes, policies like minimum wage hikes, paid sick leave mandates and ongoing COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the executive only hinder economic growth and diversification.

Finally, this session, while the Legislature continued its piecemeal attacks on energy, after a decade of attempts it passed an amendment to increase distributions from the Land Grant Permanent Fund (the fund is generated by oil and gas). House Joint Resolution 1 not only increased distributions by 1 percent but added an additional 0.25 percent to that amount for a total increase of 1.25 percent (voters must still approve this increase).

Continued existence of the fund happens only if the oil and gas industry thrives, so Democrats’ plan to take more money out while less money is put in seems problematic at best.

Rather than killing off energy first, New Mexico’s elected leaders should focus on diversifying the economy. When we are no longer among the very poorest states in the nation, the Legislature can address ways to make New Mexico less dependent on oil and gas.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

(8) comments

Jim Klukkert

Paul Gessing leads the Rio Grande Foundation, a wholly Right Wing dependent, partisan organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico’s Oil and Gas Industry and those elites who profit on working peoples’ losses. The Rio Grande Foundation promotes limited government, predatory, unregulated capitalism and corporate freedom from any responsibility for climate degradation.

So much to dig into with Gessing’s distortions and outright lies! Gessing’s charge that “New Mexico Democrats have controlled the Legislature for years” has no merit until the recent contests that turned out 5 conservative Senators who were Democrats In Name Only.

If Gessing has been disappointed in what Democrats could do while John Arthur Smith barred the way to real reform, hold your breathe Paul, Change For the Better is coming through!

Mike Johnson

"Change For the Better is coming through!" True, you can smoke all the dope you want legally now.....

Jim Klukkert

Mike Johnson- Not smoking anything anymore, as a result of my idiotic choices that have led to moderate C.O.P.D. Still waiting for my damages settlement from Big Tobacco, which is never going to happen. No mind, no longer can hold my breath for long.


Khal Spencer

Folks can read the RGF's positions for themselves. Here is their web site.


If you actually look at the numbers, the Dems have controlled the New Mexico Legislature for much of its history although in NM, a governor has way too much ability to quash a legislative issue by hiding behind a pocket veto.

Its a little hyperbolic to refer to conservative Dems as DINOs but hey, we have DINOs and RINOs and splintering. Not everyone in the Dem party is in agreement with the Progressive wing nor should they be. Heck, I would prefer Carl Trujillo or Heather Nordquist or another moderate to The Representative from WhistlePig.

If we don't want a big tent, we may end up with a small one.

Jim Klukkert

Carl Trujillo was a great Representative for our Pojoaque Valley, and might have done better against Romero if not for the slander committed against him. This is my view as a Democratic Socialist, who believes that when leadership gets too far 'ahead' of the people, the people are likely to lose the leadership on a byway along the road.

John Arthur Smith and the four other DINO's who lost in the primaries went down in free and open elections, suggesting it was not so much a party purge but the will of the voters. I know Mike and others will argue that was only the hardcore wing of our Party, and there is some truth to that.

However, when the major parties no longer seem all that different from one another, why should anyone vote for either. I prefer a situation where my party actually has defined perspectives and a good history looking out for working people, as well as standing for economic, racial, environmental and gender justice. Something folks can vote for or against.

I still believe that the Bernie wing of the party, at least nationally, is offering a clear and viable choice for the majority of American voters, voters to be and voters currently suppressed.

The NM Democratic Party does not receive such an endorsement from me.

Mike Johnson

We are such a divided nation and state and community (I remember looking at the primary results by precinct in 46 when #ResistRomero beat Carl, I was amazed at the % variations just in our district by precinct) that it seems very little common ground exists within even the D or R parties. The endless arguments about McCain's RINO views are still around in that party. Back when I was growing up, and looking up to people like JFK and LBJ, I don't remember such polarization within the Democratic Party, and by the time I voted for my first Presidential candidate, George McGovern, it had arrived and has gotten worse most every year. I may be wrong, but it seems to me the common ground in America is in the middle, not at the extremes, and parties like the Gibson/Griego left wingers just are no where near the middle. But now they seem to be in my party, or what may soon be my former party. It makes me feel a sense of loss, anger, and disenfranchisement in all politics, what's the point of any of it anymore?

Khal Spencer

Well said, Jim.

I prefer diversity in politics and I prefer ideas people. You may not agree with the Rio Grande folks and often enough, I spar with Paul. Recall that I was once on a labor union board of directors (UHPA), a shop steward in two unions (UHPA, HGEA), and a picket captain (UHPA) who got flipped over a pickup truck while refusing to relinquish my position on a picket line. But Paul puts out ideas on the conservative side, which is more than a lot of Republicans are capable of these days when all they want to do is kiss DJT's okole or sound silly. I may disagree with the RGF as often as I consider their ideas, but I respect their right to put out ideas.

John Arthur got primaried and a GOP person won his seat in the general election facing off with the more Progressive Dem who beat him. Da people spoke.

Take care, Jim. You need to be out there with your ideas!

Mike Johnson

Well said Paul. The thing that amazes me is that so many of these left wing Ds continue to think removing petroleum and replacing it with wind and solar will not see a huge decline in state revenues. They don't seem to understand wind and solar only pay a fraction of what petroleum does to the state in leases, rentals, and taxes, and nothing at all in royalty. They just don't understand the economics.

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