Colorado comparison part 1: Things can change

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By Harold Morgan

If Colorado’s leaders are smarter than those in New Mexico, something I don’t believe, they can’t be that much smarter.
After all, to determine our performance in a host of categories, we can freeload off Colorado and save work and money.
The reference here is to the just-released 10th edition of “Toward a More Competitive Colorado,” a comprehensive look at nine general categories, each with up to a dozen components. To find the report, go to metrodenver.org and look in the research and reports section.
New Mexico’s various national rankings are what this column and the next are about. But the other important point, maybe the important point, is that things can change and change for the better. In 2013, Colorado was third for job growth. It was 49th in 2002 after what the report calls “the ‘dot.bomb’ recession.”
Many of the comparisons are ugly. But facing these things offers a place to begin a vision. Colorado seems to be in the top handful on just about everything. New Mexico, well, not so much.
Necessarily the report deals with the past. Most tables use data through 2013. In the present, New Mexico tied Idaho for 34th place among the states in job production performance between October 2013 and 2014. Alaska was the only state losing jobs during the year.
New Mexico’s four neighboring states all finished in the top 10 for job growth percentage: Texas was second, Utah third, Arizona eighth and Colorado ninth.
For economic outlook, the American Legislative Council places New Mexico 37th. New Mexico’s outlook has been in the mid-30s since dropping 10 places in 2010.
Colorado’s outlook has slipped.
“The economic outlook for all (Colorado’s) competitor states except New Mexico surpassed Colorado in 2013 and 2014,” the report says.
The big categories are economic vitality, innovation, taxes, livability, K-12 education, higher education, health, infrastructure and international.
The overall infrastructure index from the Beacon Hill Institute puts New Mexico 42nd in 2013 after a bump to 22nd in 2008. The index measures “concentration of mobile phones, access to high-speed broadband, air travel, worker commute times and access to an affordable cost of living.”
Getting federal money for highways is a place where New Mexico does well. The criteria seem to be few people and much land. New Mexico is 11th in per capita federal highway money (Alaska is first, Wyoming is second) and seventh in “highway performance,” according to the Reason Foundation. This measure leaves unexplained the nine-figure gap between available money and what the Department of Transportation would like to build and fix.
Health is another matter. We are 48th in the percentage of the population with health insurance. For registered nurses per 100,000 people, we are 43rd, not good but a six-place improvement since 2008.
Subsidized energy is big. New Mexico is fourth in installed solar energy. Colorado is sixth. Colorado is 10th in wind with New Mexico 18th.
Population growth rate reflects the decisions of many people. Our neighbors live in the top 10 — Utah is second, Colorado third, Texas fourth, Arizona eighth, and New Mexico almost last at 48th.
People moving here come to the state with the ninth-highest per capita state government spending. Our low property tax status disappears when comparing the largest city in each state. New Mexico, i.e., Albuquerque, is 25th. Only California and Minnesota claim higher business taxes than New Mexico.
“New Mexico’s top corporate income tax rate and its higher sales, gross receipts, and excise tax burdens are challenges,” the report says.
“Challenges” is the report’s double-speak word for “problems.”