Rio Grande Foundation

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Rio Grande Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit think tank located in New Mexico that focuses on informing residents of the importance of individual freedom, limited government and economic opportunity. The Foundation maintains a website, a blog, and regularly contributes opinion pieces to local newspapers. The foundation also publishes studies related to state economic policy.

On May 1, 2008, the Rio Grande Foundation teamed with the New Mexico Prosperity Project to host a public luncheon with John Stossel at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid.[1] Stossel spoke to the attendees concerning excessive government regulation of business and excessive government spending.


Paul Gessing became the first full-time President of the Rio Grande Foundation in March 2006. Prior to joining the Foundation, Gessing headed up the lobbying efforts of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a respected taxpayer-advocacy organization in Washington, DC.

Transparency projects

New Mexico Votes is a website sponsored by RGF that will record information and voting records for New Mexico's legislature. Its mission is to provide "instant access to concise, plain language and objective descriptions of every single bill, amendment, and vote that takes place in the New Mexico legislature." Additionally, "it is searchable by legislator, keyword, and 50 subject categories, so users can create their own custom 'voting record guide.'"[2]

Policy goals

The Rio Grande Foundation researches issues of government policy and educates the public on many government reform measures. Some areas of government reform the Foundation advocates are limited taxation and reduced government spending, education reform through school choice by means of tax credits or school vouchers, and the preservation of liberties protected by the United States Constitution, such as supporting the rights of property owners against wanton government seizure.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Political involvement

Opposition to Albuquerque streetcar

On November 6, 2006, members of the Albuquerque City Council voted to extend the Transportation Infrastructure Tax until 2020. The tax was initially set to expire in 2009. Half of the funds levied through the extended tax were intended to be diverted to a streetcar project, which was supported by several councilors, as well as Mayor Martin Chavez. The cost of the first phase of the project was estimated at $270 million.[9]

The Rio Grande Foundation helped organize a group of concerned citizens called Stop Wasting Albuquerque's Taxes (SWAT). Members of SWAT felt that the existing city bus system met transportation needs and that a streetcar project would be a severe waste of taxpayers' money. SWAT also questioned whether the streetcar project would boost the property values of citizens connected with the city government, at the expense of the city's populace. Mayor Martin Chavez called SWAT an "illegal group" because it didn't register with the city government.[9]

On November 19, 2006, the Rio Grande Foundation and SWAT held a rally to voice opposition to the streetcar project.[10] City Transit Director Greg Payne attended the rally, but refused to defend the streetcar project.[9] Following the rally, city councilors and Mayor Chavez quietly began delaying their previously speedy plans for the streetcar.[11]

Protection against eminent domain

On March 7, 2006, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson vetoed House Bill 746, a measure intended to limit the seizure of private property through eminent domain. He became the nation's first governor to veto legislation intended to protect property owners after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London (2005) that the government could seize property for private use through eminent domain.[12]

House Bill 746 specified that the state could not transfer property between private parties within five years of its initial seizure. By vetoing this bill, Governor Richardson was upholding the provisions of New Mexico's 1979 Metropolitan Redevelopment Code, which allowed for the seizure of private property for economic development. After his veto, the Governor appointed a task force to recommend solutions to the eminent domain provision in the Metropolitan Redevelopment Code.

Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing published opinion pieces on the Heartland Institute's website and in the Albuquerque Journal, condemning Governor Richardson's veto of House Bill 746.[8][12]

Subsequently, the governor's task force found that there was need for reform in the state's eminent domain law.[13] On April 3, 2007, both houses of the state legislature passed laws to remove the eminent domain provision from the Metropolitan Redevelopment Code.[14][15]