- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s economy is losing potential business because of a lingering perception of corruption and cronyism in its government, according to a new report.

A report from University of New Mexico researchers released Thursday indicates that business leaders believe some companies already curry government and bureaucratic favors, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican (http://bit.ly/1NDXnc7).

UNM political science professor Michael Rocca, who led the team of researchers and grad students, says cronyism matters as much as infrastructure and education when businesses decide where to expand or relocate.

The report suggests changes such as creating a statewide ethics commission, having greater transparency in campaign financing and closely reviewing tax breaks for businesses.

“These are simple and straightforward (measures) that would put us on the path right now,” Rocca said.

The report says the state’s citizen legislature creates a need for interest group expertise, increasing lobbying activity. New Mexico stands alone in paying legislators only a daily stipend for expenses.

The state’s top employers, including UNM and Los Alamos National Laboratory, are all government or government-supported entities.

“New Mexico state government is big, active and a vital participant in the state economy,” the report says. “This opens the door to crony capitalistic behavior because firms have an incentive to enter the political process to gain government and bureaucratic favors. . Economic actors are drawn to interest-group politics, where groups are rewarded for political connections rather than economic productivity or merit.”

The Committee for Economic Development policy group and the Thornburg Foundation in Santa Fe collaborated with Rocca on the project. Committee executive vice president Michael Petro says this is a national push to reverse distrust in democracy and capitalism.

“We’re concerned there has been some things that have occurred over these last few years that people’s trust in capitalism has been diminished. If you listen to this presidential campaign, you’re hearing a chorus of negativity, and a lot of that is being directed toward capitalism.”

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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