Think New Mexico

A Results-Oriented Think Tank Serving New Mexicans

Santa Fe, NM   |  www.thinknewmexico.org

Mission

Think New Mexico is a results-oriented think tank whose mission is to improve the lives of all New Mexicans, especially those who lack a strong voice in the political process. We fulfill this mission by educating the public, the media, and policymakers about some of the most serious challenges facing New Mexico and by developing and advocating for effective, comprehensive, sustainable solutions to overcome those challenges. Our approach is to perform and publish sound, nonpartisan, independent research. Unlike many think tanks, Think New Mexico does not subscribe to any particular ideology. Instead, because New Mexico is at or near the bottom of so many national rankings, our focus is on promoting workable solutions.

Notes from the nonprofit

We believe that nonprofits should be measured by the social return they produce from the investments they receive each year. For example, since Think New Mexico's income in 1999 was $109,499, the $135 million appropriated annually to provide full-day kindergarten to over 26,000 children means that our investors continue to receive social dividends of approximately $1,230 for every $1 invested in Think New Mexico's initial full-day kindergarten project.

Ruling year info

1998

Executive Director

Mr. Fred Nathan

Main address

1227 Paseo De Peralta

Santa Fe, NM 87501 USA

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EIN

31-1611995

NTEE code info

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (W05)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (W01)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (R05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Think New Mexico was founded with the goal of advancing New Mexico in some of the rankings where we currently place at or near the bottom of the nation. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans.

While narrow special interests tend to be well-represented in the policy-making (and rule-making) process, issues that affect all New Mexico families (like repealing the food tax) tend not to be, simply because everyday New Mexicans cannot afford to hire high-powered lobbyists to represent them. These underrepresented New Mexicans benefit most from Think New Mexico's work.

As the only organization of its kind in the state, Think New Mexico fills a critical need by developing and advocating for essential policy reforms that would otherwise lack an effective champion.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Food Tax Repeal

In 2001, Think New Mexico launched a campaign to repeal New Mexico's food tax. At that time, New Mexico was one of only nine states that continued to fully tax the sale of food (today that number has dwindled to two: Mississippi and Alabama). The food tax, which was first enacted as a temporary, emergency measure during the Great Depression, was extremely regressive, burdened working families, and worsened the state's hunger problem. Think New Mexico’s bipartisan legislation to abolish the food tax came extremely close to passing in the 2002 legislative session, but ran out of time at the very end.

In 2004, Think New Mexico successfully championed legislation repealing the taxes on groceries and selected medical services. In late 2009, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce proposed that New Mexico reimpose the tax on food as an alternative to raising corporate or personal income taxes. A reimposition of the city and county portion of the food tax, which would have taken over $250 a year out of the pockets of the average family of four, was included in an omnibus tax package that passed the legislature during the 2010 session. However, Think New Mexico persuaded Governor Richardson to line-item veto it, keeping groceries tax-free in New Mexico. In 2013 the Senate Finance Committee included a reimposition of the food tax in another large tax package, but Think New Mexico and our allies launched a grassroots and media campaign against it, and the food tax was removed from the final version of the bill. We continue to actively monitor this issue and resist efforts to tax the fruits, vegetables, and baby foods on which New Mexico families depend.

More information available at: http://www.thinknewmexico.org/food-tax-repeal/

Population(s) Served

New Mexico ranks third highest in the nation for the percentage of seniors living in poverty (12.2%), according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and this percentage will likely grow in the coming years, as two out of three private sector workers in the state have no money saved for retirement, and 80% have less than $10,000 saved.

In 2019, Think New Mexico launched a new initiative designed to enhance retirement security for all New Mexicans. This initiative proposes three major reforms that will put money back in the pockets of today’s retirees and ensure that more seniors in the future will have adequate savings to enjoy their retirement. First, repeal the state’s income tax on Social Security benefits. New Mexico is currently one of only 13 states that taxes Social Security, and it costs the average senior $700 a year. Second, ensure that every private sector worker in the state has access to a retirement savings account that they can contribute to through automatic payroll deductions. The research shows that workers are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they can contribute to a retirement plan using automatic payroll deductions. Yet two out of every three private sector workers – 336,000 New Mexicans – lack access to a retirement savings plan through their jobs. Think New Mexico's legislation would give those workers access to a state-managed IRA, similar to a 529 college savings plan, that they can contribute to using automatic payroll deductions. Finally, stabilize New Mexico’s public pensions by consolidating their investment management and increasing the qualifications required to serve on the state's pension oversight boards (currently, no member of the PERA board, which oversees $15.8 billion, is required to have any experience or expertise in financial or investment management). Think New Mexico is currently championing the enactment of legislation to implement our recommended reforms.

More information available at: http://www.thinknewmexico.org/retirement-security/

Population(s) Served
Seniors

New Mexico's latest infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state poor grades in categories ranging from drinking water and flood control systems to roads and bridges. Meanwhile, Governing magazine has repeatedly given New Mexico the second worst score in the nation for its system of financing infrastructure projects, a system that essentially consists of individual legislators selecting projects for their districts with no statewide planning or prioritization. This has resulted in the underfunding of major projects which are delayed for years or never completed due to insufficient funds -- while the funds allocated to them sit idle. In addition, the process has become so politicized that the legislature has frequently had to reconvene in expensive special sessions to pass infrastructure funding bills that died during the regular sessions as a result of what one newspaper article termed "a cloud of partisan bickering and finger-pointing." Many other states have developed strategies that drain the politics out of infrastructure spending, such as having a neutral commission analyze the statewide needs and direct the dollars to priority projects. Interestingly, New Mexico itself has created an independent council to prioritize and fund public school infrastructure projects, and this process has successfully improved the condition of the state’s schools.

In 2015, Think New Mexico published a policy report making the case for replacing the state’s dysfunctional process for funding public works with a transparent, merit-based system. We distributed copies of this report to about 15,000 opinion leaders, members of the public, and media organizations. We are now advocating for the enactment of our proposed reforms with state policymakers.

More information available at: http://www.thinknewmexico.org/capital-outlay-reform/

Population(s) Served
Adults

Although the New Mexico Lottery was created to "provide the maximum amount of revenues" for full-tuition scholarships at public colleges and universities in New Mexico, in 2006 it was only delivering about 23% of revenues to the scholarship fund. At the same time, the demand for scholarships was rapidly outpacing the available funding, and the Higher Education Department projected that the scholarship fund would fact an $18 million deficit by 2011, when the cost of the scholarships would to exceed lottery revenues and current cash reserves would be depleted.

In September 2006, Think New Mexico proposed a strategy for increasing the dollars available to scholarships: require that the lottery return 30% of every dollar to the scholarship fund, just as state law already required 50% be returned to players as prizes. Think New Mexico released a report recommending that the lottery cut its disproportionately high operating and administrative costs (fifth highest in the nation in 2005) and re-allocate those savings to scholarships.

In 2007, the New Mexico legislature and governor enacted a law guaranteeing that at least 30% of lottery revenues must go to the scholarship fund. However, many of those additional dollars came at the expense of the multinational gaming companies that contract with the lottery, and these corporations have hired teams of high-powered lobbyists to make repeated attempts to repeal our reform law. Think New Mexico continues working to defend it. The 30% guarantee has resulted in an additional $9 million a year for scholarships.

More information available at: http://www.thinknewmexico.org/lottery-reform/

Population(s) Served
Adults

Along with being a think tank with a solid track record of producing results, Think New Mexico strives to be a leadership development organization that retains a new generation of potential leaders in New Mexico and trains them to develop and enact sound public policy. Through Think New Mexico’s Leadership Internship program, we provide unique training to college and graduate students from New Mexico who are interested in public policy and dedicated to making a difference in their home state. During the internship, we provide students with the opportunity to meet current and former state leaders and we involve them in the research and development of policy reform proposals and legislation.

More information available at: http://www.thinknewmexico.org/internships/

Population(s) Served
Students

According to a 2014 study by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, New Mexico ranks last in the nation for health care affordability and access. Health care spending has soared in recent years, and New Mexicans are paying more and more out of pocket for their health care as employers and families increasingly shift to high-deductible insurance plans. Yet the lack of information on health care cost and quality makes it impossible for New Mexicans to shop around for the most affordable, highest quality care. Fourteen other states, including Colorado, Arizona, and Utah, have already created health care transparency websites, and another five states are in the process of creating them. In addition, ending price discrimination has helped control health care costs in the state of Maryland since the 1970s.

In 2014, Think New Mexico researched and published a policy report proposing legislation to increase the transparency of health care price and quality information and outlaw price discrimination, the situation in which patients at the same hospital receiving the same treatment from the same doctor are charged different prices depending on who is paying the bills.

During the 2015 legislative session, Think New Mexico successfully championed the passage of bipartisan legislation to create a user-friendly website where New Mexicans will be able to easily find information on hospital prices and quality. We are now working to ensure the successful implementation of the health care transparency website, and Think New Mexico's Associate Director Kristina Fisher has been appointed to serve on the advisory committee to assist the Department of Health with the implementation process. The first phase of the website is now live at: http://nmhealthcarecompare.com/

More information available at: http://www.thinknewmexico.org/health-care-affordability/

Population(s) Served
Adults

This initiative aims to improve the state’s school system by reallocating over $100 million from school district central administration to the classroom. Think New Mexico studied some of the state’s most successful school districts and found that they tend to spend a high proportion of their budgets on classroom expenses, such as teachers, principals, coaches, counselors, nurses, educational assistants, and school supplies, rather than on administrative expenses in the central district office.

Learning from the example of these successful districts, Think New Mexico recommends that the legislature and governor enact a law limiting the growth of school district and charter school administrative spending to no faster than the CPI (which increased by an average of 1.7% a year over the past decade). Classroom spending would not be limited, so in good budget years, when additional resources are available for schools, the vast majority of that funding will make it to the classroom where the learning takes place. Think New Mexico is currently working to win passage of legislation implementing our proposed reforms.

More information available at: http://www.thinknewmexico.org/maximize-dollars-to-the-classroom/

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

New Mexico has a small loan store for every 3,819 residents (by comparison, there is one McDonald’s restaurant for every 23,298 New Mexicans). The concentration of predatory lenders in New Mexico is due in large part to the fact that our state allows small loan companies to charge interest rates as high as 175% annually, one of the highest rates allowed in any state – five times higher than the national average.

In 2020, Think New Mexico launched a new initiative that seeks to cut the state’s maximum annual interest rate on small loans from 175% to 36%. This reform is consistent with the laws in a growing number of states. In just the last five years, Montana, South Dakota, and Virginia capped annual interest rates on small loans at 36%. In addition, in 2006, Congress passed the Military Lending Act, which capped the cost of credit provided to military families at 36%. This federal law already protects 17,741 active duty, national guard, and reserve members in New Mexico from high-interest predatory loans.

In order to not just protect New Mexicans from predatory lenders but also empower them with the tools to better their financial situations, Think New Mexico recommends making a course in financial literacy or personal finance a high school graduation requirement and adding it to the state’s education standards. Seventeen states, including several of New Mexico’s neighbors, have enacted this reform in the last decade and are already seeing positive results. New Mexico currently ranks 47th for overall financial literacy according to the online personal finance website WalletHub. Since 2008, financial literacy has been offered as an elective in New Mexico’s high schools, but only about 10% of eligible students currently enroll in the course.

Think New Mexico is currently championing legislation to enact our reforms.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adults
Social and economic status

Where we work

Awards

Nonprofit of the Year Honoree 2013

Albuquerque Business First

Spirit of Bipartisanship-Good Government Award 2013

New Mexico First

John Gaw Meem Pinon Award for Civic Affairs 2005

Santa Fe Community Foundation

Working for the Best in Government Award 2003

Common Cause New Mexico

One of "Ten Who Made a Difference" 2000

Santa Fe New Mexican

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The ultimate goal of Think New Mexico's work is to win passage of significant public policy reforms that improve the lives of all New Mexicans. Our work is particularly focused on serving constituencies who do not have a strong voice in the political process.

Think New Mexico was founded with the idea that state-level public policy advocacy work has the potential to create lasting and sustainable change. We combine the traditional research think tank model with focused advocacy work. So rather than simply issuing white papers, Think New Mexico's staff drafts legislation, recruits legislative sponsors, builds coalitions, garners earned media, and advocates with policymakers on behalf of our proposed solutions.

Each year, Think New Mexico works to develop and implement a public policy solution to a specific serious problem facing the state. These problems have ranged from the need to make food more affordable for New Mexico's families to the need to keep some water in the rivers that sustain New Mexico's communities. We consider an effort to be successful when our proposed policy reform has been enacted and implemented and is helping to address the problem it was designed to solve.

In addition to being a think tank with a solid track record of producing results, Think New Mexico also strives to be a leadership development organization that retains a new generation of potential leaders in New Mexico and teaches them how to develop and enact sound public policy. Through Think New Mexico's Leadership Internship program, we provide unique training to college and graduate students from New Mexico who are interested in public policy and dedicated to making a difference here in their home state. By helping our Leadership Interns build networks and experience in the world of New Mexico policy, we encourage them to use their talents to benefit the state after they finish their studies. This addresses one of the root causes holding New Mexico back: too many of our best and brightest young people leave the state because they feel that there are too few opportunities for them here.

Think New Mexico is the only organization of its kind in the state. It is unique in two ways: first, by combining independent public policy research with grassroots advocacy, and second, by draining out the politics and taking a truly nonpartisan approach to public policy reform.

Think New Mexico's strategy for accomplishing our long-term goals begins with our bipartisan board selecting a problem for the organization to focus on. The problem must be large enough that solving it will make a positive difference in the lives of most or all New Mexicans, yet small and discrete enough that it is politically achievable. Finally, the problem must be urgent and ripe for reform, and it must be amenable to being addressed through public policy.

Once an issue is selected, Think New Mexico's staff develops a proposed policy solution based on our own thorough, independent, nonpartisan research. This solution is refined by the board and written up in a policy report that is designed to educate the public, media, and policymakers about the advantages of those solutions. That report is distributed to approximately 12,000 opinion leaders across New Mexico, and Think New Mexico uses both earned media and social media campaigns to get the message out about its policy solutions.

Next, Think New Mexico organizes a diverse, broad-based coalition of supporters to help us make the case for reform to the legislature and governor. For example, the coalition we organized in support of our smaller schools initiative included national education reform organizations like the Coalition of Essential Schools and the Rural School and Community Trust, social justice and religious organizations (like ENLACE – Engaging Latino Communities for Education and the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops), teachers unions, public health groups, and business groups.

Finally, we draft legislation to implement our proposed solution, recruit bipartisan sponsors to carry it in the legislature, and work closely with legislators and the governor to shepherd our bill through the legislative process. Once legislation implementing our solution has been enacted into law, Think New Mexico monitors the implementation to determine whether it is effectively addressing the problem, and engages in follow-up activities whenever necessary.

Think New Mexico's policy reform proposals are very ambitious undertakings. On average, only one out of every seven bills introduced actually passes the New Mexico legislature, and the odds are much steeper for bills that make significant changes to the status quo. Although we strive to achieve policy change as rapidly and efficiently as possible, we also take a long-term view. In some cases, achieving the results we desire requires taking several years and applying a variety of different approaches. Think New Mexico is committed to continuing our efforts until we reach our goals, as our track record of success reflects.

A key reason for our success is that, unlike most think tanks, Think New Mexico is led by a truly nonpartisan board, which serves as the brain trust of this think tank. Our board is composed of prominent Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, statesmen and stateswomen who have no agenda other than to see New Mexico succeed.

Think New Mexico's founding board Chair was the late Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Current members include former New Mexico Governor Garrey Carruthers (a Republican); former New Mexico Attorney General Paul Bardacke (a Democrat); Roberta Cooper Ramo, the first woman elected President of the American Bar Association and the American Law Institute; Clara Apodaca, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation; Ed Lujan, former Chairman of the New Mexico Economic Development Commission; Jackie Baca, President of Bueno Foods; Liddie Martinez, former board chair of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation; Notah Begay III, Founder of the NB3 Foundation; and LaDonna Harris, Founder and President of Americans for Indian Opportunity.

In addition to our board, Think New Mexico's core assets include its small but dedicated staff, led by Fred Nathan, Founder and Executive Director, and Kristina Fisher, Associate Director. Fred previously served as Special Counsel to Attorney General Tom Udall, where he was the architect of several successful legislative initiatives and oversaw New Mexico's $1.25 billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Kristina graduated first in her class from the University of New Mexico School of Law and is a recipient of the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Award for Excellence in Environmental Studies and the Harry S. Truman Fellowship for Leadership and Public Service.

The work of Think New Mexico's board and staff is supported by social investments from over 1,000 individuals, businesses, and local and regional foundations. Think New Mexico calls its supporters “social investors" because we believe that nonprofits should be evaluated based on the social return they produce from the grants (i.e., social investments) they receive each year. For example, since Think New Mexico's income in 1999 was $109,499, the $135 million appropriated annually to provide full-day kindergarten to over 26,000 children means that our investors continue to receive social dividends of approximately $1,230 for each dollar invested in Think New Mexico's full-day kindergarten project.

Finally, as described above, collaborative efforts with a diverse range of organizations have been crucial to Think New Mexico's success, as partnerships with other organizations have greatly increased the grassroots support and political power of each of our policy reform initiatives.

Since its founding, Think New Mexico's initiatives have resulted in the enactment of numerous landmark laws and three constitutional amendments making full-day kindergarten accessible to every child in New Mexico; repealing the state's regressive tax on groceries; creating a Strategic Water Reserve to protect and restore New Mexico's rivers; establishing New Mexico's first state-supported Individual Development Accounts, matched savings accounts where low-income families can save for homeownership, college tuition or starting a micro-enterprise; redirecting millions of dollars a year out of the state lottery's excessive operating costs and into full-tuition college scholarships; reforming title insurance to lower closing costs for homebuyers and homeowners who refinance their mortgages; streamlining and professionalizing the state's troubled Public Regulation Commission, which touches the lives of every New Mexican who pays a utility or insurance bill; creating a one-stop online portal to make New Mexico friendlier for start-ups and small businesses; and establishing a user-friendly health care transparency website where New Mexicans will be able to find the cost and quality of common medical procedures at any of the state's hospitals.

As Think New Mexico embarks upon new policy initiatives, we make use of techniques that were successful in prior projects and avoid those that proved to be unsuccessful. Because we use a similar strategy with all of our projects, the lessons we learn in one project immediately inform the projects that follow. It is our hope that with every initiative we undertake, Think New Mexico will refine its techniques so that we become more efficient at achieving positive results for the people of New Mexico.

With our Leadership Internship program, the primary outcome we desire to achieve is to mentor some of New Mexico's most talented students and give them the skills and tools they need to become leaders in their communities.

Alumni of our Leadership Internship program are already making positive impacts on New Mexico (and the world). Of the students we have worked with since 2008, three have earned Truman Scholarships, three have received Fulbright Fellowships, and one has received a Marshall Scholarship. One former intern produced a widely acclaimed documentary on preventing child abuse and neglect in New Mexico, and two went on to work for Senator Udall’s Las Cruces district office. Five of our former interns have worked as budget and policy analysts with the Legislative Finance Committee, and one was elected to the New Mexico state Senate.

Financials

Think New Mexico
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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Think New Mexico

Board of directors
as of 12/2/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Roberta Ramo

Modrall Sperling

Term: 2015 - 2018

LaDonna Harris

Americans for Indian Opportunity

Paul Bardacke

Bardacke Allison

Fred Nathan

Think New Mexico

Edward Lujan

Manuel Lujan Agencies

Garrey Carruthers

New Mexico State University

Clara Apodaca

National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation

Jacqueline Baca

Bueno Foods

Liddie Martinez

Enterprise Bank & Trust

Notah Begay III

NB3 Foundation

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? No
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 12/02/2020

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability