Citizens for Clean Air in Apartments

New Mexicans Are Not Criminals

February 19, 1999
Submitted to local media
Contact: Scott Goold - 505.293.2504

Dennis Domrzalski (Weekly Alibi Feb. 18-24) provided an insightful review of New Mexico's auto insurance challenges in, "'No Pay, No Play' Gets Dumped." Yet there is more to this story. I am from Idaho. The day that I moved to New Mexico, my auto insurance rates doubled. This had nothing to do with my driving record, which is excellent, it was due only to the relocation.

Idaho and New Mexico are similar in many ways. Both have nearly 1.5 million citizens. They are generally rural populations with few urban centers. Cost of living is significantly higher in New Mexico, but the medium family income for Idaho residents is higher, $28,987 to $26,805. As such New Mexicans are relatively poorer than my fellow potato heads. U.S. Census figures report that 21.6% of New Mexico's citizens live below the poverty line compared to only 12.5% in Idaho.

I called my former Idaho insurance agent to compare figures. To begin a new policy in Idaho (minimal coverage required by law) costs $253 per six months. The similar policy in New Mexico runs $400 per six months.

Mr. Domrzalski is incorrect on a couple points. He states the uninsured hurt the insured by "making them pay twice for insurance." Idaho residents buy uninsured and underinsured protection as well. For a six-month policy, Idaho residents pay $23 compared to the $70 that New Mexicans pay. While this protection is three times higher in New Mexico, it does not account for the discrepancy in insurance plans.

Idaho has a significant problem with uninsured motorists as well. An estimated 40% of Idaho residents do not maintain legal minimum coverage. A recent local news story reported approximately 50% of New Mexicans do not carry the legal minimum of insurance.

Fifty percent of New Mexico's population is therefore, as Domrzalski states, criminals. I believe the people of New Mexico are good. They do not prefer to be law breakers. They are just poor. Domrzalski states that the "vast majority of New Mexicans support Johnson's 'No Pay, No Play' bill." This is not true. Johnson's plan serves only to add more suffering to those who have already suffered enough. Johnson has again demonstrated his insensitivity to people in general.

Domrzalski is correct regarding his analysis of trial lawyers and their lobbyists. He should include insurance companies as well. These are the individuals making a killing in New Mexico. Legislate for ceilings on liability settlements and attorney's fees. Insurance companies will not have to pay out as much; insurance will cost less; and more people will comply with the law.

By the way, my wife and I recently became homeowners. As such the minimum legal coverage for my car is no longer $400 per six months, it is $158. New Mexico laws and policies continually favor the wealthy. The people of New Mexico are not criminals - they are just poor.

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