Dr. Lee Reynis Visits UNM MPP

Evaluation Lab News

Posted: Feb 01, 2018 - 12:00am

Lee Reynis visited UNM’s Policy Seminar class on Feburary 1st to share her experiences working as an economist and policy analyst. Dr. Reynis earned her PhD in economics from the University of Michigan and taught at the University of Utah before coming to New Mexico, where she worked in state government, served as the City Economist for Albuquerque, and then took over as the Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UNM, a position she held for 15 years. She is now retired but still active in projects for local, state and tribal governments.

Dr. Reynis walked the Policy Seminar through two issues she has done research and analysis on. One issue was the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion in New Mexico. Among the key points were that New Mexico saw enrollments far beyond what was anticipated, and that preliminary estimates of the impact to the state’s general fund between 2014 and 2021 is a net positive, that is, the state is expected to gain money in the budget as a result of accepting the Medicaid expansion. Dr. Reynis went on to explain that job growth in the medical fields had fallen short of expectations, in New Mexico as well as other Medicaid expansion states, and that a likely cause was a shortage of trained medical staff.

Dr. Reynis also shared her experience assessing the impact of the 2003 law in Santa Fe to raise the minimum wage.   The first step was to identify and speak with stakeholders in the topic, in this case business owners, minimum wage advocates and employees.  Issues raised by the stakeholders helped define the research questions.  “The most important thing was to meet with people on all sides, understand concerns and build the research plan around that,” Dr. Reynis said.  The study concluded that the Santa Fe economy absorbed the minimum wage with no discernible negative impact.  The final step in the process was to present the report at a city council meeting.  Dr. Reynis pointed out that in speaking to a general audience on such a controversial topic, it was important to be absolutely clear on findings, and suggested lots of graphics as a good way to clarify difficult points.

Finally, the class took a few minutes for general questions and discussion, particularly on the question of how to manage and prevent perceptions of bias as policy analysts. Dr. Reynis’ response was that reputation matters, and the best way to have a non-biased reputation is to do good, fair analysis