NM House District 22 candidate Merritt Allen
- NAME: Merritt Hamilton Allen
- POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
- OCCUPATION: CEO, Vox Optima LLC
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Tijeras
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: U.S. Naval Officer, 1991-1999. Director of Communications of CES, Inc., 1999-2005. Founder/owner/chief executive, Vox Optima, LLC, 2005-present. Founding partner, Omnivox, LLC, 2009-present. Founding President, Capital Chapter, Women in Defense.
- EDUCATION: Silver High School, Silver City, N.M.; B.A., Economics, University of Notre Dame.
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: merritt4nm.com
What are the top two things you would do to improve the economy in New Mexico ?
First, reform gross receipts tax by eliminating loopholes to lower tax rates and fairly assess taxes. Next, we must develop a capable workforce. A 71% high school graduation rate is not acceptable; we are denying our own children the chance to enter the workforce with the most basic skills.
What are the top two things you would propose to address the state’s high crime rate ?
We have to attract and retain law enforcement officers. We are competing with other Southwestern cities for talent; we need incentives to keep our best officers. We must also ensure that DA offices and public defenders’ offices have sufficient resources to process criminal charges – we can’t let offenders walk because of process problems.
How would you address the state’s high DWI rate ?
Continue the interlock program and increase sobriety checkpoints. The top two measures that reduce DWI, according to MADD, are ignition interlocks and sobriety checkpoints. Our statistics show that in the last ten years, over 60,000 ignition starts have been stopped by interlocks, with over 8,000 stops in 2016.
New Mexico now spends about $270 million a year for early childhood programs, such as home visiting, pre-kindergarten and child care assistance. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would withdraw more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood services ?
Oppose any withdrawal from state permanent funds before they reach maturity.
Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales ?
I need more information and better understanding of this issue and its ramifications. I understand the position and the reasons that some folks advocate for recreational marijuana. I want to see more about how other states handle this, and more about the science of its ill-effects and its positive effects.
Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party ?
Do you support or oppose raising New Mexico’s minimum wage, currently $7. 50 per hour? If so, by how much ?
Oppose. When we are lagging behind neighboring states in employment and economic growth, it’s counterintuitive to make it more expensive to create new jobs.
Do you support or oppose basing any percentage of a teacher’s performance evaluation on student test scores ? Explain.
Under the current evaluation system, oppose. It’s too decentralized and does not allow local districts sufficient discretion and input.
Do you support merit bonuses for teachers who do well on their evaluations? Do you believe unions should have the authority to block such bonuses ?
I support merit pay for teachers that includes local administrator and school district inputs. I do not believe unions have the right to block incentives for their members.
Do you think having 32 state institutions of higher education is too many? What would you propose to make higher education more efficient ?
As we deal with lower enrollments across our higher education system, we have to consider all options to maintain an effective and affordable system. With distance learning and other technological advances, we can reach more students without building more campuses.
How should the state’s lottery scholarship program be kept solvent into the future ?
Eliminate the 30% scholarship mandate on ticket sales that reduces prize amounts. Next, raise the academic standards from a 2. 5 GPA to 3.0. Finally, promote starting the higher education journey at the community college level, which allows our students to get the basic requirements completed at a lower cost.
Do you support or oppose making New Mexico a so-called right-to-work state, by changing state labor laws so that nonunion employees would not have to pay union fees as a condition of employment ?
Do you favor making New Mexico a sanctuary state ?
No. We can’t begin to address immigration without holding state and local governments, and employers, accountable for upholding the law.
If an Ethics Commission is approved by voters, at what point do you think ethics complaints should become public ?
The fact that this had to go to the voters after a decade of stonewalling by the NM Senate Democrats is one of the reasons I am running. The Ethics Commission will be the ones to set public release policy after formation, and should take public comment before doing so.
Do you believe the initial police incident reports and videos of arrests and crime scenes should be public ?
That is a policy that needs to be outlined in very specific detail and developed with public input. I oppose any information release that would put victims or ongoing investigations at risk.
The state faces balloon payments on its Rail Runner debt in 2025 and 2026, a federal requirement for tens of millions of dollars in safety upgrades for the train, and declining ridership. On the other hand, the train is popular with the commuters who rely on it, and the Rail Runner may seek federal funding for the safety changes. Do you support continuing operation of the Rail Runner ?
Yes. The financing of the Rail Runner is regrettable, but abandoning transportation infrastructure is regressive and harmful to the state.
Do you favor imposing a gross receipts tax on all internet sales ?
Most internet retailers already pay GRT. Amazon, the world’s largest, does not. Amazon should not have a tax advantage over local small businesses. To enact comprehensive tax reform, we will have to eliminate most GRT loopholes. I am optimistic that doing so will result in an overall lower tax rate.
New Mexico has more than 100 exemptions and deductions in its gross receipts tax system. Would you favor eliminating some or all of them as part of an attempt to lower the base rate? If so, which ones? If not, why ?
I do not support eliminating exemptions for charitable non-profits, and citizens on public assistance should not pay tax on food. I support eliminating most other exemptions. This should result in a lower overall tax rate.
What would you support to make New Mexico schools safer? Would that include changing New Mexico’s gun laws? If so, what specific changes to the gun laws would you support ?
The STOP School Violence Act of 2018 provides continued federal funding for school safety. I’d like to see NM use these funds – and for PED to kick in as well – to improve evidence-based training programs, increase the number of School Resource Officers, and improve physical security in our schools.
Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens ? The state incorrectly assessed my husband’s business revenue (by nearly 10-fold) and filed a lien against the business in 2017. It was resolved without penalty after he demonstrated the state’s assessment of his income was incorrect.
Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding ? No.
Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state ? If so, explain. No.