NM House District 40 candidate Paula Garcia

  • NAME: Paula Garcia
  • OCCUPATION: Executive Director, NM Acequia Association
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Mora County Commissioner for two terms, 6 years as Chairwoman (current); Executive Director of New Mexico Acequia Association for 20 years; President of NM Association of Counties; Chairwoman of the USDA Minority Farmers Advisory Committee.
  • EDUCATION: Some college, undergraduate studies at University of New Mexico.
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: paulagarcia.com

What are the top two things you would do to improve the economy in New Mexico ?

First, we need to improve educational and economic opportunities for youth and young families. Education, from pre-K through college and university education, should be better funded and aligned with economic development opportunities in the state. Secondly, we need to diversify our economy with home-grown industries in renewable energy, high-tech, and value-added agriculture.

What are the top two things you would propose to address the state’s high crime rate ?

Resources are needed for recruitment and retention of qualified rural law enforcement officers with competitive wages and for enforcement of existing laws against habitual offenders by prosecutors. Just as importantly, New Mexico must address the root causes of crime, including the problem of substance abuse, with resources for prevention and treatment.

How would you address the state’s high DWI rate ?

Our state must rigorously enforce our DWI laws through the prosecution of DWI offenses, particularly of repeat offenders. Data on effective prosecution should be the basis of determining if stiffer penalties are needed. The state should support drug courts and treatment for substance abuse to rehabilitate repeat offenders.

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 ?

Quality early childhood education is a good investment in New Mexico’s future. I support using a small percentage of the LGPF to fund well-planned early childhood programs in New Mexico.

Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales ?

I support medicinal cannabis and I support decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis. I would consider legislation on legalization and taxation based on data on successful implementation from other states including economic and public health impacts.

Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party ?

Voting rights are a cornerstone of our democracy and opening primaries to non-affiliated voters may increase voter engagement. Some 40% of registered voters 18-24 are not members of either major party. Open primaries may help improve turnout of younger voters. For this reason, I lean toward supporting open primaries.

Do you support or oppose raising New Mexico’s minimum wage, currently $7. 50 per hour? If so, by how much ?

Increasing the minimum wage is one of the most direct ways to support working families. I support increasing the minimum wage in New Mexico to $10 per hour by 2020 and $13 by 2023 to bring New Mexico in line with Colorado and Arizona.

Do you support or oppose basing any percentage of a teacher’s performance evaluation on student test scores ? Explain.

Student scores are affected by many factors other than teacher performance during a given school year and I do not believe teacher performance should be based on test scores. Teacher evaluations should be developed in collaboration between teachers and administrators.

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 salary scales for teachers that are based on objective metrics such as certifications and time of service. The concept of merit pay could lead to more subjective forms of evaluation teachers.

Do you think having 32 state institutions of higher education is too many? What would you propose to make higher education more efficient ?

Many of our institutions of higher education are written into the constitution and they are important in their respective communities. To make higher education more efficient, there could be more collaboration on degree programs, transferability of credits, accountability measures, and student support services to improve graduation rates.

How should the state’s lottery scholarship program be kept solvent into the future ?

Measures may be needed to align the scope of support provided to the amount of resources available, especially if tuition rates continue to increase. A combination of additional revenue streams and creative ways to adapt the program, such as needs-based criteria, would be measures the legislature should consider.

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 ?

I support collective bargaining by unions because it is the way for workers to negotiate for better wages and working conditions. Therefore, I would not support any changes in state law making New Mexico a so-called right-to-work state.

Do you favor making New Mexico a sanctuary state ?

Being an undocumented immigrant is not a crime. If a law enforcement agent detains an immigrant who is cleared of criminal activity, that person should not be detained by local or state law enforcement for federal immigration authorities. This is often referred to as “safe cities” or “sanctuary.”

If an Ethics Commission is approved by voters, at what point do you think ethics complaints should become public ?

I strongly support creation of an Ethics Commission. The laws governing a commission should provide transparency while addressing due process rights of alleged violators. A complaint should no longer be confidential after the Commission has determined there is a reasonable ground that a complaint is well-founded and not frivolous.

Do you believe the initial police incident reports and videos of arrests and crime scenes should be public ?

Our public policies regarding police reports and videos should be based on transparency and accountability. Reports and videos should be made public within a reasonable timeframe while balancing with the need for law enforcement or prosecutors to edit or redact records to protect privacy of victims or witnesses.

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 ?

Public transportation and mass transit are important to our state. Provided resources are available, I would seriously consider continued operation of the Rail Runner. However, I also believe the state should invest equitably so that small towns and rural areas have access to public transportation as well.

Do you favor imposing a gross receipts tax on all internet sales ?

New Mexico needs a fair tax system with a level playing field for those with “bricks and mortar” in New Mexico and those who sell products in the state over the internet. This would generate revenue and create more fairness between local and out-of-state businesses.

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 ?

New Mexico needs tax reform and lowering the base rate may help to recruit businesses. Exemptions are a tool to provide incentives but only if businesses can demonstrate job creation. Those not meeting certain criteria may need to be eliminated while others that are contributing to economic growth may be retained.

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 ?

I support school safety measures including improved security, surveillance and centralized ingress and egress. I support common sense gun laws such as closing loopholes on background checks, requiring waiting periods, regulating assault rifles, limiting the number of weapons purchased at one time and keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens ? No.

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.