Q&A: Governor candidate Steve Pearce

  • NAME: Steve Pearce
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
  • OCCUPATION: U.S. Representative
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Hobbs, NM
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Vietnam veteran, combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force; Small business owner, Hobbs NM; New Mexico State Representative; U.S. Representative
  • EDUCATION: BA, New Mexico State University, MBA, Eastern New Mexico University
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.PearceForNM.com

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

a. Put my business experience to work diversifying the economy — growing a Silicon Mesa for hi-tech industry and health care paired with light manufacturing and developing rural opportunities like hydroponic farms.

b. Train a skilled workforce with apprenticeship programs to attract more businesses and fill the jobs we have.

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

a. First, get hardened criminals off the streets and into prison. Support police and change laws to keep the worst behind bars.

b. Second, stop recycling criminals. When they are paroled, we will find them a job and a place to live. That is the best time to help them.

New Mexico now spends about $300 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?

Although I will continue current early childhood programs, I do not support raiding the permanent fund. A raid will jeopardize our bond ratings and escalate our state budget problems. We need to do more for children’s education on many fronts and that will require money, but not from this source.

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

I support our medical marijuana program. I oppose legalization of recreational marijuana. Almost one out of every 2 people is on Medicaid and other forms of public assistance. Expanding drug use is not the answer — we need to focus on getting New Mexicans back into the workforce.

Do you support or oppose raising New Mexico’s minimum wage, currently $7.50 per hour? If so, by how much?

We need to increase wages, but raising the minimum wage hurts the people we are trying to help. Minimum wage is the point at which unskilled workers enter the job force. Raising that wage will replace starting jobs with kiosks or cause the companies to close, cut jobs, or move.

What steps would you propose taking to ensure the future solvency of New Mexico’s two public retirement systems? Would you support making state workers and teachers pay more into the pension funds?

Everything is on the table and the pain will be shared by taxpayers and government employees. We will preserve benefits for those at or near retirement. End pensions for politicians. New employees will need a new plan. My opponent’s plan was characterized by newspapers as a “path to bankruptcy.”

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

As someone the establishment has often opposed I am nervous of a system that gives party insiders too much control. Also more and more people understandably feel distant from political parties. I think it’s time that we examine opening up the process if we can get more people to participate.

Do you support or oppose appealing a state judge’s recent decision that said New Mexico has fallen short of meeting its constitutional requirement to provide a sufficient education to all students? And what percentage of the state budget, in your opinion, should go toward K-12 public schools?

  • The judge was right: our schools are broken, badly managed and falling short. I propose shifting money into classrooms, letting teachers focus on teaching and holding administrators accountable for managing resources more effectively. A percentage answer alone doesn’t work. We must change the system, allowing teachers to focus on students.
  • Do you support or oppose the current policy of including student test scores as part of teacher evaluations? If you support the policy, what percentage of the evaluation should the test scores account for?

    I will immediately suspend the current teacher evaluation system and bring together education stakeholders from throughout New Mexico — including teachers — to formulate, within 3 months, a new system that treats teachers fairly while providing our school districts and parents with an accurate picture of their effectiveness in educating our children.

    Do you support or oppose updating the current prohibition in the law on assisted suicide in order to allow aid-in-dying under certain medical circumstances?

    I do not support assisted suicide. A patient near death is an understandable emotional situation, but history and morality teach us the government should not encourage patients to commit suicide. I will also guarantee conscience protection for doctors who do not want to assist in suicides.

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

    The lottery program is a means to cost-effective tuition for families that might not otherwise have a chance at college. We should work to sustain it. But a major problem is skyrocketing costs. I’ll ensure our higher education system better manages costs while giving graduates a pathway to quality jobs.

    Do you favor making New Mexico a sanctuary state?

    No. An illegal alien who commits a violent crime shouldn’t be turned loose from jail.

    We have a major immigration problem that needs respectful solutions but a sanctuary state is not the right answer. We need to secure our borders and reform legal immigration with a functioning guest worker program.

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

    Transparency in the long run is good for society. We need be careful that the rush to release information does not compromise individual rights and ongoing investigations. There should be a clear, standard process that is followed that includes judicial oversight to make this information public in a timely manner.

    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?

    Our tax code is a mess and needs revision. There is no easy fix. I will work in bipartisan way with the legislature to make a fairer, simpler GRT with a lower base rate. This must be done in a revenue neutral way to protect our economy and budget.

    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?

    Every school can immediately implement a process to control entry into the school. Additionally, I would have acoustic sensors, metal detectors and remote locking of corridors. Each school needs trained security personnel and expanded mental health counseling. I will also make sure law enforcement and others react to warning signs.

    Personal background

    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.

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