Q&A: House District 20 candidate Jim Dines

  • NAME: Jim Dines
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
  • OCCUPATION: Retired-attorney in private civil practice for 39 years; represented clients throughout New Mexico. I operated my own law firm of several attorneys for 24 years, creating jobs, meeting payroll, and working within a budget.
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: As a two-term legislator I am continuing my policy of not accepting lobbyist or political action (PAC) money and do not accept free gifts or free meals. I have the ability to work with both parties and as a result last year I received the Spirit of Bipartisanship Award from New Mexico First.
  • EDUCATION: University of New Mexico undergraduate degree (1969); University of New Mexico law degree (1972)
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.votejimdines.com

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

New Mexico’s current and future growth depends on diversifying our economy by making our state more business friendly. Other Western states economies have grown through cooperation of the stakeholders. I would return the trades and crafts programs to our educational system so we can develop better trained future employees.

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

We must close the “revolving door” for criminals while reforming our criminal justice system. The current system is too slow. Knowledge of “swift and certain” justice is a deterrent to repeated criminal activity. Substantial funding increases and improvements are needed for our behavioral health/substance abuse services.

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?

I have supported and voted for several increases in the state’s education budget for early childhood services and other areas of need. The proposal for annually reducing the Fund, especially without a detailed plan, is a short-sighted “fix” which will become a recurring “fix” for this and other programs.

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

Oppose. Medical research is still inconclusive about the effects of marijuana use in areas including health, driver/pedestrian safety and in a recent medical study the impact on child development. Unresolved issues with adverse effects are still present in Colorado. Legalizing marijuana simply for tax revenues is not sound policy.

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

Support, however, just throwing out a figure is not sound policy. Evaluating an increase requires consideration of several factors, including whether the amount of the increase places our current New Mexico businesses in jeopardy, does it eliminate jobs, and is it phased in gradually, not increased automatically each year.

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

Focus on the amounts needed to be paid by new employees when hired. I do not support our current state workers and teachers having to pay more nor reducing the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) amounts for retirees. Use some of the increased state revenues to improve the systems’ solvency.

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

I support opening the state’s primary elections because the number of non-major party registered voters increases each year. These voters pay taxes which fund closed primary elections. I co-sponsored a bipartisan bill allowing more participation in primary elections. It unanimously passed the first committee, but then got stalled.

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.

Appealing any judge’s decision should be based upon a review of the trial record and the law. Opining by legislators without a proper review is not the standard. Currently over 40 percent of the state budget is for K-12. Increases are needed but should be based upon a comprehensive plan.

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? If you do not support using test scores, what should the teacher evaluations be base on?

I support student achievement as part of teacher evaluations, but we must continue to improve the reliability of the test scores. Our teachers are and should be treated as professionals while being evaluated, like other professionals. Thirty percent is reasonable for test scores in evaluations.

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?

Medical treatments and aid-in-dying decisions should be left to the individual who is competent to make those decisions. Sufficient legal safeguards need to be in place in order to ensure these decisions are made by an individual without undue pressure or influences from others.

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

The state’s lottery scholarship program should support itself without subsidies from other programs. The lottery scholarship program needs to generate self-sufficient funding, and if those funds are not available then adjustments need to be made to the scholarship amounts at that time.

Do you favor making New Mexico a sanctuary state?

No, I do not favor making New Mexico a “sanctuary state” as that phrase is being used today.

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

Yes, because by state law public records are presumed open with few exceptions. The public is entitled to review actions of our law enforcement officers. For 20 years I successfully fought for open government. I learned we must be cautious, if not suspicious, when government wants to keep records secret.

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 reduce the base rate? If so, which ones? If not, why?

I support having a comprehensive reform of our gross receipts tax system. An expensive study was completed recently which is suppose to provide an analysis of our system. I am reviewing the information. The bottom line is that comprehensive reform is needed, not a hit and miss approach.

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?

This year I voted for $10 million of increased funding for school safety, but that is not enough. Behavioral health and/or drug issues are the major causes in all types of violence and criminal activity. We need substantial improvement/funding to address those issues versus treating just the symptoms.

In light of recent cuts, would you support or oppose increasing funding for the University of New Mexico athletics program, even if it meant possibly reducing funding to other institutions?

UNM created this problem and students have suffered. UNM has not been transparent to the public. The budget for UNM must be based upon a comprehensive plan, accountability safeguards and transparency. Those have been missing at UNM. I will look at proposed increases or decreases based upon those requirements.

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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