Q&A: Senate District 31 Joseph Cervantes

  • NAME: Joseph Cervantes
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democrat
  • OCCUPATION: Lawyer
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Dona Ana County
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: NM Representative 2001-2012; NM Senator 2013-2020
  • EDUCATION: BA Architecture UNM 1983; Masters Architecture Cal Poly 1985; Law Degree 1991 UNM
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: joe4nm.com

  1. What steps should the Legislature take to ensure New Mexico has a balanced budget amid falling oil prices and an economic downturn prompted by the coronavirus outbreak?

We must sustain our commitment to public education by increasing Land Grant Permanent Fund disbursements until revenues are replaced. We should immediately delay infrastructure projects, and capitalize on federal relief. We should maintain small businesses jobs through low cost state lending assistance.

  1. What more, if anything, should the Legislature do to address a court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students?

Because the ruling is non-specific about any requirements to comply with the order, legislators and the governor must bring together the opposing parties to negotiate a resolution of the lawsuit. A compromise and settlement will best serve our students.

  1. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?

Good tax policy dictates a broader application of the gross receipts tax to more transactions, and at a lower tax rate. Exempted sales should be re-evaluated and in many cases eliminated. This will produce a more reliable and diversified revenue source less vulnerable to economic downturns.

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

I passed the law decriminalizing marijuana. The 2020 bill failed because it would have created a small, insular monopoly of growers, producers and marijuana sellers. We should learn from our liquor license laws mistakes. I don’t favor financing our government by encouraging unhealthy conduct.

  1. In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and child care assistance, and created a new early childhood trust fund. 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?

The Land Grant Permanent Fund is there for specific constitutional purposes, and will now be essential to sustaining public education. With demands on the fund after now collapsing oil and business revenues, withdrawals other than for public education are unlikely in the near future.

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

Yes, but with safeguards to avoid abuse between the political parties. The number of voters unaffiliated with the two major parties continues to grow as the two parties become increasingly polarized, and fail to represent younger voters. Greater voter participation is a better goal than party preservation.

  1. Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?

Yes. Abortion decisions do not belong in the criminal code, and must not be made under the threat of prison to either a doctor or the woman making this difficult choice. I voted to repeal this criminal law in 2019 and would do so again.

  1. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding? Should each legislator be required to disclose which projects he or she funded?

Yes. I have consistently sponsored laws to completely reform spending procedures for infrastructure and other capital projects. I succeeded reforming how this was done for statewide water projects.  NM is ranked among the worst examples of process for these spending practices.

  1. Do you support or oppose requiring lobbyists to disclose which bills they advocate for or against?

Support. It is important to recognize that lobbyists are already required by law to disclose their clients and spending. Lobbyists typically appear in committees and identify themselves with all bills, and the clients they represent.  A law requiring this would simply confirm what is already done.

  1. New Mexico is highly reliant on the oil and natural gas industries to generate revenue to fund state programs, as evidenced by recent oil boom and bust cycles. What are the things you would do to diversify the state’s economy and revenue base?

NM must commit more to the success and growth of our native businesses. Too many resources are given splashy but transient job promoters, who enjoy short term incentives but then move on. We should capitalize on our unique outdoor opportunities. We should also capitalize on our shared border and international trade opportunities with Mexico.

  1. 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 support these decisions being made by doctors and their patients.

  1. Would you support or oppose a moratorium on fracking? And should the state impose additional renewable energy mandates as a way to address climate change concerns?

NM should establish genuine renewable energy policies. The Energy Transition Act is a start, but does not require standards that have any consequences if those standards are not met. We need more than goals and aspirations, but firm laws and accountability. A moratorium at this time is unwise.

  1. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?

There must be renewed commitment to enforcing laws and swift, certain prosecutions though our courts. Law breakers have learned they risk little chance of being caught or suffering any  significant consequences. We should commit to community based law enforcement, and treat our drug epidemic as a public health crisis.

  1. Do you support or oppose the practice of legislative budget-writing committees holding closed-door meetings during the crafting of state spending bills?

I sponsored and passed the law which requires that legislative conference committees be conducted in open meetings.This reform has successfully reduced the surprises formerly buried in the budget. There is now improved accountability as a result.

Personal background

  1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens? Never
  2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding? Never

3.    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.  Never

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