Q&A: Senate District 12 Candidate Gerald ‘Jerry’ Ortiz y Pino

  • NAME: Gerald (Jerry) Ortiz y Pino
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Social worker (retired)
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: 16 years in New Mexico state Senate
  • EDUCATION: Master’s in social work (Tulane); bachelor’s in Latin American studies (UNM)
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: Jerry4Dist12.com

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?

Two giant tax breaks in recent years have not improved our economy, so I favor restoring a graduated personal income tax and revisiting the corporate tax cuts. Also regulating and taxing adult use cannabis will spark economic activity.

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?

We should increase the amount devoted to education from the annual revenues generated by the Land Grant Permanent Fund, which would be the wisest investment we could possibly make in our future. The school year needs to be lengthened as well, to extend learning gains.

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

It needs a complete overhaul, eliminating many of the current exemptions for special interests and simultaneously lowering the state’s share. It is highly regressive, imposing a higher burden on lower income families. An example of a special interest exemption that ought to be ended would be sugared soft drinks (not really a food so they should pay GRT).

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

No illegal substance is as widely available as cannabis; illegal, but decriminalized and unregulated. We should regulate, license and tax it like alcohol or tobacco, while protecting medical cannabis patients’ supply. Estimates of state and local revenues are secondary to the economic benefits of legalization: jobs, construction, tourism.

Do you believe changes should be made to the emergency powers held by a governor during a pandemic or other time of crisis. If so, do you believe such powers should be expanded or reduced and in what specific ways?

New Mexico should be proud of the way COVID-19 has been dealt with here. The public health law passed this major test with flying colors, looking at neighboring states’ track record. The only change I would consider is specifying dollar limits for executive orders without legislative authorization.

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

I support the repeal. The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is subject to review and even reversal in the future, which could seriously jeopardize New Mexico’s commitment to women’s reproductive health. These difficult and often painful situations are best left to the mother and her physician, not state lawmakers.

Do you support or oppose enacting a new state law that would allow police officers and other public officials to be sued individually by abolishing the defense of qualified immunity?

Qualified immunity is not law but a court decision which creates threats for minority groups by providing law enforcement a free pass even when they act oppressively. Our new state commission studying this issue may provide legislators with workable suggestions for protecting citizens from rogue officers.

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?

I support that amendment. By slowly, incrementally growing the budget for early childhood we are essentially sacrificing thousands of children who can’t get in. They don’t simply vanish; many will be a drag on our educational and social systems for years to come. Fully funding programs now produces enormous future savings.

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its election laws and primary system? Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?

We have a simple way for anyone who wants to vote in a party primary election to do so: go online and register as belonging to that party. Change back the next day. I don’t favor allowing people who aren’t in a party to decide who that party nominates.

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?

I think individual legislators having to disclose the projects they fund is fine. The problem with a “merit-based” evaluation system, though, is who is empowered to decide what is merited? I think a small portion of capital outlay can be set aside for individual legislators’ discretion, but should be disclosed.

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 steps should the state take to diversify its economy and revenue base?

We can’t free ourselves from oil addiction until we stop relying on it for annual budget needs. Oil revenue should fund capital and one-time projects, not department budgets. We can replace it by fostering tech development; realizing Spaceport’s full potential and becoming the wind and solar capitol of the nation.

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?

I’m convinced we have a human-caused climate crisis. Fracking should be stopped as a necessary step in weaning society from fossil fuel. Converting our system to renewables is both necessity and opportunity. Instead of bemoaning the end of fossil fuel let’s embrace the potential of renewables, including passing mandates.

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

The largest contributors to our crime problem are drugs and prisons. Addicts commit crime to finance habits. Prisons foster crime by making life on the outside almost impossible. I favor creating medically-supervised safe injection sites to end heroin-related crime. Our approach to corrections should be rehabilitation and education.

Do you support or oppose the public’s right to inspect footage taken by cameras worn by law enforcement officers? Under what circumstances, if any, should police video be withheld from the public?

I support giving the public access to lapel camera footage. Bona fide journalism outlets should have access. However, I worry that the search for sensational footage by freelancers eager to make money on the internet, has reached the point that public records are being mined – at the public’s expense.

Members of New Mexico’s business community contend some state laws and regulations need changing so the state can better compete with Texas and Arizona when it comes to attracting companies. What steps do you believe should be taken to improve New Mexico’s economic competitiveness?

I don’t want a race to the bottom with those two states. Worker protections have been sacrificed there and environmental considerations play second fiddle to the search for ready cash. If there are unnecessary bureaucratic barriers that need to come down to help businesses, though, I can support that.

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?


2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?


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.

Yes. In the 1990s I took part in protests at the Nevada Test Site where hundreds of us were arrested, detained for few hours, charged with misdemeanors and then released.

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