Q&A: House District 16 Candidate Antonio ‘Moe’ Maestas

  • NAME: Antonio “Moe” Maestas
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Lawyer at my own law practice, MoeJustice Law
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Serving in my 14th year in the state House and currently am chair of the House Commerce Committee; former assistant district attorney/violent crimes prosecutor; former factory worker and community organizer
  • EDUCATION: University of New Mexico School of Law, J.D. ’98; University of Washington, B.A. ’95; Valley High School ’86
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: maestasfornm.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?

We must fund basic constitutional government. We can grow our budget by growing our economy. We must save our restaurants and hospitality and tourism industries; invest in human capital; and build more roads and public works projects. We must also implement evidence-based budgeting to ensure tax dollars are spent efficiently.

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?

The court did not necessarily say we’re underfunding education. It said we are underserving Native, English language learners, disabled and at-risk students. All stakeholders must acknowledge this. Targeted, cost effective programs must be implemented. We must prioritize closing the achievement gap if New Mexico is ever going to succeed.

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

We need tax reform, including closing gross receipts tax loopholes. That’s one of the reasons our sales tax (GRT) is so high. If we broaden the tax base we can then lower the tax rate, which helps small businesses and lower income families, ensures predictability and creates more commerce.

Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales? Support. Prohibition does not work. We must tax and regulate recreational cannabis. This new economy will help most in rural New Mexico, including farming. Legalization must be done responsibly, however. If done right, we can capture this market from Texas and Arizona for more than a decade.

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?

The health order comes from very old statutes and needs modernization. It needs guiding principles including scientific educational campaigns, strategies to support small businesses, and increased outdoor recreational opportunities (especially for children to fight depression). It must also specifically mention masks, social distancing and when to close and open businesses.

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

Support. This law is unconstitutional and should’ve been taken off the books back in 1974, after the Supreme Court clarified this fundamental constitutional right in Row v. Wade.

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?

Yes. Qualified immunity is a court created federal legal doctrine so we need to create a state cause of action so that officers who have violated a person’s civil rights can be held accountable. In crafting this complicated legislation, all parties, including law enforcement, need to be at the table.

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?

Strongly support. We must use at least 1% off the top of our $20 billion LGPF for early childhood services. Whether you view the fund as a development fund or a generational equity fund, the 4% annual distribution for education is just too low considering it grows 11% annually.

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?

Yes, I support open primary elections. We must do all we can to increase voter participation. Our democracy literally depends on it.

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?

Capital outlay (public works) dollars should be spent on projects that help grow the economy and add to quality of life for our communities. Yes, legislators should be required to fully disclose which projects they help fund. The spending of the people’s money must be transparent.

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 cannot afford another 10-year recession. We must invest in human capital, save our restaurants, hospitality and tourism industries, and keep graduates here in New Mexico. We can encourage economic growth and investment by reducing barriers to entry, facilitating access to capital and assisting young entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed.

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?

No. Hydraulic fracturing has been around for decades and a state-wide moratorium would devastate already low government revenues. Yes, we must implement modern polices to address climate change such as the recently passed Energy Transition Act.

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

By modernizing our probation system we reduce recidivism, which lowers crime so we have fewer victims in the future. We must adequately fund the District Attorney’s Office and criminal courts; invest in drug treatment programs and more victim-centric services. We must steer all law enforcement agencies to prioritize violent crimes.

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?

Support, I support transparency and accountability in law enforcement. We must, however, respect children and victims so their worst day isn’t plastered all over the internet. Dissemination must serve a pubic purpose.

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?

To build a qualified future workforce we must invest in early childhood education and address the concerns of the Martinez/Yazzie plaintiffs by eliminating the achievement gap. We must finish Paseo del Volcan and build an industrial rail transload facility in Bernalillo County to attract businesses to the West Side.

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?

Yes, in June 2009 my business received a federal tax lien that was soon cleared up after a thorough audit.

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

No

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.

No. I was arrested twice, however, on traffic court bench warrants for failure to pay court fees.

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