Q&A: House District 22 Candidate Jessica P. Velasquez
- NAME: Jessica P. Velasquez
- POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
- OCCUPATION: Small business owner
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Sandia Park
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I am the most qualified candidate in the race for New Mexico House District 22. I own and operate a family business here in Albuquerque that has been around since 1976. I’m a former public school teacher with a B.A. in English and a master’s degree in education. I have served my community for years, as a member of the Bernalillo County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and the 2019 Interim Education Committee for New Mexico’s Public Education Department. I’m a board member of Sandia Park Scenic Byway Firewise, dedicated to reducing wildfire risk and increasing community resilience, and of Kindness Club International, which builds positive school culture through student leadership. I served on the board of New Mexico Open Elections, a nonpartisan organization working to ensure every voter can participate in every election. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I helped organize community relief efforts, including food drives and information networks. I’m also a mom, raising three kids in the East Mountains, and my public service is dedicated to making sure they grow up in a place we are all proud to call home.
- EDUCATION: M.A., education, University of New Mexico. B.A., English, Penn State University
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.velasquez4nm.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?
I am committed to diversifying our economy and creating new opportunities that help us all get ahead. Budgets reflect priorities. I’ll fight for affordable, accessible health care, better schools, safer streets, and cleaner air and water, even when revenue is down and we can expect tough conversations about state budget cuts.
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 ruling means that shortchanging our children’s education isn’t an option anymore. Fund the education they are promised by our state constitution. Invest in pre-K, before/after school programs, trade and technical education, language services and special education. Raise teacher pay. Better education means a brighter future for New Mexico.
What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
I run a successful high-tech business in Albuquerque. I’ll be a champion for business tax reform AND tax relief for low- and middle-income families. I’ll work to close GRT loopholes and make the tax code fairer and simpler.
Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?
Drug and alcohol addiction harms our communities, and we need adequate protections in place to legalize recreational marijuana safely. I support legalizing recreational marijuana with proper safeguards for public health, and if the revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana will be used to fund our education system.
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?
Emergency powers can be better defined, and we can make appropriate changes if those powers are abused. We trust our elected officials to make appropriate, fact-based decisions during times of crisis. Legislative oversight is important, but so is the ability of governors to act quickly when public safety is threatened.
Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?
Politicians should never come between a woman and her doctor. I care about a woman’s health care needs, including access to affordable birth control and when making very personal decisions about abortion with her health care provider, without politicians interfering. I support repealing this long-dormant law.
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?
Police officers put their lives on the line every day, and they deserve our thanks. Any officer who breaks clearly established law should be held accountable to the fullest extent. We must rebuild trust in government by tackling injustice at every level.
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?
We must invest in the future of our children. I support a constitutional amendment that would allocate funds from the Land Grant Permanent Fund for education. However, I also think we need strong oversight and accountability measures in place, with clear benchmarks to measure progress and success.
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 primaries. Open primaries increase participation in our democracy and encourage more citizens to vote. Voting is our constitutional right and the foundation to a truly representative government. Independent and non-party affiliated voters deserve to have their voices heard.
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 believe in open and transparent government. As a legislator, I will proudly disclose the capital outlay projects I fund because taxpayers have a right to know how their tax dollars are spent. I support a fair capital outlay system that prioritizes funding for areas that need it most.
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?
I’m a small business owner. I know that New Mexico needs a more business-friendly environment to encourage homegrown entrepreneurship and drive job creation: reform taxes, incentivize new business, modernize infrastructure. Create new opportunities in emerging economic sectors, such as aerospace and cybersecurity, energy production, advanced manufacturing, and digital media and film.
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 support banning fracking in the Rio Grande Basin. I do not support a statewide moratorium until we have a plan that generates new revenue for our schools and creates new jobs. Community health depends on addressing climate concerns, and I support solutions that keep our air and water clean.
What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?
To improve public safety and reduce crime, we should strengthen our communities and families, support crime victims, and expand reintegration programs for those who served their time. There is no quick fix: the good news is that working on other issues, like education or drug addiction, also improves public safety.
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?
Yes, I support the public’s right to inspect footage. Government is for and by the people, so it must be open and transparent. Public footage helps the community feel safer, and also protects the officers.
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?
A business-friendly environment can drive our economy. If New Mexico wants to be competitive, it must be attractive to out-of-state companies AND support homegrown entrepreneurship and local businesses. Improving New Mexico’s quality of life – better schools and safer communities – also makes our state more attractive for companies and the people who work for them.
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.