Q&A: House District 30 Candidate Natalie Figueroa
- NAME: Natalie Figueroa
- POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
- OCCUPATION: High school teacher
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: As your state representative, I am vice chair of the Commerce Committee and member of the Education Committee. I have taught for over 30 years and have been department chair and master teacher. I have unique insights into the challenges and resources of our state, and I will continue to speak for working families.
- EDUCATION: A.B. Stanford University, with distinction, M.Ed. UCLA
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: nataliefornewmexico.org
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 need to critically examine every program and service provided by our state government, every source of current and potential revenue, and make hard decisions about how to serve our communities, ensuring that our most vulnerable do not carry a disproportionate burden.
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 fully fund education so that all children have opportunity! Accountability measures will ensure all students – Native American, Special Education, English learning, and at risk – have access to rigorous curriculum, outstanding teachers, and vital resources. The pandemic has highlighted inequity; it has also provided us a moment of opportunity.
What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
It needs change. It is too complex, unwieldy, and full of loopholes and exemptions created for those who could afford a lobbyist in Santa Fe. We need to simplify, remove some exemptions, and create a fair tax structure for all New Mexican income earners.
Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?
Yes, with conditions. I think that legalizing marijuana use could provide revenue for the state and add safety precautions to a currently unregulated market. I am concerned about effects on workers compensation, impaired driving, and adequate protections against underage use. I would support carefully crafted legislation that addresses these issues.
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?
Our governor has done an exemplary job to limit the impact of COVID-19. The economic impact of the virus has been severe, but allowing it to spread unchecked would decimate our economy more. To provide checks and balances, I would support a limited number of extensions without legislative input.
Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?
Absolutely. That law contradicts current federal law regarding abortion and should be repealed. Abortion is a serious personal decision that a woman should be able to make in consultation with her doctor and her faith. Politicians should have no input on that decision.
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 has been applied very broadly and needs to be re-examined. I look forward to the recommendations of the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, and would consider a bill to address this issue. Any legislation would have to balance supporting our essential need for law enforcement and protecting the public.
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?
Yes, with safeguards. As a high school teacher, I know it is often too late for some students to achieve the appropriate learning level. I would support increasing distributions by 1% if we ensure safeguards: targeted purpose, accountability, and ending increased distributions if the fund drops below a set amount.
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?
Support. I think it is unconscionable that any New Mexican is precluded from voting in any publicly funded election. I support limited open primaries that would allow anyone not part of a major party or who has declined to state their party affiliation to choose which primary ballot they fill out.
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?
Support and yes. A nonpartisan and transparent merit-based evaluation system to prioritize capital outlay is overdue. Expenditure of taxpayer dollars should always be transparent; my capital outlay allocations are all listed on nataliefornewmexico.org.
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?
First, invest in infrastructure. Not just roads and bridges and water systems, but also reliable, high speed broadband to reach all corners of the state. Second, education. An educated workforce is foundational for a thriving economy. Third, programs like JTIP (Job Training Incentive Program) and LEDA (Local Economic Development Act) that grow New Mexican businesses.
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?
Oppose, though I support the option of communities to choose. I also support fully funding the strict enforcement of environmental and safety regulations. We also have to manage the crucial resource of water used in fracking. We must safeguard the interests of New Mexico’s people and our environment.
What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?
We must be smarter and tackle the problem on multiple fronts: more and better trained officers, community policing, criminal justice reform, and relieving backlogs in the courts. We must focus resources on behavioral health services, addiction treatment, and affordable housing so that our criminal justice system can focus on crime.
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. It is crucial that law enforcement be accountable to the public. I support the right to inspect body cameras and believe their use should be mandatory. If releasing footage would interfere with an investigation, then it may be exempt from public inspection while the investigation is underway.
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 strong economy and growing businesses is vital for the future of the students I teach every day. I have been a strong advocate for changing regulations to support business – especially small businesses. My record as vice chair of the Commerce and Economic Development committee demonstrates my commitment.
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.