Q&A: House District 40 Candidate Justin J. Salazar-Torrez

  • NAME: Justin J. Salazar-Torrez
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
  • OCCUPATION: Funeral director / technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Española
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: City Councilor (Española)
  • EDUCATION: AA Mortuary Sciences
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: justinsalazartorrez.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?

The Legislature needs to address the budget shortfall in a meaningful way. The Legislature must be cognizant that many of our citizens will be dealing with financial issues as well. Balancing the state budget without burdening the already struggling tax base will help everyone out of this crisis.

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?

Our education system is not working. We must reform education spending to ensure that the money is focused on the student and not administrative costs. Additionally, allowing families more choice in schooling options will empower parents and students to take ownership of their education.

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

Give municipalities greater authority to tax as they see fit. Most municipalities do not know how much they are getting from hold harmless. Transparency in the Tax and Revenue Department is crucial for cities to get a fair shot.

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

I believe we need more information and studies before making this decision. Looking at benefits and shortfalls other states have had with their legalization. I am in full support for medical usage of marijuana.

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?

I believe in checks and balances. The governor should not make blanket decisions, especially in spending taxpayer funds without involvement of the Legislature. The Legislature is elected to represent the people, and an emergency does not supersede that representation.

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

I strongly oppose.

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?

Oppose.

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?

Oppose. Oil and gas revenue contribute to the LGPF, and with the crisis, those funds are greatly reduced. The LGPF should not be further depleted because that would be contrary to its original purpose. I do fully support early childhood education programs; we can find another funding source.

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?

Oppose .

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?

Transparency is much needed in New Mexico. Taxpayers deserve to know where their taxes are being allocated. Additionally, I would support an overhaul of the capital outlay process.

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, New Mexico should overhaul our tax system- that would signal to businesses that we are serious about attracting business. Further, we can work on regulations and making New Mexico business friendly instead of the current antagonistic atmosphere.

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.

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

I believe we need to review our current criminal punishment minimums and maximums. Implementing a non-boomerang system for repeat offenders. I especially believe we need to do everything within our powers to protect our children.

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?

Oppose. There are special circumstances I believe should permit the public to inspect. We need to protect the dignity and privacy of minors, rape victims, and victims of abuse.

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?

Even during the COVID-19 crisis, surrounding states are still doing better economically. Legislators need to stop talking about how to be business friendly, and instead take action. Start with GRT reform, then look at burdensome regulations. Show businesses that we are ready to put our money where our mouth is.

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?

NA

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.

I have had citations for speeding.

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