Q&A: Senate District 25 Candidate Peter Wirth

  • NAME: Peter Wirth
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Lawyer/mediator
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Santa Fe
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: State representative, House District 47, 2004-2008; state senator, Senate District 25, 2009-present; state senate majority leader 2017-present.
  • EDUCATION: B.A., Stanford University, economics and Spanish, 1984; JD, University of New Mexico School of Law, 1990.
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: senatorpeterwirth.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 should build the 2022 budget using a mixture of non-recurring funds, targeted agency cuts, and new revenues generated by legalizing and taxing recreational cannabis and eliminating tax credits, exemptions and deductions that are not working.

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 need to continue increasing the at-risk factor in the funding formula so dollars get to those students with the highest needs. The virus has also taught us that access to broadband is a critical component of education.

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

We should broaden the gross receipts tax base, lower rates and eliminate unnecessary exemptions, deductions and credits.

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

I support legalization and taxation of recreational cannabis.

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?

We need to revisit the $750,000.00 emergency appropriation statute in the next session to clarify ambiguous language and increase the allowable monetary threshold. The governor should also have more emergency powers to help small businesses.

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

I support repealing this unconstitutional statute.

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?

I support changes to the qualified immunity statute and look forward to the recommendations of the Civil Rights Commission.

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 have always supported a joint resolution to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot giving voters the chance to increase the distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund for education and early childhood services.

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?

New Mexico should require all-mail voting. I support an open primary that allows decline-to-state and minor party voters to choose one party’s ballot but does not allow major party voters to vote in another party’s primary.

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?

Yes and yes.

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 should diversify and strengthen New Mexico’s economy by expanding and leveraging our investments in renewable energy, film, outdoor recreation, arts, tourism, culture and entrepreneurial start-up 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?

I do not support an immediate moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing but do support an expedited transition to renewable energy. I fully support the increased renewable energy mandates in the 2019 Energy Transition Act.

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

Pass statutes that incarcerate dangerous criminals and get those who have committed non-dangerous crimes driven by addiction out of prison into treatment.

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 the public’s right to inspect footage from police body cameras subject to the law enforcement exemptions in the Inspection of Public Records Act; specifically, footage should not be produced that reveals confidential sources, methods, information or individuals accused but not charged with a crime.

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?

The most important thing we can do to help New Mexico businesses is comprehensive tax reform that lowers the gross receipts tax, reduces pyramiding and eliminates credits, exemptions and deductions that favor out-of-state corporations.

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?

No

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

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