Q&A: Senate District 5 Candidate Leo Jaramillo

  • NAME: Leo Jaramillo
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
  • OCCUPATION: Operations staff manager
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Española
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: In 2019, I was elected to the Rio Arriba County Commission and currently serve as commission chair. I have worked in collaboration with state, county, city, and pueblo elected officials as well as nonprofits to find solutions to issues affecting our community in the areas of homelessness, mental health, residential care for the elderly, and community health and wellness. More recently, I have worked on protecting the acequia community in the Española Valley by stopping a national fast food chain from moving into a predominantly residential area which threatened the historic irrigation system. I have also challenged the Environmental Protection Agency, which wants to walk away from a 58-acre contaminated groundwater plume in Española. Outside of the commission, I am an operations staff manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where I serve as a member of the associate laboratory director of facilities and operations team advising in the areas of human resources, management, finance, and strategic planning.
  • EDUCATION: University of New Mexico August 1995 — May 2000. Bachelor of Arts, mass communication and journalism; College of Santa Fe August 2001 — December 2003. Master of Arts, education.
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.leojaramillo.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?

Of course, we cannot look at the impact of a drop in oil prices in a vacuum. State leaders will need to look at other options to diversify New Mexico’s economy. State leaders will need to be flexible to respond to fast-changing conditions to balance the budget, which could include cuts to programs.

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?

Commitment to the changes needed to the educational system that were discovered in the trial. New Mexico needs to comply with the state and federal laws regarding the education of Native American, English Language Learners (ELL), and students with disabilities.

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

New Mexico’s gross receipts tax, as it has been revised through the years, has choices. Small business is not generally a favored stakeholder. The implementation of this tax has proved regressive on both goods and services. Pyramiding continues on business-to-business transactions directly impacting New Mexico companies’ ability to compete with out-of-state companies.

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

It should be legal for both medical and recreational purposes. It will attract new industries to the state and trim New Mexico’s heavy economic independence on oil production. The legalization of recreational cannabis will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. The legalization of marijuana would be one step in a new direction.

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 am monitoring the governor’s responses to ensure they are rooted in science and public health needs, not stigma or bias, and no more intrusive on civil liberties than absolutely necessary. The data is clear – the critical actions that New Mexico has taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 have not only been effective, they have saved lives.

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

A decision about abortion is personal. This health care decision needs to remain between a woman and her health care provider, and without politicians, or a group of strangers, interfering.

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. The ACLU of NM unsuccessfully proposed a bill to the Legislature and the governor that would have created a civil rights act that would allow plaintiffs to sue law enforcement officers and their employer in state court, while also addressing the issue of qualified immunity.

In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten, and childcare 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 understand the need for high-quality early childhood education and support the constitutional amendment to take an additional 1% from the LGPF. The return on investment in taking at least $150 million a year from the endowment would have a tremendous impact on our students and the future of New Mexico’s workforce.

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 are not affiliated with either major political party?

Closed primaries are the biggest form of voter suppression in the country. In 75% of elections, the outcome is determined in the first round of voting – the primary. An open primary lets voters focus more on candidates’ credentials on views and issues while benefiting all voters, not just two political parties.

Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding?

No. The capital outlay process is the way the state funds infrastructure and other projects every year are determined. Its significance, particularly for rural areas that cannot fund their own projects, cannot be understated. For decades, this is how towns have gotten their Little League fields, counties obtain desperately needed road repair, etc.

Should each legislator be required to disclose which projects he or she funded?

Yes. Unfortunately, the current process is too rushed and too secretive, and that results in a lack of coordination among the Governor’s Office, legislators, and local officials about which projects are the most urgently needed and how to fully fund them. Transparency is a state leaders’ responsibility to their constituents.

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?

It is important to diversify our economy so that we have stronger sectors such as technology, agriculture, renewable energy, the legalization of recreational marijuana, etc., contributing to our economy. Reaching those goals could take a long time but must be acted upon. As a smaller state (in regard to population), New Mexico has the greatest challenge.

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?

We cannot allow the lure of short-term profits to blind us to the risks of irreversible climate change and damaged and depleted aquifers undeniably posed by fracking.

And should the state impose additional renewable energy mandates as a way to address climate change concerns?

The Energy Transition Act, SB 489, moves power companies to solar and wind. It mirrors the legislation on the timeline for transitioning to renewables and adds provisions to help communities recover from the jobs and tax base. Now wind and solar are cheaper than coal, which seemed impossible at one point in time.

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

Criminal justice reform does not require tougher sentences which do not deter crime and I believe the solution for the state with the highest rate of property crime in the country must address New Mexico’s high rates of poverty as well as access to mental health care/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?

For greater transparency, I support the public’s right to inspect footage. It is a step toward ensuring law enforcement accountability. I can see footage being withheld from the public if there is a threat of compromising a criminal investigation. Law enforcement agencies that want to withhold footage can request an opinion from the attorney general’s office.

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?

New Mexico has an advantage when it comes to energy, landscape, sheer space, geographic location, logistics, research and development (R&D), and manufacturing. Key economic drivers for New Mexico requires a stable business climate, low taxes, transportation infrastructure, skilled work force, and pro-business environment would help companies to succeed and create jobs.

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.

Nearly 25 years ago at the age of 18, I was arrested for DWI as a college freshman attending the University of New Mexico. As a young man away from home for the first time, I took responsibility for my action and sought counseling from a licensed councilor at UNM and I completed all requirements of the sentence.

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