NAME: Melba Tajallieh Aguilar
POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
OCCUPATION: High school teacher
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Socorro
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Teacher, chemical engineer
EDUCATION: B.S. chemical engineering, New Mexico Tech
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: Melba4NM.com
1. 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 Legislature take to diversify the state’s economy and revenue base?
Simply put, become less hostile to business. Simplify taxation, reduce unnecessary regulations, and make smart investments in small businesses and emerging markets. Large investments in infrastructure, critically broadband, power, and irrigation are also needed. Finally, make sure young people are getting the trades and high tech training employers ask for.
2. During the last regular legislative session, there was an unsuccessful push to make it easier to keep certain defendants behind bars until trial. Should New Mexico law be changed to make it easier to hold individuals charged with violent offenses such as murder and first-degree child abuse behind bars until trial?
Absolutely yes. It isn’t just or economical to make low-risk offenders sit in jail because they can’t make bail, but it is similarly unjust to deny the victims of violent offenders security, or to allow further harm to communities. We can do better. Close the revolving door.
3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety amid a rise in violent crime rates?
Pretrial detention reform, rework our incompetency law, patch the gaping holes in our criminal code to better protect vulnerable kids and elders, make alternative sentencing both more robust and accountable and make targeted investments in addiction intervention. Rebuild CYFD to stop the harm that pushes kids to these dangerous paths.
4. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
New Mexico has the most aggressive GRT in the country, and when this is “pyramided” on top of income, sales and property taxes, the effect is truly punishing for entrepreneurs. The economic stagnation this causes is bad for business and workers alike. The GRT should be reduced or eliminated.
5. New Mexico is currently the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, though lawmakers do get per diem payments and can qualify for a legislative pension. Do you support or oppose a salaried Legislature and, if so, how much should lawmakers be paid?
I support a salaried legislature. This part of our constitution was intended to prevent corruption, but instead selects for wealthy and/or retired representatives and creates a perverse incentive to seek kickbacks elsewhere. As to how much, we’re public servants — tie it to the median wage.
6. 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, especially Native Americans and those who don’t speak English as a first language?
Every child in New Mexico is entitled to a high quality K-12 education, regardless of where they live, how much money their parents make, or their ethnicity. We must ensure the funding and training exist to provide the individualized supports and diversified instruction critical to this task.
7. What should be the priority as New Mexico seeks to strengthen its health care system? How should the state address a shortage of nurses and other health care workers?
New Mexico is short by over 6,000 nurses, and the need is especially acute in rural areas. We need a nursing program in every rural high school, to train up the next generation of certified nursing assistants, and scholarship incentives for existing CNAs to become registered nurses.
8. 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 the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would withdraw more money from the state’s permanent school fund to increase funding for early childhood services and K-12 education?
While I support the right of every child to a high quality education, this does not need to be a permanent constitutional amendment. Policy should be nimble and data-driven. Thus, I have reservations about academic programs for children under age 5, but strongly support home visiting and early intervention programs.
9. In order to address climate change and air quality issues, do you support or oppose legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the state achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?
I do not think the poorest state in the country, which is currently heavily dependent on oil revenue to survive, needs to be undermining our own prosperity to achieve this. I do support investments in economic diversification, including alternative energy, where it directly benefits the New Mexican economy and worker.
10. New Mexico recently became the 17th state to regulate and tax recreational cannabis sales? What, if any, changes do you believe should be made to the existing law?
More protections for young people, to include enhanced DUI interventions and sentencing, making parents legally liable for keeping THC products away from children, and a public school education program to educate kids on the dangers of especially juvenile use.
11. 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?
The governor seized power that rightfully belonged to duly elected regional officials and caused enormous damage to our communities and schools in the process. We weren’t allowed to react nimbly to local conditions, and our businesses and children paid the price. We should never again allow this.
12. 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 has some of the best poll access in the country, aside from our primary system. Twenty-three percent of New Mexicans are either independent or registered with a third party. Our primaries should be open to every registered citizen, and so should our ballot petitions. Anything less is voter disenfranchisement.
13. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding?
Yes. Our current system for capital outlays is scattershot and lacks focused vision.
14. Do you support or oppose authorizing an independent redistricting commission to perform the once-per-decade task of redrawing New Mexico’s political boundary lines?
I support it. Districts shouldn’t be drawn according to the whims of whoever happens to be in power when the decade changes. My own District 38 is a casualty of our current, deeply flawed and partisan process.
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.