Q&A: House District 41 Democratic candidate Susan Herrera - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A: House District 41 Democratic candidate Susan Herrera

Susan Herrera

NAME: Susan Herrera

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

OCCUPATION: Retired

CITY OF RESIDENCE: Embudo

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Executive director, Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington, D.C. Executive director, LANL Foundation from 1993-2016.

EDUCATION: B.A., university studies, University of New Mexico

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: Susanherrera.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?

A strong economy is a diverse economy. We must build upon our strengths, use our proximity to the border to expand trade, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, technology and renewable energy. We need high quality schools and basic infrastructure in rural communities including broadband, sustainable drinking water and wastewater systems to ensure rural development.

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?

The American Constitution states that “we are innocent until proven guilty.” Do I deplore the fact that we have a catch and release problem? Yes. Do we jail people, destroying their family, their livelihood, and then find out that they are not guilty? This is our dilemma.

3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety amid a rise in violent crime rates?

The legislature recently increased pay for State Police officers. Salary increases are necessary, but local government cannot compete with State Police salaries, and often lose their officers to the State Police. What we need to do is provide funding to increase law enforcement salaries at the local level.

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

With a positive economic forecast for the next five years, it is possible to see how we can create a more equitable tax system. 2019 began a new tax reform era led by Rep. Jim Trujillo. Rep. Christine Chandler is leading the way for an innovative approach in taxation for 2023.

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?

It’s time to end the volunteer legislature. I support a full-time legislator. I believe legislators should earn a salary comparable to professionals in the private sector. Furthermore, I support an overhaul of legislative operations, such as providing staff for constituent services, district offices and longer sessions.

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?

New Mexico is recruiting and hiring more Native American and ESL teachers, as well as educational assistants fluent in their native language. We increased teacher pay, expanded early childhood education, and implemented several other initiatives, which should help address the shortcomings found in Martinez-Yazzie.

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?

I worked in a nursing program at Northern New Mexico Community College which enrolled over 80 nurses in a four-year degree program. These Hispanic nurses eventually created the health care leadership in the north. We need to create rural university programs that provide education attainment leading to a higher degree

8. 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 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?

Yes, I support the proposed constitutional amendment because it places the resources where they are needed most, in early education.

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?

Yes, I support this legislation. I believe that New Mexico can generate enough renewable energy to eventually replace fossil fuel extraction. Our climate, sunshine, universities and national laboratories give New Mexico a unique advantage in the generation of renewable energy.

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?

Before proposing changes, we need to see how the program works. I will do all I can to ensure local distributors and growers have the same opportunities large scale out of state operations do.

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 pandemic was difficult for all New Mexicans, we all had to make sacrifices. The emergency powers act was authored to keep New Mexicans safe. However, I believe some of these powers belong to the legislative branch in coordination with governor.

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 took a huge step forward in allowing same day voter registration, allowing people to change political parties for primary elections. To date, the two major party system has worked for our country. Right now, the upheaval in the Republican party is leading everyone to reexamine our system.

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

The devil’s in the details. Before I would support a merit-based system I would have to see how it affects rural communities.

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?

No. There is no guarantee that “an independent redistricting commission” would be better than the current system. I think this process should be left with the Legislature, the representative body closest to the people and therefore, closest to the best decision making process possible.

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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