Q&A: House District 42 Democratic candidate Kristina Ortez - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A: House District 42 Democratic candidate Kristina Ortez

Kristina Ortez

NAME: Kristina Ortez

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

OCCUPATION: Executive director, Taos Land Trust

CITY OF RESIDENCE: Taos

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: I was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives to represent District 42 in November 2020.

EDUCATION: B.A., Harvard University; M.P.A., University of New Mexico

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.ortez4nm.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?

Diversifying our economy is job number one. On the revenue side we can continue on our path toward major, new, revenue producing industries, like film, cannabis and tourism and expand on industries like eco-tourism, local food production and renewable energy. We can also look at reforming our tax code and repealing the tax cut on the wealthiest New Mexicans.

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?

Our criminal justice system is based on innocence until proven guilty. There’s an imperative to keep our communities safe. If there’s a first-degree child abuse or murder case where an individual would be a danger to the community it should be a consideration. The bar would need to be extremely high.

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

We need to fully fund police, fire and EMT services, raise salaries and provide hiring incentives. We must also address the root causes of crime and homelessness and address mental and behavioral health and substance use disorder. We should provide funding for mental health and recovery services statewide and alternative units of response so that properly trained professionals are responding to nonviolent calls.

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

We need to lower the gross receipts tax and address some of the existing loopholes. We can replace that revenue with more progressive taxation.

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?

Strong support. Our current system makes it difficult for those who need to work for a living to serve in office. With a professionalized Legislature, lawmakers would have staff to help research and develop policy that would benefit the community.

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?

Last session I championed legislation that ensures we are taking care of teachers by increasing pay at every level. We need to address equity in education and make sure that quality teachers are recruited, retained in key areas and have access to affordable housing so that they can live and teach in the same area.

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?

Similar to our legislation addressing teacher salaries, we must make sure New Mexico offers competitive salaries for nurses, doctors and other health care workers in order to attract and retain. We must bring down the cost of prescription drugs and look at real reforms, like a public option or systems like Medicare for All.

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?

Strong support.

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?

Strongly support.

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?

I am proud to support this legislation, and our Cannabis Control Division has been hard at work to promulgate and implement rules. We should let those rules play out before we tweak that legislation.

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 current system is working well.

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 good election laws, but they could be stronger. We should do more to make elections secure, convenient and safe, including strong punishment for harassment of election workers, drop boxes for absentee voting, and an option for automatic mail ballots.

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

I like the idea of a merit-based system but I think it would be nearly impossible to implement. I strongly support capital outlay being fully transparent.

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 think we should give the current system a chance to succeed. It worked really well in its first year.

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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