NAME: Anita Gonzales
POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
OCCUPATION: Deputy director, NM MESA
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Las Vegas, N.M.
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Career STEM educator with an educational nonprofit (NM MESA) -19 years; community volunteer; local, state, and national board member/chair.
EDUCATION: MBA, New Mexico Highlands University
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: anita4newmexico.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?
Continued diversification in emerging technologies and new revenue streams such as renewable energy, cannabis, film, and defense will be critical in addition to supporting our current revenue stream.
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?
New Mexicans have a right to feel safe in their communities and that is a balance with a person’s presumption of innocence. When there is a risk of violent crime, or repeat offenses while on release, the system should work to protect the community and err on detainment until trial.
3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety amid a rise in violent crime rates?
A first step would be evaluation of our current criminal code and ensure that violent crimes have the appropriate penalties and statutory minimums. Currently, many offenses are overcriminalized and our violent crime penalties need attention. Bail reform, prison reform, and attention to prevention are all needed.
4. What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
By closing loopholes and exemption, we can work toward favoring small businesses, eliminating tax pyramiding, and creating a simpler and more transparent system. It is important to have a progressive system that ensures a climb in the higher income brackets and not in our middle and lower income tax brackets.
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 that pays at minimum a current living wage. To reflect the needs of the people, all should have the ability to serve. An unpaid Legislature is a barrier of entry to qualified individuals. Salaries reduce the dependency on outside donors that can influence decision making.
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?
Investment in education should always remain a priority. Recent legislation is a good first step, but we are in the middle of a current educational crisis that needs to seriously address teacher recruitment and retention, school wrap around services, and support of all educators to start.
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?
We need increased access and affordability, especially in rural areas as it should be a right and not a privilege. To increase health care workers they need to be supported with appropriate wages and we need to look at growing our own community workforces.
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?
Yes, I support the Early Childhood Trust Fund and the withdrawals. I consider it a funding priority and a monumental step to ensuring that our youth are cared for starting with prenatal attention.
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 support this goal, but we also need correlating legislation to get there. To become a reality, there needs to be a substantial increase in infrastructure, especially in rural areas to support needed changes. The impacted communities need support to ensure a stable economy is in place.
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?
Continual evaluation will be needed as we see the full impact on our communities. Attention should be placed on water resources, expungement and judicial reform, licensing and allowances, increase in needed social services, and increase in needed regulation and monitoring.
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?
In times of crisis a governor should have the authority to maintain public safety. But, all decisions should be made if possible with input from state elected officials and the communities that are severely impacted.
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?
It is important for all New Mexicans to have a voice in who is chosen to represent our communities whether or not they belong to a major political party.
13. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding?
I support absolute transparency in capital outlay. My hesitation is “merit” can be subjective and it is important for each district to have equal representation in capital outlay funding. If there are any changes, it would be a support for regions that have greater geographical needs.
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?
Yes, independent evaluation is important to decrease gerrymandering and ensure that all communities matter and are represented.
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?