Q&A: House District 30 candidate Natalie Figueroa - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A: House District 30 candidate Natalie Figueroa

House District 30 candidate Natalie Figueroa (Courtesy Natalie Figueroa)

NAME: Natalie Figueroa

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

OCCUPATION: High school Spanish teacher

CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Two terms served in the New Mexico Legislature

EDUCATION: A.B. Stanford University, with distinction; M.Ed. University of California, Los Angeles

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: NatalieforNewMexico.org

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?

As a first step we must invest in infrastructure such as reliable, high-speed broadband across the state. Second, let’s fully fund education. The foundation for a thriving economy is an educated workforce. And third: expand programs like Job Incentive Training Programs and the Local Economic Development Act that grow businesses and leverage our state’s assets.

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?

Yes. This may take a constitutional amendment, but we can create a rebuttable presumption that persons accused of serious crimes are a danger to others. We must find the balance between the concept of innocence until proven guilty and public safety.

3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety as New Mexico faces one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation?

We must be innovative and tackle the problem on multiple fronts: more and better trained officers, community policing, criminal justice reform, and relieving backlogs in the courts. Also, we must focus resources on behavioral health, addiction treatment and affordable housing so that our criminal justice system can focus on crime.

4. Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, do you support or oppose codifying abortion protections in state law? And do you support or oppose enacting any restrictions on abortion in New Mexico?

Abortion is a serious personal decision that a woman should be able to make in consultation with her doctor and her faith. Politicians should have no input in that decision.

5. New Mexico has already implemented several gun control laws in recent years. Would you support or oppose legislation that banned or restricted the sale of AR-15-style semi-automatic weapons, such as raising the age limit for purchasing such weapons? And what about legislation making it a crime to fail to safely secure firearms around children?

Yes, I would support legislation to ban the sale of AR-15-style weapons. I believe strongly in the right to bear arms. However, I also believe this right must be well-regulated. Sensible gun ownership and safety laws are important and necessary in a civil society.

6. The state agency tasked with keeping New Mexico children safe has faced recent scrutiny over transparency issues and its handling of high-profile child abuse cases. What changes would you support to improve the operations of the Children, Youth and Families Department?

The safety of children is paramount. I support an independent ombudsman to help implement necessary improvements, accountability, and increase full time equivalent employees to ensure case follow-through. CYFD is large and unwieldy, making it difficult to effect change. I would explore dividing the department so oversight and change can be implemented swiftly.

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

GRT needs change. It is too complex, and full of loopholes created for those who could afford a lobbyist in Santa Fe. We need to simplify the code and lower it for all to create a fair tax structure that benefits all New Mexican income earners.

8. 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?

Paying legislators an average New Mexican’s salary will increase the pool of citizens able to hold office and diversify the perspectives of those crafting policy. Just as important is increasing the length of the legislative session, which is critical to handling the complex governing of our state.

9. 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?

We should fully fund education so that all children have opportunity. Full funding and accountability measures will ensure all students — including the Native, special education, English learning, and at-risk students named in the lawsuit — have access to rigorous curriculum, outstanding teachers and vital resources.

10. 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, with safeguards. As a high school teacher, I know we must reach children earlier in order to improve their trajectory and ensure success in the K-12 system. I would absolutely support increasing distributions if we ensure safeguards: targeted purpose, accountability and ending increased distributions if the fund drops below a set amount.

11. 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, we need to limit emissions and target net-zero. In addition, we need stronger enforcement of the laws currently in statute, such as already existing laws limiting methane emissions.

12. 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?

Yes. The economic impact of the pandemic has been severe, but allowing it to spread unchecked would have decimated our economy even more. However, to provide checks and balances, I would support limiting the number of extensions without legislative input.

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

Yes. A nonpartisan and transparent merit-based evaluation system to prioritize capital outlay is long overdue. Expenditure of taxpayer dollars should always be transparent; my capital outlay allocations are listed on nataliefornewmexico.org. In tandem, expenditures need to be prioritized across the state and thoroughly vetted to ensure fiscal responsibility.

14. Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election? (Yes or No answer only, please)

No.

15. What changes, if any, would you support to New Mexico’s election laws?

I support limited open primaries that allow anyone not part of a major party — or who has declined to state their party — to choose which primary ballot they complete. We took a small step toward this goal in the last election. I also support an Independent Redistricting Commission.

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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