Q&A: Governor candidate Mark Ronchetti - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A: Governor candidate Mark Ronchetti

Governor candidate Mark Ronchetti. (Courtesy Mark Ronchetti)

NAME: Mark V Ronchetti

POLITICAL PARTY: Republican

OCCUPATION: Former chief meteorologist

CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Meteorologist, dad, husband, not a politician

EDUCATION: Undergraduate: Washington State University; meteorology: Mississippi State

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: MarkRonchetti.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?

There is nothing wrong with a strong oil and gas sector. We must diversify the economy by growing the private sector and revitalizing our small businesses through a competitive tax structure, less regulation and stronger workforce. We make things too difficult for small businesses and don’t empower them to grow.

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. The same criminals are routinely released to commit more crimes. To keep our communities safe, we must end “catch and release” for those charged with violent crimes, those who use firearms in the commission of crimes, and repeat offenders who ignore court orders. Ankle monitors are not enough.

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?

My plan calls for ending “catch and release,” supporting our police, restoring qualified immunity, cracking down on repeat offenders, prosecuting more violent offenders and drug traffickers in the federal system, stopping the flow of fentanyl and drugs across the border, and increasing penalties to end our revolving door justice system.

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?

I’m personally pro-life and against late-term abortion, but no politician should decide this: New Mexicans should. We should vote on it as a state so that everyone gets a say. I believe your voices should be heard while Lujan Grisham wants politicians in Santa Fe to decide for everyone.

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?

Our focus should be on going after criminals, not law-abiding citizens. I am a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and responsible gun ownership. I support background checks and keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. We must improve behavioral health services in New Mexico.

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?

Michelle Lujan Grisham said she was “uniquely qualified” to reform CYFD. She was wrong, with tragic results. We need to put child safety first, create a Child Protection Division in the Department of Public Safety, and have a zero-tolerance policy for child abuse. We need an independent watchdog and drug treatment options.

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

Level the playing field for small businesses, who get hammered by layers of gross receipts taxes that big corporations don’t have to pay. Under my 8-point economic plan, we’ll also reduce the GRT every year and not allow local governments to raise the GRT without going to the voters.

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?

Until the Legislature starts listening to the people again and dealing with pressing issues like crime, fentanyl overdoses, securing our border, helping combat inflation, and improving our schools, I don’t see why we should give them a pay raise.

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?

Our education system is ranked last for all children. It’s critical that we help our kids catch up from the lost learning they suffered as a result of school shutdowns, which disproportionately hurt minority children. Chronic absenteeism and lost-learning are completely unacceptable.

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?

Given the extraordinary revenues coming to New Mexico, and the now-massive (and still growing) early childhood trust fund, it’s not necessary to raid the permanent fund too. We can fund and grow early childhood programs with existing dollars. The key is ensuring they’re well-coordinated and serving low-income families as intended.

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?

New Mexico has the cleanest oil and gas industry in the world. Our energy production is key to restoring our energy independence. We must also aggressively develop low-carbon energy sources. But the government forcing arbitrary dates on consumers and requiring them to pay higher prices will devastate family budgets.

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, checks and balances are needed to prevent government overreach, like the disastrous shutdowns that caused 40% of our small businesses to close and put our kids far behind in school. New Mexico has the 7th highest COVID death rate, despite the governor’s extreme lockdowns. These powers must be checked.

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

Absolutely. Infrastructure dollars should be spent on shovel-ready projects that create jobs in the short-run and lay a long-term foundation for economic growth. Too often, capital funds go unspent and are wasted; we need an inter-agency team that focuses on getting the most necessary projects built on time.

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?

It should be easy to vote and hard to cheat. Voters should be required to show photo ID. I support absentee voting, but oppose automatically mailing ballots without voter request, as the governor proposes. I’ll fight efforts to legalize ballot-harvesting. We should end partisan judicial elections.

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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