Ben R. Luján
POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
OCCUPATION: U.S. representative
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Chairman, New Mexico Public Regulation Commission
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s in business administration, New Mexico Highlands University.
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.benrlujan.com
1. What can Congress do to help spur job creation?
Job creation is a top concern. I will continue to advocate for our national labs and encourage efforts to transfer technology from labs to local businesses in an effort to create new opportunities that spur job creation. It is also essential that we invest in education to ensure we have a workforce that has the skills and knowledge to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. A qualified workforce will help attract and encourage new businesses in our communities that will lead to more jobs. I also support House Democrats’ “Make It In America” agenda to revitalize our manufacturing sector.
2. How should Congress address the budget deficit and national debt?
Congress should fund the government and address our nation’s priorities, including reducing the deficit, in a responsible manner – not one that threatens to shutdown the government. Both parties must work together to invest in areas that will grow our economy and strengthen our nation, such as education, innovation and infrastructure. Instead of arbitrary across-the-board cuts like the sequester, Congress should focus on a balanced plan that reduces spending, closes tax loopholes and does not place the burden of deficit reduction on the backs of middle-class families. Reinstating pay-as-you-go budgeting that reduced deficits during the Clinton administration should be a priority.
3. How would you propose to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws?
I support comprehensive immigration reform that has passed the Senate and been introduced in the House. These bills are tough but fair, including a path to citizenship and requiring undocumented immigrants to pay taxes and learn English, in addition to other requirements. According to the Congressional Budget Office, reform would reduce our deficit by $900 billion and increase wages for working Americans. Comprehensive reform is good for our economy and our security, while reflecting contributions immigrants make to our country.
4. How would you propose to change the nation’s gun laws, if at all?
I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, and I support commonsense steps to prevent tragedies like we saw in Newtown with the heinous killing of innocent children. This includes universal background checks to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting their hands on guns and limiting high-capacity magazines. Furthermore, it is important that adequate mental and behavioral health services are available to assist individuals who need help.
5. Do you approve of the president’s actions in Syria and Iraq?
I support efforts to use targeted airstrikes and intelligence to help degrade ISIL’s ability to gain money and weapons. However, I have serious concerns with equipping and training Syrian rebels. A major focus must be ending the flow of money and the recruitment of fighters that are supporting ISIL. Our allies in the region must prove that they are willing to stand up and commit the resources necessary to complement the United States. To date, it is not clear our allies have fully committed to this effort.
6. What is your approach to foreign policy and especially armed conflicts? Do you envision more U.S. involvement in crisis spots around the globe or less?
The United States has a leading role to play in the global community, working with allies to address humanitarian crises as well as threats to national security. But the United States should not default to getting involved in every crisis spot around the globe. The American people are weary of war after a decade in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any discussion on the United States’ role in conflicts abroad deserves thorough debate in Congress. I do not support putting troops on the ground in Syria and believe that we must see our allies play a greater role in the Middle East.
7. New Mexico’s economy is heavily dependent on federal spending. Is this a good economic model for the state? If not, what should be done in the alternative?
We must work at all levels to diversify New Mexico’s economy from the tech sector to the agricultural sector. New Mexico lags behind other states in the region on job creation. To solve these challenges we need to work together – both private and public sectors. We all have a role and responsibility, from advocating for our national labs to making New Mexico welcoming for businesses. The film industry is an important part of our economy, but we saw what happened when steps were taken at the state level to make New Mexico a less friendly place for this industry.
8. The U.S. is producing more oil and gas than ever before. Do you support or oppose hydraulic fracturing for natural gas? What energy policies should be implemented with respect to domestic oil and gas production?
Extraction of natural gas resources should be conducted in a way that respects water and public health. I support adequate protections for both public health and the environment. I support efforts to develop more natural gas fueling stations and retrofits for vehicles. Natural gas can help firm up solar and wind as we move toward utilizing more renewable sources of energy. With New Mexico’s abundant solar, wind and geothermal resources, our state has the potential to be a leader in renewable energy, creating new opportunities to power our homes as well as our economy.
9. How should Congress respond to issues of global climate change?
Climate change is an issue that requires urgent action as New Mexico suffers from drought conditions and we see more extreme wildfires. Through investments in renewable energy and natural gas, we can reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on foreign oil. I have introduced legislation to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy through a renewable energy standard. An emphasis on energy efficiency will lower energy bills and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working families, while a renewable energy standard will drive the development of the clean energy sector, creating good jobs in our communities.
10. Has the federal government and the Department of Education gone too far in its oversight of local schools and state education policies?
The Department of Education has a role to play in the effort to see that children get the education that prepares them for a brighter future, however, it is critical that everyone works together – Congress, local governments, teachers and parents. No Child Left Behind is a failed policy that focuses on standardized tests rather than empowering teachers to be successful. The emphasis on testing comes at the expense of preparing students for the skills they will need for the jobs of tomorrow. Our children deserve better, and we must work to see that they get the education they need.
11. Do you think President Obama has overstepped his authority in the use of executive orders, such as creating national monuments in New Mexico, deferring immigration enforcement against children brought to the U.S. illegally and establishing new environmental rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions?
President Obama has enacted 182 executive orders – far less than many of his predecessors. President Bush enacted 291, while President Reagan had 381. I think it is disappointing that House Republicans have sued President Obama for taking action, particularly on issues that Republicans leaders have refused to even let the House debate. Rather than working to address the serious issues facing our country – job creation, education, infrastructure – House Republicans have spent time on a frivolous lawsuit and voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
12. Describe your position on abortion.
I believe that this is a very personal issue that is between a woman, her doctor and her God.
13. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
14. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
15. 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.