On Nov. 2, two Democratic incumbent Santa Fe state legislators will face Republican challengers for two House seats. But first, all four candidates faced SFR’s Pop Quiz. The rules: No research allowed and, if candidates call back later with the right answers, too bad. Go to SFReporter.com for more questions and answers, along with the candidates’ campaign contributions and other extras. A public forum for local state representative candidates sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe Countyand other groups will be held from 7-9:15 pm, Sept. 28 at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.
1. Name three of the five duties of the speaker of the House.
2. Who is your opponent’s largest campaign contributor at this point?
3. What is the first bill you would introduce in the 2011 session?
4. What is the top concern for constituents in your district?
5. What percentage of the state’s budget goes to education?
6. What percentage of New Mexico schools failed to meet No Child
Left Behind’s Annual Yearly Progress standards in 2009?
7. Should state legislators have term limits? Why/why not?
9. When did the Legislature begin alternating 60 and 30-day sessions?
10. According to the August Legislative Finance Committee report, how much money in unspent capital does the state have?
11. How much is the tax rebate for films produced in New Mexico?
12. Which sector has received the biggest chunk of New Mexico's federal stimulus money?
13. Who sits on the State Investment Council?
State Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, 34, is a lawyer with The Egolf Law Firm
1. To run the House of Representatives. He assigns members of the committees. He assigns bills introduced to committees. He is responsible for calling legislation up for a vote in the House. He makes determinations of rules during debate for parliamentary correctness. There are others, but those are the first five that come to mind.
2. I believe it is the Merrion Oil & Gas Company of Farmington, New Mexico, tied with the Republican Party of Santa Fe County; each gave her $1,000, I believe.
3. The bill to create the Bank of New Mexico, a state-owned bank modeled on the successful and popular Bank of North Dakota, so we can bring control of our economic future back home to New Mexico and not be beholden to big out-of-state banks and corporations.
4. I have to say the day-to-day economy and job availability are the main concerns that I hear. In close second would be issues of conservation and energy but, like a lot of places in the country, people are very concerned about the economy and jobs, which is why I’ve made that the main focus of the work I’ve done in my first term.
5. Higher education and public schools? Or do you want me to separate it out? [Do whatever you like.] Public education K-12 is slightly less than 50 percent and higher education is an additional 15 percent, so about 65 percent, if you go K through college.
6. Too many. I don’t know the number, but the number is too high, and part of the problem is the way AYP is calculated, but it’s just way too much…um…I started a sentence that doesn’t grammatically fit with the end of the sentence. I just think it’s too much; schools aren’t doing a good enough job. I don’t know the number of schools, but the number of schools that don’t make AYP is unacceptably high.
7. No, because other states that have tried it by and large regret the decision. The surest way to give lobbyists and bureaucrats even more power is to limit the terms legislators serve. Colorado is a great example: Members of the House can serve no more than eight years, so the effect has been there’s a new speaker every two years, there’s constant leadership struggle and the institutional memory shifts from members to lobbyists and the staff and the bureaucrats. It’s a big mistake. There’s a good reason for term limits for executive officials because they appoint people to positions, they control contracts, they control the state government, expenditures of billions of dollars in contracts and capital outlay programs. The Legislature doesn’t do any of that. So what you’re trying to do with term limits with executive positions is ensure executives do not entrench themselves into a very powerful bureaucracy to ensure their re-election by getting people they favor into jobs and positions and by awarding contracts. Also, the executive has a bully pulpit that vastly outperforms the bully pulpit that any individual legislator has. So there’s a lot of good reasons to limit the executive term; none of those reasons apply to the Legislature, where it’s important to have institutional memory in the members.
8. $10 million? I would spend it capitalizing small-business lending programs through the Bank of New Mexico. Small businesses are the biggest creators of jobs. Banks—New Mexico-based banks—are struggling under federal rules that have been implemented starting at the end of the Bush administration, and it’s really tightened up credit availability, made it harder for small businesses to get loans. The best way to get around that is to have a state bank. If we had $10 million, that could be $100 million worth of small-business loans by the bank. I think that would actually be the biggest bang for your buck because of the multipliers you can do when you’re doing business lending.
9. I don't know. Was it during my lifetime?
10. About 1.4 billion.
11. Dollar value or percent? [Whatever you want]. It's 25 percent of money spent with New Mexico companies, so if you spend $100 in a film project with a company that has a New Mexico tax id number, you get a rebate of 25 percent of that amount or you would get a rebate of $25. The last number the last year, the total amount of the rebate provided was about $80 million, which means about $320 million was spent in New Mexico on film productions. So, 25 percent, the most recent one was $80 million. One exception to that: For actors and directors, they don't need to be New Mexico residents. But everything else is audited to assure that the companies that are receiving the payments are New Mexico-based, New Mexico-owned businesses.
12. What do you mean by sector? Like public sector, private sector? [I meant more like, construction, education?] Well, I would say public sector has received a lot because a lot of the stimulus went into Medicaid due to the increased AFNAT reimbursement rate in the state. A lot of the stimulus went into the public schools support. So, health care and education by far receive the largest amount of stimulus money. In terms of the non-government side, I would imagine a lot of it is going into construction and, specifically, road construction projects.
13. We've got Peter Frank, Cathy Allen, Lee Rothen, I think it's Mike Miller, Mike something, he's the president of the bank in Deming, I believe. You also have the secretary of finance and administration, you have the treasurer, um, those are the four appointed members from the Legislature, Cathy Allen was appointed by the governor…yeah, off the top of my head, that's what I've got.
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Brigette Russell, 45, is a former teacher and college professor, and currently a home-schooling mom
1. To preside over the general sessions of the House, to make committee appointments, decide which members get on which committees, to assign bills to committees.
2. You know what, I don’t remember. I’ve looked at his campaign finance reports online, but I don’t remember the name of his campaign contributors; I’m so focused on my own race.
3. My first bill would be a comprehensive school reform bill and education reform bill. My education platform is outlined in a fair amount of detail on my website. It would be a multi-part bill introducing the changes that I believe could really help bring New Mexico schools up to speed and improve test scores, graduation rates and overall performance.
4. You know, it depends on which constituents you ask. I think the economy and corruption probably would be the top two. I mean, everyone is concerned about the economy; who couldn’t be at this time? These are such tough economic times for New Mexico and nationally. I think that’s where people are focusing on mostly right now. And corruption goes along with it because corrupt government means more of our money siphoned off into people’s pockets instead of being spent on the community and our state as they should be.
5. It’s big; it’s over 50 percent…58 percent, 60 percent, somewhere around there.
6. Ah, I know that 90 percent of Santa Fe’s schools failed to meet them. New Mexico’s rate was better than that, but I still think that it was less than 50 percent…maybe around 50 or 60 percent.
7. You know, I’m conflicted about this; I really am. In theory, I think a good legislator who is doing a good job for his or her constituents and for the state generally should be able to stay in the Legislature and continue doing a good job. It’s up to us, the voters, to vote out the bad ones. The problem is many voters vote for the incumbent. They go on name recognition, so bad legislators keep getting voted in when they should get voted out. Term limits might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater—not that I’m signing on to being in the Legislature for 20 years. But when you do have good legislators, long-serving legislators, who bring enormous experience to the job, I would hate to see them gotten rid of just because the voters aren’t doing their jobs voting out the bad ones.
8. I would put it in the bank for when the next recession comes. That is a no-brainer. This is a huge problem that we have. When times were good, the governor and the Legislature went on a spending spree, and when the economy turned bad, which it always does—economies go up and go down—then they’re saying, ‘Oh, my goodness, where are we going to get the money?’ That’s ridiculous. That’s not the way we should be spending our state government money; they should go into the rainy day fund and stay there until it rains again.
9. Oh my goodness. I don't know what year it was, I don't know. I've looked it up, I've read the constitution and the amendments and I remember at some point it changed…if I was going to guess, I'd say the 1970s.
10. I'm not sure.
11.You know, I don't remember the figure.
12. I think education.
13. The land commissioner does, the state treasurer does…I know the state treasurer and the state land commissioner do. Beyond that, I'm not certain.
State Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, 75
1. The five duties? [Name three of the five duties.] The speaker of the House—to appoint committee members, to, ah, run the Legislature, and to resolve any issues that may come before the House whether there be legislative issues—to try to resolve those issues as the speaker of the House.
2. Ohhh, I don’t know. I haven’t seen the latest report that was due the beginning of this week but I would imagine that the Republican Party—the state Republican—well, the Republican Party.
3. Well, the LFC [Legislative Finance Committee] version of the Appropriations Act—that’s my No. 1 responsibility, is to introduce the legislative recommendation on the budget. The chairman of appropriations introduces the governor’s bill. My responsibility will be to introduce the LFC version of the budget.
4. I would imagine that now, given the condition of the economy, that that would be their No. 1 concern. You know, creating jobs and, um, growing the economy.
5. All of education is 60—about 64, 65 percent, which includes both public education and higher ed. It’s getting closer to 70 percent. I’m talking about the general fund budget: It’s over 60 percent and growing.
6. I would say that, probably more than half, given the reports, depending on the reports that are published in terms of AYP? That’s the report that seems to indicate that we have a long way to go in terms of the different school districts meeting the AYP requirements.
7. Well, the term limits are determined by the voters so, you know, I can’t remember that we have too many legislators that have served except for a few, a couple or three or four, that have served more than 30 years. So, to me, a term limit is a term that the voters vote you in, and then they will determine whether that’s the end of your term or whether they can allow you additional terms.
8. If we had a $10 million surplus? Well, if it’s a non-recurring surplus, where we wouldn’t realize it again in the following years, I would suggest that if you’re gonna allocate that money, to allocate it to our reserves for future needs. If you’re gonna expend it and it’s non-recurring, then we expend it on non-recurring expenditures. If it’s recurring, then we can consider spending it or putting it into the reserves for future needs.
9. Well, if my memory serves me right, when the constitution was, ah, creating the legislative branch of government, that's when they, ah—the founding fathers of the constitution put in the constitution that there would be alternating sessions, a 60-day and a 30-day session, and I can't remember that we changed that. [Ok, and what year was that]? 1912, I guess.
10. Unspent? Well, they have around—in the process, that has not been totally spent, uh, slightly over $1 billion. Uh…that's the amounts that have been appropriated but are not, uh, completed in terms of total spending.
11. How much is the what? [The tax rebate for films produced in New Mexico.] Well, uh, we've had different numbers. According to some of the economics reports that have been, uh, published—you're talking about the tax credits now, right?
[I'm saying for films produced in New Mexico, how much of a tax rebate do they get?]
Yeah. Well, it's in the double digits, close to probably $70 million dollars now. Maybe it's even higher, and, uh, that's why there's been a concern, uh, that maybe we ought to cap that amount—but as far as the, uh, area that we represent in Santa Fe, you know, that is something that the film industry is asking us to continue and whether or not we ought to terminate it, uh, I don't think it's practical in terms of our economy in Santa Fe, but we may consider putting a cap on that. [OK, but what's the percentage of tax refunded]
Ahhh, I don't have that, um, offhand.
12. Probably Medicaid and, uh, education.
13. On the Council? Uh, the governor, No. 1. The land commissioner, as an elected official. The state treasurer, as an ex officio also, like the land commissioner. And then, uh, those members appointed by the Legislature now, under the new statute, and those appointed by the governor.
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Robert “Bob” Walsh, 73, community activist, former vice chairman of Santa Fe County Democratic Party
1. One is that he presides over the…the sessions of the state House. Second is that he appoints the chairs of the various committees. And…third he appoints special committees that are set up by the Legislature.
2. I don’t know who his largest contributor is. The bulk of his contributions in past campaigns have come from various medical organizations—medical PACs.
3. I have several bills in mind that I would want to introduce right away. Perhaps the one that’s most important to me would be a bill stripping the Public Regulation Commission of its authority to regulate intrastate transport on the highways, such as ambulance companies transporting patients from one hospital to another. That’s because the PRC has actually fined companies in that situation because they went out of assigned jurisdiction in the case of an emergency.
4. I’m going to list two top concerns. One is the shortfall in the funds for retirement of state employees, and this affects those—many of the constituents who are, in fact, either current or retired state employees. The other one is the lack of a proper domestic partnership bill, which affects many of the other constituents.
5. Almost half of the state general fund budget goes to education. The problem—actually, it’s a little more than half. Almost half goes to schoolchildren’s education, and then there’s a substantial amount that goes to higher education. The amount that goes to higher education is plagued by an excessive amount going to administrators of higher education.
6. I don’t know the exact percentage, but it’s most of them. One of the things that some of us are advocating with respect to education is that instead of those rather vague guidelines, schools be given a grade of A through F, which would really help the parents understand where the schools are and would stimulate a lot more parent involvement.
7. I’m not generally in favor of term limits. I think it’s up to the voters to decide whether my opponent has been in there for too long when he’s only been in there for 24 years. But as long as the state legislators are imposing term limits on other officials, then they probably should equally impose term limits on themselves.
8. Most of it should go to repair the state reserves so we are prepared if, once again, the economy turns sour. But we should also be spending more money on Medicaid to take advantage of the federal contribution of $4 for every dollar that the state spends. And we should be putting more money into the state retirement funds to help make up for the shortfall that we’ve allowed to occur.
9. I have no idea when the Legislature changed the pattern of the length of the sessions. It is important that the Legislature is a citizen Legislature, that they are only paid expenses and that…(pause)…]Bob, are you there]? Yes. [Are you ready for the next one?] No. (pause) …and that they have sufficiently short, uh, sessions that they can hold other regular jobs.
10. I do not know. The figures that occur from time to time are not particularly relevant. The capital may be unspent because there is a plan to spend it that has not quite reached the point where it's going to be spent, so it's not very useful to follow that information from month to month.
11. The tax rebate is on—is a gross receipts tax rebate, and it's based on, I believe, 25 percent of the expenses—but I'm not firm on that number. The, um—there are actually two different ways in which the state supports films; that's one way. The other way is by actually providing no-interest loans in return for a piece of the action. So far, the no-interest loans, in the past few years, have been one of the best investments the state has made because they didn't lose money. And in fact, the state may actually get some benefit from its involvement in one of the more popular films.
12. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by sector. A lot of money has gone into education; a lot of money has gone into, um, infrastructure… [Where has the most money gone?] I suspect that most of the money has gone into education, but one of the problems with that is that the state simply offsets that money by reducing the amount it spends on any sector that the federal government's supporting.
13. I believe the State Investment Council is made up of a mix of legislative appointees and executive department appointees. A more important issue is who makes up the councils for the state retirement plans, both the PERA retirement plan and the teachers' retirement plan. In both of those cases, the commissions are dominated by current or future retirees who actually have no vested interest in how the plans do because the plans are, in fact, backing up a defined benefit program. [I have to stop you there, because that's not the question. Well, that's your opinion. No; my question was who sits on the State Investment Council. You're veering into territory that isn't in the scope of the question.]
1. According to the New Mexico Blue Book, the speaker of the House: preserves order and decorum in the House; is fourth in succession to the Office of the Governor; decides all questions of procedure and order, subject to an appeal to the House; signs all bills, resolutions and memorials, and certifies the passage of all bills that may be passed over the governor’s veto; has all of the powers and privileges as the speaker of the present US Congress.
5. According to the FY 2011 budget passed by the Legislature, 59.4 percent of the state’s general fund—nearly $3.2 billion, out of a $5.37 billion total general fund budget—goes to education, K-college.
6. According to certified results published by the New Mexico Public Education Department, in 2009, 68.3 percent of New Mexico schools failed to meet AYP.
9. The Legislature began alternating 60 and 30-day sessions in 1965 for the 27th session.
10. According to the August Legislative Finance Committee newsletter, more than $1 billion in capital outlay funding that has been approved since 2005 remains unspent.
11. According to the New Mexico Film Office, the state offers a 25 percent rebate for "all production expenditures (including New Mexico labor) that are subject to taxation by the State of New Mexico."
12. According to the New Mexico Office of Recovery & Reinvestment, approximately $800 million of New Mexico's $3.7 billion estimated total stimulus funding is allocated for Medicaid.
13. SB 18 (2010 regular session) changed the State Investment Council's composition to the following members:
1) the governor;
2) the state treasurer;
3) the commissioner of public lands;
4) the secretary [of finance and administration];
5) the chief financial officer of a state institution of higher education appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate;
6) four members appointed by the NM legislative council with the advice and consent of the senate (and no more than two of those members can be of the same political party);
7) two members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate.
The governor chairs the council; the vice chair is selected by the council.
The current six public members are Catherine A. Allen, Douglas M. Brown, Peter Frank, Craig Reeves, Leonard Lee Rawson and Michael R. Martin).