By Darrell Todd Maurina
Saturday’s meeting of the Curry County Republican Convention didn’t have much official business on its agenda — 14 delegates were elected by unanimous consent to a state convention expected to be quiet with little business — but it provided an opportunity for State Rep. Anna Crook and State Sen. Clint Harden to ask the opinions of those attending on issues facing the upcoming state legislative session.
Crook said she’s received a lot of input and wants more.
“We’ve got some really heavy issues, and anyone who has something to say, please call or write me. I welcome your input,” Crook said.
Harden said many things about the legislative agenda won’t become clear until the legislators get to Santa Fe.
“This governor has a tendency to propose very dramatically in the press, and we won’t know much until we get there,” Harden said.
Harden and Crook both said Medicaid funding will be a major issue in the upcoming session.
“Medicaid is based on income eligibility and number of dependents. Right now in New Mexico, to be eligible for Medicaid you have to be under 185 percent of the poverty level. That means 400,000 individuals out of 1.8 million in New Mexico are on Medicaid,” Harden said. “That’s just a tremendous number. We don’t have that many people paying into it, and something’s got to give.”
Harden said another issue would be increasing taxes on beer and possibly tobacco, and asked residents about their views.
“I’m all for the beer tax; I’d rather tax beer than baby food, and also we should tax cigarettes,” said Mark Harper.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with whether we are for or against drinking, it has to do with the added cost it imposes on our community,” said Sid Sdrebeck.
Terry White cautioned that the logic of that argument could lead to unintended consequences.
“As soon as you say you’re going to tax something because it causes medical problems, you’re going to see taxes on cheeseburgers because they cause medical problems,” White said. “That’s the direction the liberals are going. Taxes are bad, and we have to recognize that.”
Harden said he wants to know his constituents’ views because he understands taxes aren’t popular in Republican circles.
“Typically as a Republican, if it is a tax increase, I vote no,” Harden said. “The reason I ask is because of our tax on cigarettes, I get a lot of calls from businesspeople who said people are going over the border to buy their cigarettes.
“What about stiffer penalties for driving while intoxicated? Everybody is for that, right?” Harden said. “Now here’s the catch. It puts a terrible burden on the counties since they’re the ones that are going to have to pay for the housing of the people sent to prison for longer sentences.”
Other officials and candidates speaking included District Attorney Brett Carter; Randal S. Crowder, running unopposed for the Clovis City Commission; Fred Travis Van Soelen; who is running against incumbent City Commissioner Gloria Wicker; Dennis J. Roch, who is running for the State Board of Education; and Will Palmer, running for State Senate from District 42.