Candidate Profiles: State Representative, District 67

Editor’s note: The Clovis News Journal asked District 67
state representative candidates to answer the following questions in
300 words or less. The answers were edited for spelling and style. The
primary is June 3.

Name: Craig L. Cosner

Age: 59

Occupation: Retired banker (35 years)

Party affiliation: Democrat

Elected offices held: None. Gubernatorial appointment to Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents and New Mexico Finance Authority.

What type of economic development suits eastern New Mexico best, and how could you, as a legislator, facilitate it?
In
District 67 there is a lot of diversity in the type of economic
development that can be developed in our area. It is important that as
a legislator you are supportive of the economic development process in
each community. As a project is identified you must stand ready to
support the community in securing economic growth. If we are going to
improve the economic outlook, it is important to take advantage of
growth and job opportunities as they become available. The state has in
place assistance to help in economic growth and we need to make sure
that they are made available to northeastern New Mexico.

How familiar are you with the Ute Water Project? What can the state Legislature do to move the project along?
The
Ute Water Project has had several studies on the project and the water
allocations have been determined. It is my understanding that a bill
has been introduced by Congressman Tom Udall to finance this water
project. It is important for the legislators serving this area be
supportive and work with the communities on a state level to bring this
project forward.

What do you propose doing to help New Mexico schools? Is the current funding formula working?
Our
area schools are a part of the foundation of each of our communities.
Not only are they a part of the community, but the future of our youth
is dependent on the quality of the education provided by New Mexico. It
is the state’s responsibility to adequately fund education. The current
formula needs to be updated as shown by a recent study that shows we
are underfunding education. This will be on the agenda for 2009 and it
is very important that we have strong representation to ensure that our
schools in northeastern New Mexico have adequate funding to provide the
quality education that we all expect.

Gov. Richardson has been pretty adamant about a health care plan,
and has gone so far as to threaten a special session. How can health
care be improved in the state?

The cost of health care must be
addressed. We can not afford to continue with the increases that we
have experienced. There is not an easy solution to this problem, but we
must continue to work toward finding a solution. The cost of health
care affects each individual that has insurance and those who do not
have insurance. It is time for the legislature to find a solution that
adequately covers our state and is affordable. The cost of health care
is important to District 67, but the availability of health care is
also very important.

Regarding state infrastructure, what areas need the most improvement or repairs, and how can the state pay for such needs?
Fiscal
responsibility should be high priority for your legislator. There is
not an area in New Mexico that is without needs for improvement in
infrastructure. The roads, bridges, sewer, water lines, etc. all needs
improvement. The only way to adequately address our needs is to
prioritize needs in each area and start a system of funding them within
the budget of the state of New Mexico.

What is something you felt the Legislature has not adequately handled, and how would you approach it?
In
District 67 we have some special projects that have not been funded.
Some have been from lack of support and others have not been signed
into law. It is very important that your legislator works with each
community and within the legislative system to adequately represent
each area in District 67 with equal, fair and honest representation.

Name: Dennis J. Roch

Age: 34

Occupation: Assistant superintendent, Tucumcari Public Schools (formerly teacher and coach, Texico Municipal Schools)

Party affiliation: Republican

Elected offices held: Public Education Commission, District 9 (formerly the State Board of Education)

What type of economic development suits eastern New Mexico best, and how could you, as a legislator, facilitate it?
Economic development is almost always a function of two key factors: The tax climate and the correlation to the local economy.
First,
very few entrepreneurs will choose to locate their businesses where the
tax climate prevents them from making a living or where laws and
regulations impose so many licensing or operating fees that the
business cannot be successful. Legislators are not elected to create
jobs. They are elected to create an economic climate in which local
businesses can thrive. The jobs will then be created by these
successful businesses.
Second, the local economy in eastern New
Mexico has long been supported by agriculture, the railroad, and the
military presence at Cannon Air Force Base. Economic development
efforts that correlate to these anchor industries, such as Clovis’
cheese plant ties into the success of local dairies, enjoy a greater
likelihood of success themselves. Local leaders have done an excellent
job in attracting businesses that build on our strengths, but the
future holds even greater opportunities.

How familiar are you with the Ute Water Project? What can the state Legislature do to move the project along?
As
a former aide to U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici and U.S. Rep. Bill Redmond, I
gained a federal perspective on the progress of the Ute Water Project.
The project is not just a good idea… it is the key to eastern New
Mexico’s continued prosperity, for without it, the decreasing
groundwater supplies in the Ogallala Aquifer will threaten agriculture
and local industry and thereby threaten our communities.
However,
the federal government will surely not pay the entire bill, nor will
they release a single dollar without a significant investment from the
state. Such an investment is not possible as long as the governor keeps
demanding that taxpayers subsidize his personal projects.
Legislating
is about making hard choices. While the governor’s RailRunner and
SpacePort might be “nice to have,” initiatives such as the Ute Water
Project which protect our communities’ futures are “need to have” items
and deserve to be funded first.

What do you propose doing to help New Mexico schools? Is the current funding formula working?
As
a professional educator, I know firsthand the difficulty our schools
face in meeting increasing higher expectations on increasingly tighter
budgets. Although education is one of the only
constitutionally-mandated expenses for state government, the percent of
the state budget dedicated to education has declined over the last
decade from 50 percent to near 42 percent. These declines mean that
schools don’t have the resources to fund academics and physical
education or both reading and math intervention and fine arts programs.
Our students deserve a top-notch education, complete with rigorous
academics and programs that help them to become well-rounded.
The
state’s Funding Formula Task Force, of which I was a member, spent the
last two years developing recommendations for funding education to the
level that all students deserve and that all parents desire for their
children. The final recommendations reported that education in New
Mexico is underfunded by $350 million, and that the schools hardest hit
by this deficiency are those in rural areas who, ironically, have the
best reputation for meeting students’ needs. Imagine what they could
accomplish if they were fully funded.

Gov. Richardson has been pretty adamant about a health care
plan, and has gone so far as to threaten a special session. How can
health care be improved in the state?

Of the 400,000 New
Mexicans the governor claims are without health insurance, almost
250,000 are already eligible for existing state programs (Medicaid, for
example) but have not signed up to receive benefits. Another 100,000
are eligible for health insurance through their employers but choose
not to participate. The remaining uninsured, some of which are in rural
New Mexico, likely have more difficulty with “access” to health care
professionals and facilities than they do with insurance needs.
In
the 2008 session, legislators bolstered the state’s Medicaid program by
$124 million, accounting for roughly 1/4 of all new state revenue this
year. The state is already making a significant investment into health
care coverage. Those of us in rural New Mexico understand that “access”
is the bigger issue, and I will support programs like the University of
New Mexico’s BA-MD program, which recruits students from rural
communities to earn a bachelor’s degree and medical degree before
returning home to practice medicine in their home communities.

Regarding state infrastructure, what areas need the most improvement or repairs, and how can the state pay for such needs?
While
our city officials take responsibility for the upkeep of local roads
and services, the state must take responsibility for the maintenance
and repairs of state highways. New projects occasionally have to wait,
especially in years when state revenues are lower than expected.
Just
as a homeowner doesn’t add a room on his house if he can’t afford to
maintain what he already has, so the state can ill-afford to undertake
new transportation projects (like the now infamous RailRunner) while it
struggles to maintain existing state roads.

What is something you felt the Legislature has not adequately handled, and how would you approach it?
For
small business owners and property owners, the Legislature is the only
protection that exists against the burdensome regulatory practices of
the executive branch of state government. For example, when a state
agency prohibits the clearing of certain quantities of brush on private
land or requires community bankers to spend more time filing
unnecessary reports than helping to finance the efforts of local
entrepreneurs, we know that regulations have grown out of control.
The
legislature must exercise greater oversight to ensure that state
bureaucrats are not standing in the way of expanding our local
economies.

Name: Van Robertson

Age: 54

Occupation: Rancher

Party affiliation: Democrat

Elected offices held: Currently serving as a Union County commissioner


What type of economic development suits eastern New Mexico best, and how could you, as a legislator, facilitate it?

Economic
development will be different in each community in eastern New Mexico.
It is important to seek many new and desirable ventures not just one
large venture. I believe that economic development in eastern New
Mexico should first be environmentally safe. Creating jobs will be the
most beneficial issue for all communities. As your state representative
I would work directly with all community economic development
organizations to develop their ideas and projects and do everything
possible to improve economic development in eastern New Mexico.

How familiar are you with the Ute Water Project? What can the state Legislature do to move the project along?
I
am very familiar with the Ute Water Project. I would support the
project as long as it is used for municipalities and not for
agricultural use. The state legislature should work with the federal
agencies, as well as the city and county agencies involved in the
project to ensure the project moves forward and is financially feasible.

What do you propose doing to help New Mexico schools? Is the current funding formula working?
I
think one of the best things I could do help eastern New Mexico schools
is to attend the Rural Education Cooperative meetings with the area
superintendents and become more informed as to what the needs and
problems are for our schools. By attending these meetings I would be
more knowledgeable and aggressive as the District 67 representative to
visit with the other legislators and seek more funding for our schools.
The
current formula is not working for most eastern New Mexico schools.
Small classes make the formula even less attractive. The small schools
in eastern New Mexico are not treated fairly when the AYP standards are
raised. Most schools are under budgeted when the AYP programs fail.
I would like to see more emphasis on drug prevention and teen pregnancy in the area schools.

Gov. Richardson has been pretty adamant about a health care
plan, and has gone so far as to threaten a special session. How can
health care be improved in the state?

Health care in New Mexico
is extremely important and vital to all eastern New Mexico residents.
The rising cost of insurance is making it more difficult for New Mexico
businesses, municipal governments and schools to provide and pay for
health care coverage for their employees. Health care needs to be
affordable without causing financial hardship on individuals and
families. I will work diligently for quality health care in eastern New
Mexico and strive for a program that will meet the needs of every
citizen.

Regarding state infrastructure, what areas need the most improvement or repairs, and how can the state pay for such needs?
I believe that water, waste water, and solid waste are areas that need improvement in eastern New Mexico
Water
conservation is a concern to me, and I intend on implementing more
water conserving ideas for eastern New Mexico. Waste water and solid
waste are a problem and I think with adequate planning these areas can
be solved in a financially feasible manner.

What is something you felt the Legislature has not adequately handled, and how would you approach it?
I
think that water conservation is one of the most important issues
facing eastern New Mexico at the present time. The Legislature
implemented several good programs regarding water, but I strongly feel
as a legislator there must be more focus on water protection and
conservation. I would hope to see Texas and New Mexico work jointly to
create guidelines that benefit all eastern New Mexico residents.


— Compiled by CNJ Staff Writer Kevin Wilson