Candidate Profiles: State Senate District 42

Editor’s note: The Clovis News Journal asked District 42
State Senate candidates to answer the following questions in 300 words
or less. The answers were edited for spelling and style. The primary is
June 3, the general election Nov. 4.

Name: Gay G. Kernan

Age: 60

Occupation: Educator and small business owner

Running for: State Senate District 42

Party affiliation: Republican

Elected offices held: Incumbent District 42 senator (running unopposed)


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

Eastern
New Mexico is attractive to a wide variety of economic development as
illustrated by our current, diversified economy which includes a
military base, numerous dairy operations, oil and gas exploration in
the southeast and the construction of a prison in the north.
The
key to solid economic development is a trained workforce. It is
imperative that our local community colleges remain strong through the
support of the local community as well as the state. The New Mexico
Economic Development Department offers various opportunities for local
communities to attract small businesses throughout rural New Mexico.
Continued
funding of the New Mexico Finance Authority and other equity financing
programs will provide opportunities at the state level and will
encourage small business development. It is important to retain various
tax credits currently in place that support companies providing higher
paying jobs, that are investing in low-income areas of New Mexico and
that bring jobs to rural New Mexico. Efforts by the local economic
development organizations are critical to the success of any community
in marketing the area and attracting new businesses and should receive
the continued support of the legislative delegation.


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 been on the drawing board for many years. In
fact, Lea County at one time was a participant in the plan to pump
water from the Ute Reservoir to various communities in Eastern New
Mexico.
The Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority has been
successful in obtaining funds to continue the design phase of this
important project.
With an infusion of over $4 million dollars
awarded by the New Mexico Water Trust Board, this phase of the project
can continue. Participation at the federal level has been more
difficult to obtain. It is encouraging to note that the recent passage
of legislation out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
is a huge step in the right direction.
Though the journey is still
long and difficult, I believe with the continued leadership of strong
local officials, the increased support from the State of New Mexico and
the continued commitment of our Congressional delegation, that this
legislation will continue to move through Congress and the Ute Water
Project will become a reality.

What do you propose doing to help New Mexico schools? Is the current funding formula working?
As
a member of the Senate Education Committee and the Legislative
Education Study Committee, I have been involved in the development of
policy issues regarding our public schools.
I served on the Funding
Formula Task Force, which devoted two years to the review and
evaluation of the current funding formula. The recommendations of the
task force were incorporated into legislation that was introduced
during the 2008 Legislative Session.
This legislation would
radically change the way state funding for schools would be generated
and distributed. The proposed new formula would include fewer factors
that would be based on indicators of student need.
It would require
a greater level of accountability on the part of the Public Education
Department and the local school boards. HB 241 did not pass during the
recent legislative session and will again be the focus of study and
review during the interim.
Each school district will be given the
opportunity to present to the Legislative Education Study Committee how
the proposed public school funding formula will accommodate the needs
of their students. Though many legislators are supportive of the
proposed funding formula, questions remain regarding the source of
revenue that would be required to fully fund the new formula.
As a
legislator, I continue to support efforts to reduce truancy, provide
professional development opportunities, encourage the development of
reasonable assessment of student performance and parental participation
in the educational process.


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?

Improving health care
is a broad topic that must include every aspect of the health delivery
system in New Mexico. We have made progress in providing access to care
through Insure New Mexico, which offers coverage opportunities to those
who need assistance with premiums or who are denied insurance due to
pre-existing conditions. During the 2008 session we increased the
state’s share of Medicaid by $91 million or a 13 percent increase over
the previous year.
There are approximately 400,000 New Mexicans
who are not covered by insurance. Of that number, many are children who
are eligible for Medicaid, but who are not enrolled. Some are young
adults who are reluctant to pay premiums even when the cost is shared
by their employer. Increasing the number of school-based health clinics
would reach many children through our schools.
Providing basic,
low-cost insurance plans for our college students would reduce the
number of uninsured in our state. Incentives for businesses to include
wellness programs that encourage healthy life-styles should be
supported.
Training, recruitment and the retention of healthcare
providers should continue to be a high priority for the state of New
Mexico.
The cost of health care must be addressed and tort reform
should be a part of that discussion. Before New Mexico embarks on a
universal coverage plan for the state, real costs must be determined
and the resources to pay that cost be transparent to us all.


Regarding state infrastructure, what areas need the most improvement or repairs, and how can the state pay for such needs?

New
Mexico roads are in great need of maintenance and repair. Because of a
reduction in federal road funds, New Mexico will be required to absorb
a greater share of the cost in maintaining the highway system within
the state.
The cost of materials to repair and maintain our roads has increased substantially due to the high cost of oil.
Where to find the resources required to maintain our roads is our challenge as a state legislature.
Shifting
road tax dollars from the general fund to the road fund should be
considered. How to replace the lost general fund dollars must then be
addressed.


What is something you felt the Legislature has not adequately handled, and how would you approach it?

The
Retiree Health Care Authority will become insolvent as of June 30,
2014, unless major changes are made to the system. Senate Bill 67 was
introduced during the 2008 Session but did not pass.
This
legislation was the result of recommendations made by an interim work
group that worked to develop a plan to address the dire condition of
the Retiree Health Care Authority.
The success of this legislation
will depend on the cooperation of the various participating entities of
the Authority as well as the education of our legislators on the
importance of addressing this issue.