By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
Incumbent Dist. 43 Rep. Christine Chandler (Democrat) and Republican challenger David Hampton joined Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Director Ryn Herrmann and Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Executive Director Patrick Sullivan Tuesday for a discussion of issues of special relevance to the business community via Zoom.
The last two years have been productive in the New Mexico House of Representatives, Chandler said. She serves on the taxation and revenue and judiciary committees, which often deal with matters of concern to businesses.
“We took on many issues that had lain dormant for five to 10 years,” she said.
Chandler urged business people to contact her with their ideas about how the state government can assist them during and after the pandemic.
Hampton is a White Rock resident and retired. He cited his many volunteer activities to show his commitment to the area.
“I decided to run because of the state government’s inability to solve persistent problems,” he said.
The state is first in many bad things and last in many good things, Hampton said. He pointed to the state’s record as 5th highest in unemployment as one of the measures that need improvement.
Other problems Hampton pointed to were violent offenders being released from prison soon after arrest, the need to improve the tax and a costly, top-heavy education system.
Hampton would seek to foster “a culture of respect”.
“I’m concerned about the incivility of our discourse,” he said. “We need to move forward to solve our problems together.”
When questioned about ways state government can help businesses during and after the pandemic, Chandler pointed to the economic recovery package passed by the legislature. It needs to be fine-tuned in the next session, she said.
Chandler said the Speaker of the House was committed to looking into creative ways to provide grant help to businesses without running afoul of the anti-donation clause.
Hampton said government should give businesses the opportunity to find alternative ways to reach safety goals rather than insist on blanket solutions. The tax code unfairly targets small businesses because of the gross receipts tax they must pay on services for which they contract, while large business use their own employees in many roles such as janitorial and bookkeeping services, he said.
The discussion then moved to improving education in New Mexico.
“The prior administration starved education,” Chandler said.
State government has targeted pre-K and early childhood education, she said. Successful programs such as child visitation and targeting funding to at risk schools have been supported.
“We need to support families so they can provide a strong foundation for their children,” she said.
Chandler supports vocational programs that provide young people with choices such as the partnerships between Los Alamos National Laboratory and local colleges to provide training for existing jobs.
“Money is not the solution,” Hampton said. “I support school choice. The money should follow the child.”
Hampton said choice would work well in places like the Navajo Nation where it could be used to attract teachers and provide culturally appropriate education. He also suggested paying moms to stay home and educate their children. He would like to see educational decisions be made at the local level more frequently.
The candidates addressed diversifying the New Mexico economy away from oil and gas dependency.
Hampton suggests reforming the state tax code, improving education and reducing the crime rate, as well as reviewing and perhaps eliminating some regulations and reducing taxes. Economic opportunity zones that make it easier to do business also would be helpful, he said.
Chandler pointed out that businesses rarely say taxes or excessive regulation are barriers to relocating to the state. Rather, they seek an educated and trained workforce and a solid infrastructure, including broadband access. Public/private partnerships and the leveraging of federal dollars directed toward these goals would attract more businesses to the state and support local start-ups, she said.
When given time to discuss an issue of their choice, Hampton said he supported moving to a quicker reopening of the state from the pandemic. He said the legislature should review the governor’s power to issue health orders.
Chandler chose to discuss healthcare. As federal dollars dry up, she expects more of the burden will be left to the states. She pointed to placing the cap on insulin costs to under $25 and the agreement to negotiate with Canada on the purchase of prescription drugs as two accomplishments last legislative session. Healthcare will continue to be on the agenda, she said.