Q&A: Pearce: Ute water priority

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Name: Steve Pearce

Candidate for: U.S. Senate

Education: New Mexico State University with a BA degree in economics, earned an MBA at Eastern New Mexico University.

Experience: U.S. Congress, five years, New Mexico House of Representatives four years, owned an oilfield services firm, served as a pilot in Vietnam.

Q: What projects that Sen. Pete Domenici is currently involved in do you think are a priority for you to continue?
A: As a delegation we all have been talking about the Ute Water Project. That’s been ongoing for decades (and) would require a lot of money. But frankly, we need the water to be spread out. Every drop of water that goes across the dam belongs to Texas and when it’s on this side, it belongs to us.

So we need to utilize our water, that would be big.

The program at Los Alamos National Labs … Sen. Domenici has always been a steadfast advocate for those. I would do the same thing, I would fight for that mission, the nuclear mission. I would fight for the labs to ply a critical role in that. It’s good for the nation, it’s good for New Mexico.

Q: What do you think needs to be done to bring the Farm Bill back on track?
A: The problem I saw with the farm bill is that it had a large tax increase and the tax increase would have been one which hurt New Mexico jobs and it would have hurt New Mexico’s future. Frankly, I think the bill would have passed very easily if that tax increase had not been added to the floor of the House of Representatives. It happened after it left the agriculture committee. And it’s disappointing because I think that Chairman (Collin) Peterson had worked out actually a fairly good bill, that had the balance. It gave support to farmers and yet began to make sure that they didn’t just have a total dependence on the government.

So I think that he had gotten the balance but the tax increase was the piece that made it not work.

Q: What do you think needs to happen for economic development in New Mexico?
A: In my original campaign we said that value-added agriculture products is one of the greatest ways that we can improve our economy here. The production of agriculture products is the lowest economic function and the next level up is the production of those into something.

So growing the cows and milking the cows is kind of the lowest level, but when you make cheese, now you get better jobs. So you all put the cheese plant in and then also you have the MPC plant, both of those are very high-track jobs, they’re good high-paying jobs.
Then if we can move into the marketing of agriculture products, that would also be large for us. So take our (agriculture) products and make something out of them and then see if we can take the marketing also.

We also need to diversify our economy. Oil and gas is a big thing for New Mexico, but we need renewable fuels to lower the cost of gasoline. Many of our agriculture producers are being tremendously penalized because of the high price of gasoline. We need a renewable fuel that would deflate that price. Our office has been very supportive of all the renewables. New Mexico should be a leader of renewables. We had a renewable energy summit ourselves as an office two years ago and that working group is still meeting and functioning, seeing which way New Mexico can be a leader in the renewable energy sector.

Q: What are your thoughts on health care?
A: The discussion that needs to be had is do we want a socialized medicine plan or do we not? And I absolutely do not favor socialized medicine.
I think one thing in the private system that’s driving costs up are frivolous lawsuits. I think that doctors who make mistakes should be held accountable. I also think that people who bring lawsuits frivolously should be accountable, too.

Preventative medicine is something that we should absolutely insist on. It was a piece that we as Republicans put into the Medicare prescription drug plan so that we take care of problems before they arise. That would be important.

I think there are probably 17 or 18 things that, and again this is just kind of a rough guess, those are the number of elements that are forcing the cost of care up and the access to care down. We need to sort through them one at a time, instead of trying to say, ‘Well we’re going to vote to give everybody free health care.’ There’s not enough money in the country to pay for that. Plus, if there’s not enough providers, what we would do is begin to ration health care. And when you ration health care, who do you decide gets the health care?

So there’s a certain appeal to the free market system that says, that we are going to work on the free market, but those people who just absolutely can’t afford it, we’re going to provide Medicaid, which we already do; we’re going to provide S-CHIP for the kids, which we already do. We’re going to provide things for those people who don’t have normal access. So a free market system with support mechanisms inside of it are the approaches that I would take.