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Governor Candidate Apodaca has unique economic plan

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Governor Candidate Jeff Apodaca talks to NMSU students.

Governor Candidate Jeff Apodaca talks to NMSU students.

Cassidy Kuester

Cassidy Kuester

Governor Candidate Jeff Apodaca talks to NMSU students.

New Mexico Governor candidate Jeff Apodaca will utilize the state’s permanent fund and legalize marijuana in hopes to create new jobs, keep students in-state and grow the economy of New Mexico if elected as governor.

The New Mexico State Investment Council, which oversees the fund, announced that, as of June 2017, the permanent fund reached an all-time high of $22.3 billion. The fund is separated into four separate funds: land Grant, severance tax, tobacco settlement and water trust.

Both the land grant and severance tax funds, which make up approximately 95 percent of the entire permanent fund’s revenue, is funded mainly from leases, royalties and taxes on oil and gas production in New Mexico, as well as investments in stocks, bonds and businesses in other states.

Apodaca visited New Mexico State University last Monday to answer students’ questions and discuss his plan to use the permanent funds to “turn New Mexico around”.

Apodaca said he plans to use the five percent of the permanent fund, which equates to approximately $1.2 billion, to provide loans to small businesses, improve infrastructure, keep businesses in-state and provide other economic benefits.

“We’re going to make sure we take the lead on investing into New Mexico industries and technologies,” Apodaca said. According to Apodaca’s economic plan, if he is elected, he will invest up to nine percent of the severance fund into start-up technology companies and provide infrastructure needed to keep these companies in New Mexico. This equates to $420 million.

Other candidates including the U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce on the Republican ticket, said Apodaca’s plan is not the intended role of the permanent fund permanent fund.

“[The permanent funds are] set up for the time when we don’t have any more oil and gas; we will eventually run out,” Pearce who previously owned and operated an oilfield services company said. “I’m very nervous about taking out of [the permanent fund].”

According to the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, the oil and gas industry brings the state approximately $2 billion in direct revenue. If oil and gas in New Mexico runs out, the funds would take care of the state for approximately 10 years if the permanent fund holds the current $22.3 billion.

Pearce, along with other gubernatorial candidates, are looking for other ways to diversify the economy rather than using the permanent fund.

State legislators such as Sen. John Arthur Smith-D, do not approve of taking money out of the permanent fund. Smith, a powerful leader in the New Mexico Senate Finance Committee told the Santa Fe New Mexican taking from the fund will open the floodgates of the fund. “When you open that door, that door remains open,” Smith told the Santa Fe New Mexican in April 2018.

During his NMSU visit, Apodaca also said he strongly believes in the legalization of marijuana in the economic and medical research capacity.

“If you look at one stock of hemp, you literally could create five different industries within that,” Apodaca said. “So, when start looking at that, you literally look at 32,000 new jobs for our state and over $200 million in tax revenue.” Apodaca’s cannabis statement said he wants the number of marijuana plants owned by a single person to be limited to three and “the smoking or vaping of adult use cannabis in public should be subject to all state and local laws regulating tobacco use” to protect the rights of non-cannabis using New Mexicans.

Former Governor Jerry Apodaca, Jeff Apodaca’s father, signed the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act of 1978 which was the first law in the U.S. which recognized the medical benefits of cannabis.

Jeff Apodaca said that he used medical marijuana two years later when he was diagnosed with cancer to get through the pain of chemo and radiation therapy.

Apodaca also said he wants the state’s two research universities active in medical cannabis research.

“When you start looking at the University of New Mexico’s biotechnology research and then you look at New Mexico State [University’s] agricultural research, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be leading the world in medical and agricultural research within [the cannabis] industry.”

The cannabis statement on Apodaca’s campaign website said he wants a university in New Mexico to direct a Medical Cannabis Research program and consultant certification requirements that the state of New Mexico will establish, as well.

Apodaca will be running on the Democratic ticket against Michelle Lujan Grisham and Joe Cervantes. The primary election will be in June. Rep. Steve Pearce will be running on the Republican ticket unopposed.

General election day will be November 6, 2018, and the elected governor’s term will start January 1, 2019, and end exactly 4 years later in 2023.

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Governor Candidate Apodaca has unique economic plan