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Hopeful vows not to hike taxes

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By David Giuliani

It’s a year until the 2010 Democratic and Republican primaries in New Mexico, but GOP gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh is already campaigning around the state.

He visited Las Vegas recently.

In a telephone interview, Weh, an ex-Marine, promised that he wouldn’t raise taxes if he were elected.

“There’s enough waste and abuse in the state budget,” Weh said. “There is no reason why any man or woman would go forth to taxpayers and say, ‘We need to raise money without cleaning the mess inside government.’”

Weh, a former GOP state party chairman, said he would work to create a tax code that was competitive in attracting industry to New Mexico, saying that most companies prefer the business-friendly policies of Colorado or Texas over the Land of Enchantment.

As governor, Weh said taxpayers wouldn’t be seeing him hire people based on political connections.

“What I’ll do is hire with a lot of sunlight. Everyone who is appointed will have the credentials to do the job. Things work better when you put people in the right jobs.”

A national study found that New Mexico was 48th in its graduation rate — which Weh found “atrocious.” He said the state puts more money in education than any other area of the budget.

“The bottom line is that at the end of the day, you want results. People say that there’s not enough money for education. There’s enough money. I intend to compel the system to reallocate resources appropriately,” Weh said. “It’s a nonpartisan problem.”

He promised to put together a task force of “bright, committed” educators and parents to come up with a plan for education. And he said he would put vouchers — giving parents money to send their children to the schools of their choice — on the table.

“Education unions see vouchers as a threat to the status quo. If you want to take something off the table because it’s in your wallet’s best interest, then you don’t have the best interests of the kids at heart,” he said.

Greg Zanetti, a brigadier general in the New Mexico National Guard, is the other announced Republican candidate for governor. Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., is also considering a run.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is the frontrunner on the Democratic side.