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Senator Martin Heinrich shares perspective on issues facing New Mexico and nation

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich stopped by the KRWG Public Media studios recently to talk about many issues. The Democratic senator talked with Anthony Moreno about housing issues, water concerns, gun violence, border infrastructure, fires, and other issues facing the country.


Anthony Moreno: Joining us is Democratic U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich to discuss some issues facing New Mexico and the U.S.. Senator, Thanks for joining us.

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich: It's always great to be here.

Anthony Moreno: Housing concerns are major issue in New Mexico and across the country. I'd like to hear from you. How do you feel this can be addressed at the federal level?

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich: Couple of different approaches, in fact we're working on legislation right now, that would create a a sort of a new market tax credits kind of approach to supporting the development of new housing specifically for low and moderate income. I also think that, you know, one of the things I realized when I took over as Chair of of the Agriculture Subcommittee of Appropriations is that there were opportunities to actually support affordable housing directly through the USDA and I think we need to increase and grow those as well.

Anthony Moreno: So, what other steps do you think can be done at the federal level to make housing markets more fair and transparent?

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich: Transparency is one of the things we're looking at and one of the things that I found really interesting is I chair the Joint Economic Committee and oftentimes we'll convene a hearing and you'll have different points of view in different parts of the political spectrum and I chaired a hearing on housing recently and one of the things I heard across the board was the need for zoning reform, and that's not something I can necessarily do at the federal level, but it's something I can certainly support, and it was think tanks and actual affordable housing builders across the spectrum saying if we could build duplexes and triplexes or accessory quarters on these R1 lots, we could dramatically increase the supply of affordable housing right away and take some of the pressure off. That is driving the rents and the mortgage prices that we're seeing right now.

Anthony Moreno: I want to move on and talk about another issue that's so important to all of us in New Mexico; water. Your office announced $60 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to aid Doña Ana County and Sierra County residents and farmers with drought mitigation and climate adaption efforts, can you tell us exactly how soon this could possibly help?

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich: It'll be moving in the course of the next months and year it is largely dollars that will go towards specific projects that yield real water, in other words efficiency projects where instead of losing water to seepage to evaporation that we're able to recapture that water and sort of balance the supply and demand mismatch that we have right now which is impacting everything from agriculture to municipalities to everyone who relies on that water industry as well.

Anthony Moreno: Do you think there's enough awareness at the federal level to really address this pressing issue?

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich: Not enough if you look at the entirety of, say, the US Senate, but there is a whole group of us from the West, Republicans and Democrats who've been meeting for several years now seeing this coming. And it started, you know, the Colorado River got alot of attention nationally, which did educate some of my colleagues. One of the things that I've really focused on is making sure as there is that attention on the Colorado River, which is absolutely appropriate, that we don't forget about the Rio Grande base and the Pecos, the other rivers that we have in New Mexico and that we share with our neighbors.

Anthony Moreno: Contamination of water sources also a big concern for many in our area. You recently pressed the head of NASA about this issue to compensate New Mexico for White Sands Test Facility’s groundwater contamination. Do you see this getting addressed anytime soon?

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich: Well, I do. I don't know precisely what the timeline is going to be on that project, but I used to actually do that work at the state with when I was the state’s natural resources trustee and so I know how this dynamic works, where the two sides are oftentimes need a little nudge from. Other directions from state leaders from national elected leaders to get those final negotiations to something that's actually meaningful for the state and that's why I was pushing the NASA Commissioner is because it a little attention from him, will go a long way towards getting both sides to agree to what the compensation is going to look like and then we get that on the ground and put it to work.

Anthony Moreno: We've also seen some concern in the southern part of Doña Ana County in Sunland Park, Santa Teresa with the high levels of arsenic and the Camino Real Regional Utility Authority has faced a lot of criticism, of course. But what about the federal level? What do you see lawmakers like you at that level, being able to help in a situation like?

Read the full interview: