Q&A: House District 57 Candidate Jason C. Harper

  • NAME: Jason C. Harper
  • POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
  • OCCUPATION: Research engineer at Sandia National Labs
  • CITY OF RESIDENCE: Rio Rancho
  • RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: State Representative 2013-present; volunteer campaign worker in municipal elections.
  • EDUCATION: Ph.D. (University of New Mexico), Master of Science (Purdue University), and Bachelor of Science (New Mexico Tech); all degrees in chemical engineering.
  • CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: HarperNM.com

What steps should the Legislature take to ensure New Mexico has a balanced budget amid falling oil prices and an economic downturn prompted by the coronavirus outbreak?

Although raising taxes may result in short-term increases in revenue, it ultimately leads to businesses closing, fewer jobs, and hurts New Mexico families who are already suffering. Spending increases these last two years have been reckless, and I warned against it. Government can tighten its belt, just like every New Mexico family.

What more, if anything, should the Legislature do to address a court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students?

New Mexico per-student funding actually falls within the national average of other states’ spending. Funding is not the root problem – inequitable distribution is. Rio Rancho receives only $10,700/pupil, while APS gets $13,100/pupil, and Bernalillo gets $15,500/pupil! The funding formula is broken – we can do better. Let’s make it fair and equitable.

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?

I’ve spearheaded genuine reform to our gross receipts tax, and we’ve made many positive changes recently. But the most meaningful change is still missing. This tax code is like swiss cheese – too many holes! Let’s melt it down, close the loopholes, then broaden the base and lower the tax rate.

Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?

Oppose. In reality, legalizing recreational marijuana will only increase state revenues by less than 1%! That amount wouldn’t even make a dent in the money we’d need to address the increased social problems and higher crime that we see in other states that plunged forward towards this “pot” of gold.

Do you believe changes should be made to the emergency powers held by a governor during a pandemic or other time of crisis. If so, do you believe such powers should be expanded or reduced and in what specific ways?

I support wearing masks and physical distancing to prevent overloading our hospitals. However, I’m very concerned about the abuse of power. Our state’s health orders have not been equitably applied. Why can’t we flatten the curve and keep our families safe, while also playing fair and respecting our constitutional rights?

Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?

Oppose. Whether it’s from a scientific perspective of unique DNA being created, or from a spiritual perspective, I believe that innocent human life should be protected. I also personally support crisis pregnancy centers that provide medical, material, and emotional support to women in need.

Do you support or oppose enacting a new state law that would allow police officers and other public officials to be sued individually by abolishing the defense of qualified immunity?

Strongly oppose. I’m incredibly grateful for police officers who put themselves in harm’s way for our peace and safety. Who on earth would go into law enforcement if they could be sued for simply doing their job? You think we have a hard time finding officers now? Just wait.

In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and child care assistance, and created a new early childhood trust fund. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would withdraw more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood services?

We’ve already significantly increased early childhood funding to supplement the fund’s nearly $1 billion-plus a year in payouts! Raiding the fund will not help kids, but will instead hurt their families, as this fund saves each family $1,000 a year in taxes. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its election laws and primary system? Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?

Independents make up 22% of New Mexico’s voters, and their choice to be independent should be respected, not punished. Allowing open primaries will help end the intense division and partisan stalemate of the major parties, move politicians closer to the center, and help them govern together, working for our common good.

Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding? Should each legislator be required to disclose which projects he or she funded?

Legislators should absolutely disclose capital outlay spending. I already do, along with every Rio Rancho legislator. Regarding a merit-based evaluation system – I have concerns. Who decides what has “merit?” The majority? We know what is most needed in our own districts. We are the ones who answer to our neighbors.

New Mexico is highly reliant on the oil and natural gas industries to generate revenue to fund state programs, as evidenced by recent oil boom and bust cycles. What steps should the state take to diversify its economy and revenue base?

Our state’s largest economic sectors are government (a whopping 25%!), health care, and oil and gas. Small business, however, is our true economic backbone. But New Mexico gross receipts tax strangles small business. We must reform our gross receipts tax to end tax pyramiding and give small businesses a fair shake.

Would you support or oppose a moratorium on fracking? And should the state impose additional renewable energy mandates as a way to address climate change concerns?

I’m an avid camper, and I’ve hugged more trees than anyone. And as an award-winning Ph.D. chemical engineer, the science is clear – hydraulic fracturing has a perfect track record in New Mexico. We can be good stewards, loving and protecting our environment, while also developing the resources we are blessed with.

What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?

“Catch and release” is for fish, not criminals! We must change bail guidelines to keep dangerous criminals from being repeatedly released. We must also treat a root cause of crime – drug addiction – seriously. Let’s stop giving addicts pseudo-help, like free needles. Instead, let’s give them real, meaningful, life-changing help.

Do you support or oppose the public’s right to inspect footage taken by cameras worn by law enforcement officers? Under what circumstances, if any, should police video be withheld from the public?

I support making reports and videos of arrests and crimes public, but only after detectives and other law enforcement officials have enough time to do their job without giving advantages to criminals. We also need to ensure that the privacy of victims, and those who work with police, is protected.

Members of New Mexico’s business community contend some state laws and regulations need changing so the state can better compete with Texas and Arizona when it comes to attracting companies. What steps do you believe should be taken to improve New Mexico’s economic competitiveness?

Many states use incentives and tax breaks to attract large businesses. However, not all businesses benefit from these incentives, meaning that government chooses winners and losers. That’s not fair. But by leveling the tax and regulation playing field for everyone and removing anti-business polices, New Mexico can become a job magnet.

Personal background

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

No

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

No

3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain.

Nothing besides a minor traffic violation, which was dismissed.

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