Q&A: House District 57 candidate Jason Harper - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A: House District 57 candidate Jason Harper

House District 57 candidate Jason Harper (Courtesy Jason Harper)

NAME: Jason C. Harper

POLITICAL PARTY: Republican

OCCUPATION: Research engineer at Sandia National Labs, Albuquerque

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

1. 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 Legislature take to diversify the state’s 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.

2. During the last regular legislative session, there was an unsuccessful push to make it easier to keep certain defendants behind bars until trial. Should New Mexico law be changed to make it easier to hold individuals charged with violent offenses such as murder and first-degree child abuse behind bars until trial?

Yes. This is a no-brainer, and I’m extremely disappointed that this effort did not pass. But the sad truth is the Democratic Party majority in Santa Fe prioritizes criminal perpetrators above victims. It’s that simple. And this will not change until the people of New Mexico elect a new, conservative majority.

3. What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and public safety as New Mexico faces one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation?

“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.

4. Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, do you support or oppose codifying abortion protections in state law? And do you support or oppose enacting any restrictions on abortion in New Mexico?

Whether it’s from a scientific perspective of unique DNA being created that will never exist again, 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.

5. New Mexico has already implemented several gun control laws in recent years. Would you support or oppose legislation that banned or restricted the sale of AR-15-style semi-automatic weapons, such as raising the age limit for purchasing such weapons? And what about legislation making it a crime to fail to safely secure firearms around children?

Data shows that New Mexico gun laws have not prevented violent gun crime. Let’s address the root cause — mental health. I proposed legislation requiring mental health treatment for violent youth, and the creation of Community Engagement Teams to de-escalate violent situations. Sadly, the Democratic Party majority in Santa Fe nixed it.

6. The state agency tasked with keeping New Mexico children safe has faced recent scrutiny over transparency issues and its handling of high-profile child abuse cases. What changes would you support to improve the operations of the Children, Youth and Families Department?

The front-line workers at CYFD, with their back-breaking caseloads, the heart-breaking situations they try to help with every day, and their low pay, are true angels. The biggest help to CYFD would be to stop politicizing it, and provide greater staffing, improved training, and higher salaries.

7. 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.

8. New Mexico is currently the only state that does not pay its legislators a salary, though lawmakers do get per diem payments and can qualify for a legislative pension. Do you support or oppose a salaried Legislature and, if so, how much should lawmakers be paid?

It’s a double-edged sword. Many good people can’t take months off from work, in order to serve. However, it keeps public service — not money — as the focus. My decision? Not paid. With New Mexico at the bottom of so many ratings, the legislative majority party has done little to deserve it.

9. 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, especially Native Americans and those who don’t speak English as a first language?

New Mexico per-student funding actually falls within the national average. Funding is not the root problem — unequal distribution is. Rio Rancho receives only $10,700/student, while Albuquerque gets $13,100/student, and Bernalillo gets $15,500/student. The State Equalization Guarantee is anything but. Let’s fix this broken funding formula and make things right.

10. 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 the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would withdraw more money from the state’s permanent school fund to increase funding for early childhood services and K-12 education?

We’ve already significantly increased early childhood funding to supplement the fund’s nearly $1 billion+ 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.

11. In order to address climate change and air quality issues, do you support or oppose legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the state achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?

As an award-winning Ph.D. chemical engineer, I believe in the spirit of ingenuity. One day, clean, low-cost fusion will power our world. Brilliant minds are making significant, but gradual progress. Forcing zero emissions prematurely will merely make energy more expensive and less reliable, which especially hurts the poor.

12. 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 supported measures to prevent overwhelming our hospitals. However, I’m very concerned about gubernatorial abuse of power: she sent a staffer to retrieve a jewelry purchase, but she closed all other nonessential stores. “Rules for thee, but not for me.” Let’s keep families safe, without forfeiting our constitutional rights.

13. Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding?

My concerns about a merit-based evaluation system are: who decides what “merit” is, and if a project has this elusive “merit?” The majority political party? The governor? We state reps know what’s needed in our own districts, not bureaucrats in Santa Fe. We’re the ones who answer to our neighbors.

14. Do you believe former President Donald Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election? (Yes or No answer only, please)

Respondent did not limit answer to yes or no as requested.

15. What changes, if any, would you support to New Mexico’s election laws?

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.

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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