I am writing this letter of gratitude to my state Rep. Jason Harper, one of the hardest-working members in the New Mexico Legislature, one who has worked tirelessly to reform state law to not only improve the quality of life for those in his community, but for all of New Mexico. As an approachable, smart, and tenacious leader and always extremely gracious, Mr. Harper is not one to brag about his accomplishments on social media, so I would like to help make his constituents aware of his efforts and to thank him for his exemplary service over the last 11 years.
Rep. Harper, an award-winning chemical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, has been working on tax reform legislation since 2017. When he was representing the U.S. government in Guinea, Africa, working on a response to the Ebola outbreak, he spent his evenings rewriting New Mexico’s tax code. After numerous attempts to introduce legislation that would completely overhaul the state’s tax code, he told me he has learned that legislative change can only be realized when done incrementally and is most successful when well-vetted and tenable to both sides.
This year’s legislative session’s tax package, a massive package that combined together numerous tax proposals was deemed “truly transformational,” “generous,” and “unheard of” by many of the legislators, including Rep. Harper, who were involved in the introduction of and negotiations to get tax reform and relief passed in the session’s final days. They were successful in getting passed a final package that included a modest reduction in the state’s gross receipt tax or GRT rate, tax rebates, and an income tax deduction. What it did not include was a reduction in tax “pyramiding” for professional services.
Tax pyramiding is when taxes are levied several times on the same goods and services and disproportionately impacts small businesses. Introduced by Rep. Harper as HB 367, with the blessing of the governor, tax pyramiding and GRT reform had bipartisan support, including all of Rio Rancho’s elected representatives, those in the business community, and many of the state’s chambers of commerce. Unfortunately, the tax pyramiding reform provision of HB 367 was opposed by the Municipal League and the big and small cities they represent, which did not want to see any reduction, however small, in their tax revenue. Disappointingly, those opposed also included the city of Rio Rancho.
But tax reform has not been Mr. Harper’s only target. In 2013, he co-sponsored legislation to amend the Public Improvement District (PID) Act which took a PID’s administrative oversight away from governing bodies and developers and gave it to the people residing in a PID, where it belongs. We now have PID boards made up of residents, voted upon by residents. However, these amendments are constantly under assault by lobbyists for governing bodies and developers who continually try to undermine these amendments by giving the governance of a PID back to the developers and their representatives, allowing them to enter into contracts with themselves. We feel fortunate that we have Rep. Harper in the Legislature as our watchdog to make sure these types of conflicts do not happen again.
During this year’s legislative session, Mr. Harper sponsored and co-sponsored 34 bills, memorials and resolutions, addressing numerous issues that plague our state, many with bipartisan support. These included providing much-needed tax relief to small businesses, fairer redistricting of our political boundaries, open primaries to give independent voters a voice, increasing survivor benefits for first responders, and legislation that would help create an attractive and vibrant economic environment.
Thank you, Sir, for your hard work this session.
Founding President, Mariposa Neighborhood Association