Rep. Harper: NM Has “No Clue What Real Poverty Is”; Kills Bill to Provide Working Family Tax Cut

HWMC Nixes Aid Poor Families, While Chair Says He’s Used Section 8, WIC, Medicaid

The Democratic Party of New Mexico on Thursday called House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Harper out-of-touch and hypocritical in response to comments he made at a recent committee hearing (clip begins at 1:26:15) on HB 79, The Working Families Tax Credit.

Harper, during the hearing on February 5, said that New Mexicans “have no clue what real poverty is like,” just before the committee acted to kill the bill that would have provided relief to working families.

“Rep. Harper—like his colleagues in the Republican Party—is out of touch with the realities of everyday New Mexicans’ lives,” said Joe Kabourek, Democratic Party of New Mexico Executive Director. “Too many New Mexicans have more than ‘a clue’ of what poverty is. From Colonias to failing urban communities, New Mexico children go to bed hungry and wake up cold. This state knows poverty all too well.”

Earlier in his commentary, Harper, who sponsored legislation this session to slash wages and block family leave and sick leave programs for workers, noted that he and his wife didn’t “pay a penny” for housing while he was in college and earning his master’s degree because they took advantage of a Section 8 housing program that paid all of their housing costs for five years. Harper also added that Medicaid provided health care for the birth of his first child and his family used WIC programs for food.

“New Mexicans know what poverty looks like,” Kabourek said, “and they deserve leaders who will fight to make their lives better, not hypocrites who simply use government programs for their own benefit and then look the other way as others go hungry.”

Harper also told the bill’s sponsor that the governor would never sign the bill to help working families anyway, showing that out-of-touch ideas can be found on the Fourth Floor as well as in committee rooms.

“House leaders and the governor are denying poverty and refusing to take a stand for the poor and working poor in New Mexico,” Kabourek said. “That is a slap in the face to families who don’t have running water or reliable heating,” Kabourek said. “The Republicans are out of touch and, sadly, under their leadership poverty in New Mexico has only increased.”

HB 74, sponsored by Rep. Bill McCamley was tabled in Committee on February 5.