As I knock on the doors of my constituents, it is not surprising to hear that one central theme keeps recurring, namely, affordability. The people of District 21 want to know what can be done to make it more affordable to live here now and into the future. I understand your concerns. After all, my family has a long history here as well and I am hopeful that my daughters will want to call New Jersey home when it’s their turn to make that decision. I’ve come to recognize that affordability depends upon government containing costs, holding itself accountable and encouraging job growth. I’ve gotten legislation passed to achieve many of these goals but I’m not done yet and I’m ready to do more.
In 2010 I helped pass legislation that put a 2.0 percent “hard cap” on property taxes through a voter-approved constitutional amendment and I’ve been at the forefront of the school funding formula fight because I recognize that District 21 needs a long-terms, stable solution that addresses all expenses, including special needs. Hard work still needs to be done to go after some of the real cost drivers to your property taxes, including pensions and health benefits reform; elimination of payouts for unused sick leave to public workers; and reform of the civil service system.
As the original sponsor of legislation banning “Pay to Play,” I also understand that a cost-effective government is one that is both transparent and accountable. I was instrumental in overhauling the Executive Commission on Ethical Standards and just last year, the Senate passed my bill that would strengthen local government accountability and ethics, in part, by transferring oversight at the municipal and county levels to the State Ethics Commission.
Affordability is also achieved when we have a strong economy and I have tried to turn the narrative around to not just retaining jobs but growing jobs, helping the job creators here create new opportunities. From my position on the Senate Higher Education Committee, I have worked extensively with both the business and higher education communities by creating a new Commission partnering the two in order to address among other things, the job skills gap. I authored a new fellowship program that will work to retain and attract our best and brightest scientists and researchers.
I understand that my constituents are working hard to live in New Jersey so I will continue to work hard in Trenton to stop wasteful state government spending and promote a stronger New Jersey economy that leads to more opportunities today and tomorrow.