Like other states, New Jersey has written into law provisions that allow individuals or businesses to reduce their tax liability if they meet certain criteria. I have supported many of these initiatives in the interest of growing our state’s economy. One such initiative was the much heralded, Economic Opportunity Act of 2013. This proposal, which I helped author, has already begun to drive job creation in our state and especially in the 7th District with the news of Destination Maternity moving its operations to Florence, as well as the expansion of the Burlington Coat Factory in Florence, the preservation and expansion of Association Headquarters in Mt. Laurel, Lockheed Martin in Moorestown, and the preservation and relocation of Express Scripts Inc. to Florence. While these are all very exciting and tangible fruits of those efforts, New Jersey is among the states that pay the least attention to whether tax breaks for businesses achieve their stated goals.
During a recent trip up the New Jersey Turnpike, I popped into a rest stop and stood in line for a drink and a soldier dressed in camouflage stood behind me. After giving my order, I turned around and said to the cashier, “please give him whatever he would like,” pointing to the solider. He looked up at me and replied, “That’s not necessary, really. But thank you.”
When I was younger and had more time to watch tv, I really enjoyed medical dramas. The nip and tuck nature of life, encompassing the full gamut of human emotion, all wrapped up in sixty minutes. Good television. Those shows remind me of the present state of New Jersey's fiscal well being. As yet another of the major Wall Street rating houses has downgraded New Jersey’s credit rating; we are faced with the question of, “Where do we go from here?"...or to fit the opening narrative, "How do we save this patient?"
Sunday is Mother’s Day, and it is most recently a bittersweet day for me. My mom played an important role in my life, giving me unquestioned love, offering a steady hand for direction and helping instill confidence in me. She passed away two years ago this month, and sometimes I can’t believe she’s really gone. In my quiet moments, I still feel like I’m having conversations with her....(usually one-sided) with an emphasis on finding ways to give back to my community.
Our transportation system is something we mostly take for granted, unless we have to weave through construction on the interstate or get reminded of its importance when dodging potholes, as we have this spring.
Today is Take Your Child To Work Day. The roots of this observance go back to the early 90s when it was exclusively for young girls to address self-esteem issues. In 2003, it was expanded to include boys in recognition that exposure to the workforce was good for kids regardless of gender. Additionally, it also serves as a vehicle to provide an opportunity for mentorship for young boys and girls who aren't linked by family ties to be exposed to adults in skilled professions.
Home ownership has often been a symbol of "making it" in our society. It has often embodied the manifestation of the American Dream for many New Jerseyans. But, with the pressures of a struggling economic resurgence here in our state this dream has not been able to turn itself into reality for too many of our neighbors. Whether it is growing families…..idealistic 1st time buyers….or those in life’s various transitional stages, we must ensure that achieving a piece of this dream can become attainable again.
As a member of both the New Jersey Assembly Budget and Education Committees, I get to see first-hand the intersection of our state’s fiscal and educational policies. This vantage point has given me a greater appreciation of the difficult decisions that New Jersey faces with respect to ensuring that every child is given the best chance to succeed academically, while recognizing the financial constraints which sometimes limit our options. However, by serving in this capacity I am emboldened to push our educational system in a way that allows all of our children to fulfill their enormous promise. This promise can only be nurtured forward by a comprehensive and cohesive agenda that no longer pits tax payer against tax payer or child against child, but rather recognizes that through our common purpose we can raise the educational standards of every child.
Earlier this year, I put out a call for people who were interested in serving their neighbors to join me on special community boards that we instituted to gain your insights on the issues affecting our communities. One of the highlights of my job is the interaction and feedback that I get from folks like you....my bosses. That is what led me to start the CAP (Citizens Advisory Panel) Teams. The CAP Teams are every day men, women and children who have committed some of their time to meet with me to discuss the issues of importance to our communities. The CAP Teams focus on economic development, education student, veteran and women issues, with an eye towards adopting common sense solutions to problems in these respective issue areas.
We had great success with this program during my first term in office. Initiatives such as the law to create the NJ Helmets-to-Hardhats Program in the NJ Turnpike Authority, ideas to refine the transformative New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act and the proposal to create benchmarks of performance for teacher preparation programs were all born out of discussions led by the CAP Team.
Over the last few months I have been working with different groups to ensure that New Jerseyeans know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to sign up by the March 31st deadline. I am one of those folks who believe that our "unalienable rights.....life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are made far more possible if we're healthy enough to enjoy them. Call me crazy, but I believe in an America that looks out, rather than looks over one another.