Tackling NJ's Affordability Crisis

As the new session of the New Jersey Legislature takes shape, we are reminded of the clear message that was sent by the 2021 electorate as to where the direction of our public policy needs to head in 2022 and beyond. Depending on who you speak to, a wave of frustration, angst, and anger swept parts of the state leading to drastic changes in the composition of the legislative body in both chambers. This begs the question as to what will the response be of policy makers? It’s clear that the status quo is not acceptable. Furthermore, those missing the major underlying message that was sent regarding our state’s affordability problem should be mindful of some of the more shocking outcomes from last November’s election.

If the Democratic party is going to withstand the shift of the electorate, we need to listen to those who feel their pleas of economic concern are falling on deaf ears. We need to enact policies that reflect the fact our state has grown more and more unaffordable. And, it is vitally important that we do not attempt to pigeon hole these concerns as the domain of one race, political party, geographical region, or socioeconomic class. Our state's affordability crisis affects us all and the solutions do not fit any partisan narrative.

It is a common misnomer that only Republicans are concerned with the growing affordability problem here in New Jersey. Yet, our cost of living and our tax rates are issues that affect all of us – Republicans, Democrats, Independents alike. But it especially affects those who could care less about party politics and are just trying to make a living, pay for their medicine, put food on the table, save for their kids’ college education, and maybe, just maybe, save some bucks for retirement so they don’t have to work into their golden years.

Unfortunately, and rightly so, the public’s cynicism of government’s ability to solve problems has led to a crisis of confidence in the electorate. This crisis is apparent in the lack of trust that, we, their elected representatives, can effectively solve this issue.

But we can do this, working together and by putting a singular, laser-sharp focus on ensuring that our agenda for the next legislative session tackles these issues. While targeting the affordability issue, we must also continue our quest to foster a more equitable New Jersey. Affordability and equity are not mutually exclusive – in fact, I would argue, they go hand in hand. We must disavow the politics of division and derision that says we cannot be both more affordable and more just in the creation of opportunities. Our collective desires to live out the best example of our own personal version of the American Dream should not be constrained by political ideology or partisan politics.

My particular emphasis will be to spend the next two years working each and every day on an agenda that makes buying prescription drugs, getting an education, achieving homeownership, starting and running a business, and paying property taxes more affordable in New Jersey. Our state’s working and middle class is more than just some amorphous data point on an economist’s chart. It is the backbone of who we are. It is what drove our nation’s prosperity in the past and can do so again. Developing policies to achieve that goal will take the cooperation and the political will of individuals of all leanings to set aside ideological barriers to make New Jersey the best place to live, work and raise a family in America.

That’s my take, what’s yours?