Despite our enviable location and our highly educated workforce, New Jersey has yet to recover all of its jobs from the Great Recession. This is because the Christie Administration has engaged in a policy of disinvestment, putting New Jersey at an economic disadvantage compared to our neighbors. I believe that we must create an environment that welcomes small businesses and doesn’t drive them out. I believe that effective investments in areas like transportation, education, and STEM creates jobs and long-term economic growth for our state.
Climate change is a reality and 2016 was the hottest year on record. Yet the State of New Jersey has pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an agreement among nine of our neighboring states meant to curb emissions of carbon dioxide. I believe that it is time to reverse that decision and join with surrounding states in the protection of our precious environment. I also oppose the PennEast pipeline that would cut through the heart of our district and would make it harder to transition to alternative energy. Let’s ensure that New Jersey leads the nation in protecting the environment and alternative energy.
I am committed to helping make sure that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules has a chance to build a middle-class life. Residents of New Jersey face some of the highest housing costs and the highest property taxes in the nation. We also continue to suffer from the effects of the Great Recession, including the highest foreclosure rate in the country. I believe in expanding counseling programs to keep people in their homes and repurposing foreclosed properties as affordable housing, expanding tax credits to create new housing and lowering property taxes by funding our schools, incentivizing shared services, and restoring rebates to low-income, seniors, and disabled residents.
New Jersey’s pension system is one of the nation’s most underfunded. The state calculates our unfunded liability at $49 billion. That’s a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to astronomical outside accounting estimates, which range from $135 billion to $180 billion. Anyone who tells you they can solve the pension crisis without making hard choices isn’t being honest with you. Our state has squandered its resident’s hard-earned money for too long. We will begin addressing this together.
Access to health care is a basic right – one that is under assault by Donald Trump and Republicans in Washington and the special interests that support them. New Jersey is no exception. For too long we have let special interests like for-profit hospitals outweigh the interests of 9 million residents. New Jersey has been a national leader on healthcare in the past and I will fight to make it a leader again. This starts with standing up to Donald Trump and the right-wing agenda to repeal the ACA and gut Medicaid and Medicare, which would cause nearly 800,000 people in NJ to lose coverage.
The greatest public health crisis of modern time is the misuse of drugs and alcohol and substance use disorders. According to the recently released Surgeon General Report 43,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2014 across the nation, more than any previous year on record. The Opioid crisis killed at least 918 in New Jersey in 2015, nearly 10 out of every 100,000 people in the state. My goal while working on behalf of the 23rd District is to increase funding and access to resources in three important aspects as part of my multifaceted and holistic approach to the addiction crisis; prevention, treatment, and community engagement/recovery resources.
A strong education system gives students the opportunity to succeed and become future innovators and leaders. I am proud to live in a state that has some of the finest schools in the country. We must work together to improve our public schools, empower and reward good teachers, increase access to pre-school, and invest in math and science education. I will work to make college more affordable, so that everyone, regardless of income, has the opportunity to receive a high quality education. I strongly support our community colleges for the job they are doing and recognize the value of the NJ STARS scholarships that high school graduates with good grades can get to pay community college tuition. I also believe that we need more investment in technical schools, retraining workers for new jobs, and particularly workforce development.
PARCC tests are considered by many educational experts to be outdated, expensive, and not helpful to students. They have also been criticized by teachers, parents, and school administrators alike for taking away too much classroom instruction time and for forcing curricula to align with test topics to ensure higher scores. New Jersey is an outlier in its reliance on PARCC: only a handful of states still use the test, and only one other state is using it as a graduation requirement. It must be eliminated.
As your assemblyman, I will fight to restore protections for women by restoring funding for women’s health. And because women in NJ continue to earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns for equal work, I will introduce a bill that prohibits employers from asking job applicants for their salary history. We must ensure that Equal Pay for Equal Work becomes a reality. Our current legislators have continually voted against bills that help protect women’s rights. We can’t afford to have them represent us any longer.
This is an issue that is important to me. I’m a first generation American born and raised to Yugoslavian immigrants. During the early 90s there was a heartbreaking war in my family’s home country of Yugoslavia. During that time my family sheltered over 200 refugee families. America accepted them with open arms. They all went on to become loving citizens of our country and one of them received a Purple Heart while serving in Iraq. Immigrants come here looking for opportunities that they wouldn’t have anywhere else. They don’t come here to hurt us. Donald Trump has launched an assault against immigrants and we must take a stand. I want to ensure that New Jersey welcomes all immigrants regardless of their origin, race, or religion.
In the era of Donald Trump, many Americans are afraid, and for good reason. Attacks on minorities spiked after the election of Donald Trump. This is incomprehensible and unacceptable. I will fight to protect all residents of New Jersey. Nobody should be treated differently because of his or her religion, because the color of his or her skin, because of whom they love, because of their gender identity, because of their beliefs. I will fight to ensure that New Jersey leads the nation in equality.
Money in politics prevents real change from happening. Citizens United is a landmark U.S. constitutional law and corporate law case dealing with the regulation of campaign spending by organizations. In short, it allowed for groups, such as corporations, to spend money on elections. This has led to our elected officials receiving contributions from corporations. Because of this, our elected officials answer to the corporations and not the people who voted them in. We must level the playing field by limiting the amount of money they can contribute.
U.S. News released a list of the most efficient state governments. New Jersey was dead last. The effectiveness of government administration in the states was measured by several benchmarks; Their use of digital technology, this includes the online access that state governments provide to information about state budgeting and spending. The financial health of the states was a factor, including their credit ratings, budget balancing – their spending in comparison with their revenue – and public pension liabilities. And they were measured by the systems they have in place to deter corruption in state government. This is something that we must address immediately so that the government works for the residents of New Jersey.