Priorities, not politics. Evidence, not ideology.
A Road to Affordability
Central New Jersey is a wonderful place – there are farms and other open spaces, the finest schools, attractive neighborhoods, and pleasant communities. We want our children to settle near us and our parents to remain. But that is becoming increasingly difficult because of the high cost of living in New Jersey and the dismal economic conditions in our state. While all the states in our region have recovered from the recession, New Jersey cannot seem to get its act together. We are 47th in the nation in job recovery and we owe billions to our pension systems. Our credit rating has been downgraded 9 times. People who want a job can’t find one and those who are lucky enough to have a job are not getting any paycheck increases. Our roads and bridges need repair, and the trains don’t run on time, when they run at all. With its economy flagging and its infrastructure crumbling, New Jersey is at a crossroads. Whatever we’re doing now, it isn’t working. We cannot continue down this path, making decisions based on politics and a short-term view.
Instead of throwing our hands in the air and giving up, I believe it’s time for a different approach. I believe it’s time to drop the posturing and political rhetoric, and prioritize economic growth by focusing on the things New Jersey does best. As a scientist and a teacher, I understand that New Jersey has a rich history of manufacturing, innovation, and education and that investing in these is key to our long-term economic growth. When we invest in high-tech startups and small businesses that create high quality 21st century jobs, we are investing in our future and growing our middle class.
We must recognize the enormous value of our small business community and make it easier for them to succeed by reviewing government regulations and removing those that cause more harm than good. I believe in the importance of technical education and investment in our research universities, because without it we will not be able to compete in a knowledge-dependent economy. We must invest in re-training unemployed workers in the skills that will make them invaluable to modern employers. And, in order to make our state more affordable, we need to review our tax structure and look for economies and opportunities to make it fairer.
There was a time when New Jersey’s economy was the envy of surrounding states. Our location between New York and Philadelphia, our first class roads and highways, and our well-educated work force enticed big corporations and businesses to build and grow here. New Jersey does not succeed unless all of us have a chance, unless we are treated fairly regardless of how we make our living.
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. As a teacher, I know what it takes to make sure that our students graduate with the skills they need to compete in a global economy. 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.
Climate change is a reality and 2014 was the hottest year on record. Yet the State of New Jersey has pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an agreement among 9 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 know that protecting our environment and creating jobs work together. The growth in sustainable clean sources of energy is already creating jobs and fostering new innovation in our universities. We must support these innovations and jobs with policies that promote growth and make New Jersey a leader in new technologies.
Our thriving tourism industry depends on a clean ocean, beautiful parks and open spaces. One of the most important factors in a company’s decision on where to locate is the quality of life for its employees. A clean and healthy environment is a big factor in that calculation. And yes, we are the Garden State so we must protect our farms from further development and foster our farm economy.
New Jersey has come a long way in protecting our fragile environment since the establishment of the Department of Environmental Protection in 1970. Our state had a terrible history of looking the other way while industrial polluters had a field day. Thousands of acres were covered with garbage, and our rivers were filthy. Much of that damage has been remediated, but there are still remnants of that history. I support strong enforcement against those who have desecrated our landscapes.