NJ candidates for governor 2017: Issue-by-issue comparison

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Candidates for N.J. governor

New Jersey voters on Tuesday will choose the Republican and Democratic candidates to run next fall to succeed Gov. Christie. On the GOP side, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli have been battling over competing tax plans and their closeness — or lack thereof — to the unpopular Christie.

Among the Democrats, former U.S. ambassador to Germany and former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy has brushed off rivals' accusations he sought to buy the party's nomination. His main rivals in the primary are U.S. Treasury official Jim Johnson, state Sen. Ray Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The primary ballot includes legislative, county and local races. Find your polling place here. Trying to sort out the field? Here’s how the leading candidates stand on the issues that will face the state's next governor.​

Jim Johnson
Montclair; Former U.S. Treasury undersecretary
56; Married, four children
Democrat

The pitch

"Does anyone believe that if we keep running the same playbook written by the same insiders that your lives are going to get any better? I don't. ... That old playbook got us the highest property taxes" in the nation."It got us Jon Corzine, it got us Chris Christie, Chris Christie again, and it will get us Phil Murphy unless we demand real change."

Signature issue

Ethics reform: Johnson wants to eliminate no-bid contracts, ban political contributions from lobbyists, require greater disclosure of lobbying activity, and limit public officials to one public pension.

Positions on key issues

Pension crisis: New Jersey had the worst-funded public worker pension system of all states in 2015, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Two of the state’s pension plans are set to go broke in a decade, experts say.

Fully fund the state's pension obligation, with "hard choices" required to pay for it. ("We've made promises that are extraordinarily expensive," Johnson recently said of himself and Democratic rivals.)

K-12 funding: New Jersey's school-funding formula is $1 billion underfunded -- before accounting for enrollment growth. Some districts, meanwhile, still receive aid that was intended to be temporary under the 2008 funding law.

Fully fund the school-funding formula. Provide universal pre-K and middle-school after-school programs.

Health care and New Jersey's response to possible repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act

Says health care is a "fundamental right." Prepare to fight Trump in court on ACA repeal and protect Medicaid expansion. Push pharmaceutical companies for transparency in prescription-drug pricing.

Environment and climate change

Rejoin RGGI; place moratorium on new pipelines; invest in clean energy (and support wind energy); set goal of making New Jersey 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Taxes

Support constitutional amendment to allow commercial property to be taxed at a higher rate than residential property. To support pensions and other budget priorities, consider reinstating the estate tax (currently being phased out by Gov. Christie and the Legislature) and raising taxes on millionaires.

Down the Shore

Favorite town

Seaside Heights

Should visitors pay for beach access?

"Committed to protecting public access to beaches." Supports beach tags "in certain circumstances" and "as long as they are affordable."

Campaign Website

Ray Lesniak
Elizabeth; State senator, lawyer
71; Single, two rescue dogs
Democrat

The pitch

"We need a warrior and a champion who has fought in New Jersey for many, many years. I’ve established the most important environmental protection laws in the country."

Signature issue

Environment: Kill pipeline projects (Pinelands, PennEast, Pilgrim) and use the savings to invest in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to make New Jersey fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

Positions on key issues

Pension crisis: New Jersey had the worst-funded public worker pension system of all states in 2015, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Two of the state’s pension plans are set to go broke in a decade, experts say.

Fully fund the state's pension obligation, with a millionaire's tax required to pay for it. Reduce health-care costs, including by renegotiating prescription-drug costs.

K-12 funding: New Jersey's school-funding formula is $1 billion underfunded -- before accounting for enrollment growth. Some districts, meanwhile, still receive aid that was intended to be temporary under the 2008 funding law.

Fully fund the school-funding formula, but also take "a close look at excessive and unnecessary expenses that do not get into the classroom," with a "Comptroller of Education" authorized to cancel local spending.

Health care and New Jersey's response to possible repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act

Generally supports Affordable Care Act. If Trump's tax cuts are implemented, he would "apply ... those benefits back to the New Jersey public" for health care.

Environment and climate change

Objects to Christie administration's $225 million settlement with ExxonMobil over pollution and is pursuing appeal for more money. Wants to make New Jersey fossil-fuel-free by 2050, including by "stopping" pipelines. Rejoin RGGI.

Taxes

Reduce property taxes for seniors, people with disabilities, and people with income up to $75,000 by increasing state spending on property tax reduction. To raise revenue, close corporate tax loopholes, enact tiered millionaire's tax.

Down the Shore

Favorite town

Point Pleasant

Should visitors pay for beach access?

"Beach tags are a financial necessity, but they should be capped to only cover cost of lifeguards and cleanups."

Campaign Website

Phil Murphy
Middletown; Former ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive
59; Married, four children
Democrat

The pitch

"This is a break-the-glass-moment in New Jersey; the insiders have failed us." ..."This is where we stop Donald Trump's assault on our values."

Signature issue

"If we don't get the economy right, we don't get New Jersey right." Murphy would invest in transportation infrastructure and higher education, and incentivize STEM graduates to stay in New Jersey. He also proposes a public bank owned by taxpayers -- currently, the only one is in North Dakota -- to provide loans for students and small businesses.

Positions on key issues

Pension crisis: New Jersey had the worst-funded public worker pension system of all states in 2015, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Two of the state’s pension plans are set to go broke in a decade, experts say.

Fully fund the state's pension obligation: "We want to get there as fast as humanly possible." Pay for it with revenue from tax on millionaires, elimination of corporation loopholes, projected 3 percent growth. Also supports ending hedge-fund management of pension funds.

K-12 funding: New Jersey's school-funding formula is $1 billion underfunded -- before accounting for enrollment growth. Some districts, meanwhile, still receive aid that was intended to be temporary under the 2008 funding law.

Fully fund the school-funding formula. Expand free pre-K.

Health care and New Jersey's response to possible repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act

If GOP health-care bill passes, "it's going to be ugly." Would consider all options: "People say, Would you consider single-payer health care? Yes." But would need to "figure out, where are we going to get that?"

Environment and climate change

"Immediately" rejoin RGGI; make New Jersey 100 percent clean energy by 2050. "We're all in" on offshore wind.

Taxes

"The wealthiest among us are going to have to pay their fair share." Add millionaire's tax (the state's current top tax bracket is 8.9 percent for income of $500,000 and above); close corporate loopholes (combined reporting, carried interest). "Put the brakes" on corporate tax credits.

Down the Shore

Favorite town

Asbury Park

Should visitors pay for beach access?

"Beaches should be open and accessible to all residents."

Campaign Website

John Wisniewski
Sayreville; Assemblyman, lawyer
54; Married, three children
Democrat

The pitch

In a TV ad, the narrator frames the election like this: "John Wisniewski, the son of a millwright who uncovered the Bridgegate scandal and exposed Chris Christie's corruption. The choice: insider Wall Street politics or Main Street New Jersey values."

Signature issue

The Bernie Sanders platform: single-payer, government-funded health care and free college tuition for students whose families make $125,000 or less

Positions on key issues

Pension crisis: New Jersey had the worst-funded public worker pension system of all states in 2015, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Two of the state’s pension plans are set to go broke in a decade, experts say.

Fully fund the state's pension obligation. "Health benefits and other cuts are absolutely not on the table," though he supports "commonsense benefit changes" that wouldn't be "detrimental" to worker health care. Amend the constitution to guarantee pension funding. Eliminate hedge-fund management fees.

K-12 funding: New Jersey's school-funding formula is $1 billion underfunded -- before accounting for enrollment growth. Some districts, meanwhile, still receive aid that was intended to be temporary under the 2008 funding law.

Fully fund the school-funding formula, paid for with new millionaire's tax, restored estate tax, and freeze on corporate tax credits.

Health care and New Jersey's response to possible repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act

Create single-payer health-care system, paid for with existing federal and state money, employer/employee premium payments, and negotiation of lower prescription-drug costs.

Environment and climate change

Rejoin RGGI on "day one." Commit New Jersey to 100 percent clean energy "by midcentury." Reduce fossil-fuel dependence by requiring all new public buses to be electric or electric diesels.

Taxes

Reinstate estate tax and enact millionaire's tax -- both proposed in first 100 days. Freeze corporate tax credits.

Down the Shore

Favorite town

Manasquan Beach

Should visitors pay for beach access?

Visitors should not have to pay for access to the beach.

Campaign Website

Jack Ciattarelli
Hillsborough; assemblyman
55; married, four children
Republican

The pitch

"The only way Republicans win this November is with a new message, a new messenger, and a new direction. … I have a very, very specific plan to turn this state around."

Signature issue

School funding. Ciattarelli wants to take state aid from districts receiving more money than the state funding formula specifies and redirect it to underfunded districts to reduce property taxes. He also would require communities to pay at least 25 percent of local school costs, and help "middle" and "working-class" communities by changing the funding formula.

Positions on key issues

Pension crisis: New Jersey had the worst-funded public worker pension system of all states in 2015, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Two of the state’s pension plans are set to go broke in a decade, experts say.

Require workers whose pension plus Social Security exceeds $50,000 per year to contribute on a sliding scale to post-retirement health-care benefit; scale back worker health benefits; transfer employees of less than 10 years to cash-balance plans.

K-12 funding: New Jersey's school-funding formula is $1 billion underfunded -- before accounting for enrollment growth. Some districts, meanwhile, still receive aid that was intended to be temporary under the 2008 funding law.

Shift aid from overfunded to underfunded districts over five years; reform school-funding system to address "inequity," though "some communities are always going to need a little more help than others."

Health care and New Jersey's response to possible repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act

"Going to reserve judgment" on GOP health-care bill until "we begin to see what crystallizes" in Senate, but need to advocate for state's Medicaid recipients. Coverage for preexisting conditions, maternity care "needs to stay in place" in N.J.

Environment and climate change

Opposes rejoining Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade program that would place state at "competitive disadvantage." No to offshore wind. On pipelines: "I don't believe pipelines belong in places like the Pinelands and Highlands."

Taxes

Among other cuts: Phase out corporate business tax over 10 years. Don't tax gains on home sales. To "balance the ledger," add tax brackets on highest earners: 9.5 percent on income of $750,000 to $999,000, 10 percent on $1 million and above. Opposes corporate tax credits.

Down the Shore

Favorite town

Surf City on Long Beach Island, "where my family has spent every summer since 1997."

Should visitors pay for beach access?

Towns that charge beach-access fees "need to provide lifeguards, beach security, and beach grooming and cleanup. Forcing that cost onto the taxpayer in these towns would be unfair." But fees shouldn't be used as "means for balancing any municipality’s general operating budget."

Campaign Website

Kim Guadagno
Monmouth Beach; Lieutenant governor, former Monmouth County sheriff
58; Married, three children
Republican

The pitch

"I’m not going to raise taxes on the most-taxed people in the state of New Jersey. … The people of New Jersey simply can’t afford it anymore. We can do better."

Signature issue

A "circuit-breaker" property tax relief plan, which would apply a credit to a homeowner's tax bill if school taxes exceeded 5 percent of household income. Guadagno would tap a variety of sources -- including from "auditing Trenton" -- to pay for the $1.5 billion plan.

Positions on key issues

Pension crisis: New Jersey had the worst-funded public worker pension system of all states in 2015, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Two of the state’s pension plans are set to go broke in a decade, experts say.

Scale back worker health benefits; move "more" employees from defined-benefit to cash-balance plans

K-12 funding: New Jersey's school-funding formula is $1 billion underfunded -- before accounting for enrollment growth. Some districts, meanwhile, still receive aid that was intended to be temporary under the 2008 funding law.

"We have to fix" the funding formula. But she says study is needed before setting percentage of school costs each community should bear (Ciattarelli has proposed 25 percent).

Health care and New Jersey's response to possible repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act

Has referred to GOP bill as "a disaster" that will leave 500,000 in N.J. without coverage. Obamacare is a "bad business plan," but "there's got to be a way to fix it where the people of New Jersey are not harmed."

Environment and climate change

Rejoining Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is "something we have to do when it comes to our environment." Supports offshore wind.

Taxes

Cap school portion of property tax bills at 5 percent of household income by giving a credit to homeowners. Longer term: Lower property taxes by changing school-funding formula. Says corporate tax credits "have gone a little too far."

Down the Shore

Favorite town

Monmouth Beach, "where I live."

Should visitors pay for beach access?

"It should be up to local officials in each town to set their policy, but I think the Jersey Shore should be accessible, safe and clean for residents and visitors because of how important it is to our state’s economy. Monmouth Beach doesn’t require beach tags."

Campaign Website

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