New Jersey faces another pivotal election as it seeks to replace Gov. Christie, whose eight years in office will long be remembered for his failed quest for the presidency that left the state poorer and more perplexed about its future.
Six Democrats and five Republicans will compete in the June 6 primary election to become their party’s nominee to succeed Christie. Among the Republicans, JACK CIATTARELLI has the experience and attitude to the job.
An assemblyman since 2011, the former Somerset County freeholder and Raritan Borough councilman has learned the nuances of bipartisan compromise. As a certified public accountant, Ciattarelli understands the math behind the state’s biggest problem: its finances.
No governor will realize his or her grand vision without repairing the damage eight years of Christie’s poor stewardship has cost the state. Ciattarelli is capable of meeting that task.
He is open to raising income taxes on the wealthiest New Jerseyans. He wants the state to stop subsidizing school districts like Hoboken that no longer need additional funds and direct that money to school districts that do. Ciattarelli would look at payment-in-lieu-of-taxes programs that shortchange communities that need additional school revenue. He would also push for school district mergers and more shared-services agreements.
Ciattarelli says he will broker compromises with Democratic leaders in the Legislature to put the state on firmer ground fiscally. He says he will negotiate fairly with state employee unions to lower pension and health care costs that have been driven up over the years by the state’s failure to pay its promised share.
The impact on New Jersey if his fellow Republicans in Congress gut the Affordable Care Act hasn’t been lost on Ciattarelli. More than 500,000 residents could lose their health coverage. Ciattarelli’s idea to get more doctors to work in free health clinics by paying off their student loans won’t solve that problem, but the idea has merit to reach medically underserved communities.
Also running for the GOP nomination are Steven Rogers, a Nutley Township commissioner; Joseph Rullo, an Ocean County businessman, Hirsch Singh, an aerospace and defense industry executive from Atlantic County; and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, whose candidacy can’t help but be hurt by being linked to Christie, whom she refuses to directly criticize while part of his administration.
Guadagno’s reluctance to consider tax increases to get New Jersey back on its feet fiscally would be a stumbling block to meaningful compromise with the Democratic majority in the Legislature. Her idea of a property tax “circuit breaker,” sort of a repackaged rebate program, makes sense. But how she would fund it is murky.
In a state where women have a difficult time climbing the political ladder, the Republicans deserve credit for having someone of Guadagno’s caliber to consider for their party’s nomination. That puts them leagues ahead of the Democrats. But Ciattarelli is the best Republican candidate to put the state’s house in order.