Endorsement Guide: 2017 Pennsylvania and New Jersey general elections

The Inquirer Editorial Board endorses these candidates: (clockwise from top left): N.J. gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, N.J. State Senator Steve Sweeney, Philadelphia City Controller candidate Rebecca Rhynhart, and Philadelphia District Attorney candidate Beth Grossman.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. If you’re heading to the polls in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, here are the local candidates we think you should support.

PENNSYLVANIA

Camera icon Tom Gralish / Staff
The Editorial Board met with DA candidate Beth Grossman on Oct. 5.

Philadelphia District Attorney

Inquirer Endorsement: Beth Grossman (R)

Grossman is a career prosecutor. She’s worked in every division of the office and has a strong administrative background, having headed divisions within, and she also served as chief of staff at the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

But she also headed the DA’s Public Nuisance Task Force, which so abused the civil forfeiture law that a federal lawsuit forced change. Under that program, people not even accused of a crime lost their houses and cars because of alleged actions by family members. She says she was following the rules at that time, and that now she would not take property unless the owner was convicted of a crime. That’s the right answer.

Full text of the endorsement: Beth Grossman has the energy, strong background, and skills to be Philly’s next DA

Video: 5 questions with the Philly DA candidates 

Camera icon Charles Fox / Staff
Controller Democratic candidate Rebecca Rhynhart on May 9.

Philadelphia City Controller

Inquirer Endorsement: Rebecca Rhynhart (D)

Rebecca Rhynhart knows Philadelphia finances. She served as city treasurer, budget director, and chief administrative officer before she resigned last year to run for city controller. Voters should give her the job.

Before coming to government, Rhynhart, 43, of Center City, had a solid background in finance. She worked for Bear Stearns and Fitch Rating Services before Mayor Michael Nutter appointed her treasurer in 2008.

Rhynhart has a clear view of what she’d like to do as controller, which is the city’s auditor. If the Democrat wins, one of her first audits would be of the controller’s office to make sure its resources are being used effectively.

Full text of the endorsement: Rhynhart a smart choice to become Philly’s first female controller

Pa. Ballot Question: Homestead Exemption

Full text of the question: Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?

Inquirer Endorsement: Vote no. 

The ballot question, which would need further action in subsequent years to become law, makes the plan look simple, but it is not. For instance, taxpayers will have to pay property taxes on the portion of their school districts’ long-term debt.

The Philadelphia School District, for instance, has $270 million in long-term debt, a figure equal to about 10 percent of its total budget.

Another but: Though the portion of property taxes that goes to fund schools will be erased, taxpayers will still have to pay the portion of property taxes that finances local government. In Philadelphia, 45 percent of property tax revenue goes to city government.

….

What this ballot amendment adds up to is a state takeover of local education that offers no promise of fair or increased funding for public education. A “No” vote is the best vote.

Full text of the editorial: Why it’s not a good idea to end Pa.’s property tax

NEW JERSEY

Camera icon Julio Cortez / AP
Democratic nominee Phil Murphy talks to reporters after participating in a gubernatorial debate against Republican nominee Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno at William Paterson University.

 

New Jersey Governor

Inquirer Endorsement: Phil Murphy (D)

Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. ambassador to Germany, has the skills and ideas for the job. The Democratic nominee promises to balance the state budget by imposing a millionaire’s tax, closing corporate tax loopholes, and legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana. He would use the money to adequately fund public schools, fix roads and transit, and make payments to meet the state’s growing pension obligation.

Committed to being a full-time governor, instead of abandoning the state to seek higher office, Murphy, 59, of Middletown, says he would again make the state a leader in environmental protection and economic growth. He would bolster the green economy and encourage renewable energy development by taking advantage of the state’s 127 miles of windy Atlantic Ocean coastline, abundant sunshine, and robust engineering and science institutions.

Full text of the endorsement: Murphy’s experience, ideas make him the best choice to be N.J.’s next governor

 

Camera icon Mel Evans / AP
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney unveiled a proposal that would establish a disaster-preparedness program in 2016.

New Jersey State Senator

Inquirer Endorsement: Steve Sweeney (D) 

Putting aside the NJEA’s beef with Sweeney, he is the superior candidate to represent the Third District, which includes all of Salem County and parts of Gloucester and Cumberland Counties. But Sweeney’s value goes beyond that. As Senate president, he has worked with Republicans, including Gov. Christie, to make realistic budgetary decisions, including by passing the pension and health-care reform bill.

Full text of the endorsement: Don’t believe TV attack ads; Sweeney the better choice for N.J. voters

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Read the complete Voter Guide for the 2017 Pennsylvania and New Jersey general elections on Philly.com.

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