Frustrated N.J. voters should hit the polls hard in Tuesday's primary | Editorial

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Frustrated N.J. voters should use the June 5 primary to send a message.

New Jersey voters are more frustrated with the state’s quality of life than they have been in almost 40 years, according to a recent Monmouth University poll. On Tuesday, they should express those frustrations in the state’s primary and demand that politicians effect change.

Residents’ biggest complaint is about taxes. In the Monmouth poll, respondents named their highest-in-the-nation property tax burden as the heaviest stone dragging them down. Those high property taxes result from the ripple effects of increased spending combined with cuts in state and federal aid. The state scrambles to make up for federal aid and program cuts, and local governments scramble to make up for state aid – especially to schools – that doesn’t keep pace with expenses.

The additional burden falls on taxpayers, who also say they’re getting less for the money. They feel their neighborhoods aren’t safe enough and they’re disappointed with their local schools. In general, they gave the state’s quality of life one of the lowest rankings in 38 years.

That’s why voters should focus on candidates most able to even out the tax burden so state and local governments have the money to make neighborhoods safer and improve schools.

When it comes to federal taxes, New Jersey comes up short. It is a donor state, meaning it sends more federal taxes to Washington than it gets back.  And it’s about to get worse. President Trump’s new tax plan bars taxpayers from deducting more than $10,000 in state and local taxes from their federal income taxes. That’s going to hurt considering the average tax burden is $10,200.

Members of Congress can have a dramatic impact on taxation, public safety and education, so voters should let the candidates know what they want.

This year, one Senate seat and all 12 House seats are up for grabs.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) escaped conviction on corruption charges last year but the Senate Ethics Committee in April “severely admonished” him and ordered him to return gifts from a businessman. He faces minor opposition in the primary but anyone disappointed with his behavior has a chance to vote for his opponent, community news publisher Lisa McCormick of Rahway. Or, voters can support Menendez for his progressive record by casting a vote for him.

On the Republican side, Bob Hugin is the favorite to win his party’s nomination, but he’s got some baggage too. In 2017, when he was executive chairman of the pharmaceutical maker Celgene Corp. in Summit, the company helped block legislation that could have reduced drug prices for cancer patients. Hugin is running against construction executive Brian Goldberg of West Orange.

In the House, the retirement of Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who represents southeastern New Jersey, initially attracted a dozen candidates altogether from both parties. Four from each party remain in the primaries.

In the swing district that runs through Burlington and Ocean Counties, Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur has no opposition in the primary but in the fall, he’ll face Democrat Andy Kim, who has support of national Democrats and is running unopposed in the primary.

These candidates should explain how they’ll improve the state’s quality of life.  Let them know you’re paying attention by voting Tuesday.