by Hoboken Strategy Group
January 12 was an eventful day in Trenton with the start of the 217th Legislature, the swearing in of the General Assembly and the Governor’s State of the State. Hudson County’s own, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) was elected to his second term as Assembly Speaker. The day also welcomed some fresh faces into the Halls of Trenton with twelve new Assemblymembers taking the oath of office, including three new representatives from Hudson County: Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31), Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-31) and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-33). Let’s provide you with a quick briefing on each of the new Hudson County legislators.
- One of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce’s own board members, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti is an attorney and the director of community engagement at Saint Peter’s University, having previously served as state director for US Senator/Congressman Robert Menendez and Executive Director of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority. Assemblyman Chiaravalloti serves on the Assembly Commerce & Economic Development Committee and the Assembly Transportation & Independent Authorities Committee.
- Born and raised in Jersey City, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization, AngelaCARES, which is headquartered in Jersey City. The Assemblywoman has been assigned to the Assembly Education; Health & Senior Services; and Human Services committees.
- Representing the 33rd District, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro works in the office of the Hoboken City Clerk. She previously served as the division head for the Hoboken Taxi and Livery and Constitution Services, Board Secretary for the Hoboken Planning & Zoning Boards, and as a member of the Hoboken Rent Control Board. The Assemblywoman serves on the Homeland Security & State Preparedness Committee and the Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee.
In his State of the State address, Governor Chris Christie reflected on his administration’s achievements while laying out an agenda for 2016. The Governor cited the strides the State took towards economic recovery in 2015 including: the fastest private sector job creation in 15 years; a decrease in the unemployment rate to 5.3 percent- its lowest since 2008; home sales up nearly 14% since 2014; foreclosures down over 20% from 2014. Continuing on the administration’s commitment to reclaiming lives from addiction, the Governor announced the re-purposing of the former Mid-State Correctional Facility to the first-ever dedicated, licensed substance use disorder treatment program. The Governor also proposed over $100 million in State and Federal Funds to increase mental health and substance use treatment services. Governor Christie also called for the abolishment of the Estate Tax in New Jersey. Citing the lowest exemption threshold in the country, the Governor said the Estate Tax does not just penalize the wealthy, but also affects middle class families seeking to pass down a family home to the next generation.
In February, Governor Christie returned to the Assembly Chamber to present his budget for Fiscal Year 2017. The Governor’s $34.8 billion budget proposal includes no new taxes and a small amount of new spending. The proposed budget included a $94 million increase in aid for schools and a $1.86 billion pension payment, the largest in state history. Governor Christie used his speech as an opportunity to cite the burden of public pensions and health benefits on the state budget which increased by $487 million compared to the current year’s budget.
The State Budget proposal is now under review by the Senate and Assembly Budget committees with the heads of each state department and agency presenting their proposed budget for the next fiscal year in addition to updated economic figures from the State Treasurer and Office of Legislative Services. Legislators and the Governor have until 11:59 p.m. on June 30 to reach an agreement on a final budget.
One topic of interest that was absent from the Governor’s Budget Address was a plan for the replenishment of the State’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), which is due to run out of funding at the end of this fiscal year in June. Several lawmakers have argued for an increase in the State’s 14.5-cent per gallon gas tax which has not seen an increase since 1988. New Jersey has the second-lowest gas tax in the nation, behind Alaska. The proposed FY17 State Budget calls for a $1.6 billion funding gap from the TTF in the next fiscal year and both Governor Christie and legislative leadership have stated that “everything is on the table.” Stay tuned.
The prospect of a gas tax increase has led to increased consideration of the previously reported elimination of the Estate Tax and a gradual increase in the retirement income tax exemption, which would deliver an estimated $400 million in tax cuts to New Jersey residents. Proponents have called for these changes as two major reasons for the mass exodus of residents from New Jersey. Figures show that 2 million people left New Jersey between 2005 and 2014 which, according to the New Jersey Business & Industry Association cost the State $18 billion in net adjusted income and $11.4 billion in economic activity.
With a budget to settle as well as the future of our State’s Transportation Trust Fund hanging in the balance, it will be an exciting couple of months in Trenton. Not to worry though, we will keep you up to date on everything new and exciting From the Halls of Trenton!
Hoboken Strategy Group is a boutique New Jersey government relations and business development firm made up of public affairs professionals with years of experience handling legislative and regulatory issues on the local, state and federal levels. Kay Elizabeth LiCausi, President of Hoboken Strategy Group, serves on the Government Affairs Committee for the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce. Michael J. Comba serves as Vice President of Hoboken Strategy Group. They can be reached online at www.hobokenstrategy.com and on Facebook at Hoboken Strategy Group.