By Hoboken Strategy Group
Fall is here! Kids are back in school. The weather is getting crisp. Campaign signs are populating front lawns like leaves. That’s right, it’s election season in New Jersey! Grab a pumpkin spiced latte and get caught up on all of the action with From the Halls of Trenton.
2017 is a big year for Elections in New Jersey. Only 2 states in the nation are going to the ballot box this year to elect Governors: Virginia and New Jersey. This year, in addition to electing a Governor, voters will also be going to the polls to choose their State legislative representatives, with all 40 seats in the State Senate and all 80 seats in the State Assembly up for grabs.
Under the New Jersey State Constitution, Governor Chris Christie is term-limited from seeking another term as Governor. Seeking to replace the Governor are Ambassador Phil Murphy on the Democratic side and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno for the Republicans.
Democrat Phil Murphy previously served as Chairman of Goldman Sachs as well as the United States Ambassador to Germany. His running mate is Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34), the former Speaker of the General Assembly. Former Ambassador Murphy has pledged to reclaim the Innovation Economy in New Jersey including re-investing in higher education and community colleges to improve affordability as well as the expansion of small business incubators to incentivize new businesses to start in New Jersey. He has also pledged to increase the minimum wage, mandate earned sick leave, while expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. He has also called for the creation of a New Jersey Public Bank which would use state deposits to finance local investments in infrastructure, small businesses and student loans.
Republican Kim Guadagno is New Jersey’s first Lieutenant Governor, serving as the New Jersey Secretary of State. She is a former prosecutor and served as Monmouth County Sheriff until her election as Lieutenant Governor in 2009. She is running with Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo who is seeking the Office of Lieutenant Governor. If elected, the Lieutenant Governor has pledged to cut property taxes through vetoing any new tax increases in addition to the creation of a property tax “circuit breaker” which would cap the school portion of a homeowner’s property tax bill to 5% of their household income. She has cited the need for reducing the tax burden on working families in order to make the State more welcoming for businesses. An opponent of the increase in the Gas Tax, the Lieutenant Governor has called for the State to develop a sustainable, long-term infrastructure plan to fund urgent infrastructure needs.
Hudson County’s legislative delegation is also up for election this November. In the 31st District (Bayonne & Parts of Jersey City) incumbent Democrats Senator Sandra Cunningham, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti are being challenged by Republicans Herminio Mendoza, Lauren DiGiaro and Michael Alonso, respectively. Senator Nicholas Sacco, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, all Democrats, will be facing Republicans Paul Castelli for State Senate and Ann Corletta and Bartholomew Talamini in the 32nd District (East Newark, Guttenberg, Harrison, Kearny, North Bergen & West New York). In the 33rd District (Hoboken, parts of Jersey City, Union City & Weehawken), Democratic Senator Brian Stack is being challenged by Beth Hamburger while incumbent Democrats Assembly members Annette Chaparro and Raj Mukherji will be facing off against Republican Holly Lucyk.
With all of these elections across New Jersey, it has been a quiet time around the halls of Trenton. But once Election Day passes, lawmakers will return to Trenton for the Lame Duck Legislative Session. Legislators will have until January 8 to advance any pending legislation prior to the end of the session. The new Legislature will be sworn in on January 9. On January 16, Governor Christie will officially be leaving office with the swearing-in of New Jersey’s 56th Governor.
In the lame duck session, Governor Christie has expressed his intent to fill any remaining judicial vacancies in the State in order to avoid any backlogs in the court. The Governor has also called upon lawmakers to make permanent the State’s two percent cap on arbitration awards for police and firefighters. The cap was implemented in 2010 to assist local governments to maintain the State-mandated 2 percent cap on annual spending increases. The current measure is set to expire at the end of the year without legislative action. Proponents of extending the measure have cited an estimated $530 million in savings from police and firefighter salaries during the 7 years of implementation of the cap.
Lame duck sessions are traditionally opportunities for lawmakers to enact new funding measures such as salary increases. In 2016, Governor Christie and the Legislature failed to enact a measure which would increase the salaries of cabinet officials, county prosecutors, state Supreme Court justices and Superior Court judges while also increasing the salary allotment for staff members of the Legislature. To date, no word has been provided as to whether this measure would once again be considered.
In September, Governor Christie instituted a $200 million plan to expand the state’s role to address the opioid epidemic. Absent a hurricane or other natural disaster, this is expected to be the Governor’s final major spending of his administration. The plan includes the launch of 25 new programs and the expansion of others including housing, prescription drug monitoring, treatment and resources for drug abusers as well as advertising. The Governor has stated that the money would come primarily the current budgets of eight state departments while there would not be any significant cuts to programs or tax increases.
All in all, the next few months promise to be interesting ones in New Jersey. It all begins with Election Day on November 7th. So while we remain objective in terms of choosing candidates, we encourage all eligible New Jersey residents to go out and vote. If you are going unable to make it to the polls that day, you can Vote By Mail. To receive a ballot by mail, the application must be received by the County Clerk at least 7 days prior to Election Day. Voters may also apply in person to the County Clerk until 3:00 pm, the day before the election. You have all of the information and no excuse- go out there and make your voice heard by voting in this year’s General Election!
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 challenges on the local, state and federal levels. Kay Elizabeth LiCausi, President of Hoboken Strategy Group, serves on the board of directors of the Hoboken 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.As a loyal From the Halls reader, you know how important this year and this month are. With the Governor’s Office and all 120 seats in the Legislature up for grabs in November and a balanced State Budget due by June 30- there are a lot of wheels in motion. On June 6, New Jersey voters will head to the polls to decide who will represent their respective parties on the November ballot.