UNION COUNTY – The issues of taxes and government spending have dominated this year’s District 22 Assembly race. And it’s little wonder, as New Jersey residents pay the highest average property tax bill in the nation.
The incumbents, Democrats Jerry Green of Plainfield and Linda Stender of Scotch Plains, are former Union County freeholders who have a combined 25 years of service in the Assembly. They say that they’ve done their part to rein in government spending, pointing to reductions of 7,000 positions and $4 billion in the most recent state budget.
“We’re going to have to make some more tough decisions,” Green said. “Government is out of control, all levels of government.”
Their Republican opponents, former Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks and businessman William “Bo” Vastine, agree. But they blasted Stender and Green for being part of the problem by supporting new taxes and fees and failing to offer any meaningful property tax relief.
“According to the rankings of the non-partisan New Jersey Taxpayers Alliance, Jerry Green and Linda Stender are hostile to taxpayers and businesses,” Marks said, noting that the group’s 2009 Taxpayer Legislative Scorecard rated Green and Stender at 33 percent and 44 percent, respectively. “The tax and spend policies of the Democrat majority in Trenton has led to a migration of over 370,000 people leaving our state.”
The Republicans point out that New Jersey’s average property tax bill has risen from $4,651 to $7,045 since 2001 and the state’s debt has increased $28.2 billion or 174 percent since Democrats took control of Trenton.
Marks supports a plan that would require voter approval for any increase to sales, income, or gas tax, and a super majority vote of the Legislature for any other tax or fee increase; end one-shot fiscal gimmicks to balance the state’s budget and limit the state’s budget growth to inflation.
“Our tax dollars should be budgeted by elected officials as carefully as a family budgets their own finances,” he said.
Marks and Vastine suggest consolidation of services as a way to stop government overspending. Vastine, who lives near the Scotch Plains-Plainfield border, said that every time it snowed last winter he was reminded of the need to consolidate as he saw Scotch Plains, Plainfield and Union County plows go by his house.
Marks suggested that the state could offer financial incentives for neighboring municipalities to combine services. He also suggested that some parts of county government should be eliminated. “The redundancy that goes on there, it’s a joke,” Marks said.
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