Building a More Affordable New Jersey
Everyone who really knows New Jersey, loves New Jersey. But the reality is that even though this is one of the greatest places to live, work and play, many are forced to leave because they can’t make ends meet. Too many, for example, spend their lives here, raise their families here, only then to have to leave because they can’t afford to retire here. The following initiatives highlight Gabe’s commitment to easing financial burdens on New Jersey residents, particularly with regard to housing and living costs.
Recognizing that these pressures have a profound impact on the quality of life, these proposals are designed to provide immediate relief, ensure long-term stability, and foster a sense of community. The strategies range from expanding property tax relief programs to innovative housing solutions, reflecting a comprehensive approach to creating a more affordable and equitable living environment.
Tax Relief and Reducing Living Costs
Together, the following proposals form a holistic strategy aimed at reducing living costs and addressing the housing crisis in a way that prioritizes the needs and aspirations of all residents. By adopting innovative and community-focused approaches, New Jersey can pave the way for a more affordable, inclusive, and vibrant living environment.
Continue and Expand Property Tax Relief Programs
Through the implementation of measures like the ANCHOR & the Stay NJ program, as well as increasing payouts, we can provide immediate relief to alleviate the financial burden on both homeowners and renters. By reducing property taxes, families can enjoy greater financial security and stability, fostering a more resilient community where residents can invest in their future without the stress of unpredictable tax hikes. However, it's essential to recognize that these are stop-gap strategies. To solve the issue of high taxes in New Jersey, comprehensive and systemic long-term changes will be necessary. While these initiatives can offer much-needed respite, permanent solutions must be developed to ensure a fair and sustainable tax system.
Expand Senior Freeze Program
The expansion of this program focuses on helping senior citizens stay in their homes by freezing property taxes at a certain level. This measure recognizes the unique financial challenges faced by seniors on fixed incomes, ensuring they can continue to live independently without the threat of rising property costs.
Increase Affordable Housing Initiatives
The creation of grants, incentives, and low-interest loans for developers who build genuinely affordable housing is aimed at fostering more reasonably priced living spaces. These initiatives help meet the growing demand for affordable housing, providing opportunities for low- and middle-income families, and building inclusive communities where everyone has access to quality housing.
Targeted assistance programs can level the playing field for first-time homebuyers and minority families, breaking down barriers to homeownership. By providing support where it's needed most, the New Jersey can help families achieve the dream of homeownership, which is a cornerstone of financial stability and community belonging.
Empowering and incentivizing the transformation of large, unused commercial areas into housing, in accordance with 'Strong Towns' principles, is an innovative way to utilize existing structures and land for residential purposes. This approach increases housing availability and supply, which can reduce ever-increasing rents. Moreover, it revitalizes underutilized spaces and promotes sustainable growth. This strategy also has the potential to address some of the urban blight associated with 'stranded assets,' such as abandoned shopping centers, business parks, and other properties, turning them into vibrant and livable spaces.
Community Land Trusts
Empowering and incentivizing nonprofits to own land for community purposes, such as affordable housing, provides a sustainable and community-centered approach to addressing housing needs. By entrusting land to entities that prioritize community welfare, we can ensure that development serves the needs of the residents.
Publicly Owned Land Transformation
Making it easier to utilize state or municipality-owned land for affordable housing is a creative use of public resources to meet critical needs. By aligning public property with housing initiatives, we can more directly influence the development of affordable units, ensuring they align with community needs and values.
Accessory Dwelling Units
By legalizing secondary apartments on single-family lots where needed, we can create more flexible housing options that can meet diverse needs. This opens up new possibilities for extended families, renters, or even homeowners looking to offset mortgage costs, promoting a dynamic housing market that adapts to changing demographics.
Energy Efficiency Programs
Encourage or provide incentives for homeowners and developers to implement energy-efficient designs and technologies. This not only promotes environmental sustainability but can also reduce utility costs for residents.
To ensure fairness and stability for renters in New Jersey, Gabe advocates for strengthening laws that protect against unfair eviction and rent spikes. Drawing from the White House's blueprint for a renters' bill of rights, this initiative aims to create a comprehensive tenants' bill of rights, tailored to the needs of our state's renters. This policy aligns with the broader goal of an affordable, inclusive living environment in New Jersey.
Healthcare Costs and Retirement
Healthcare in America is fundamentally broken, and Gabe believes that a permanent solution will require comprehensive reform at the federal level. However, there are steps that can be taken in New Jersey to address the immediate challenges of rising healthcare costs and ensuring retirement security. The policies Gabe looks to introduce or support advocate for affordability, innovation, and a collaborative approach that leverages both public and private resources.
Supporting Retirement Security
Gabe supports policies that encourage private enterprises to enhance retirement plans by making it easier and beneficial to participate in State sponsored retirement plans such as NJ Secure Choice. This approach incentivizes companies to offer better retirement benefits and develop programs that foster financial literacy and planning.
Expanding and Improving Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs
Gabe will advocate for a comprehensive approach to make essential medications more affordable. This includes supporting regulations to cap prescription costs, promoting transparency with pharmaceutical companies, and creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Council.
Lowering Prescription Drug Costs through Safe Importation
Gabe is committed to backing FDCA Section 804 program proposals, aligning with FDA guidelines to explore options for importing safe and affordable prescription drugs from outside the United States into New Jersey. This initiative aims to foster competition and lower drug prices, in full compliance with federal regulations, and make essential medications more accessible to New Jersey's residents. It aligns New Jersey with other states seeking innovative solutions to healthcare affordability.
Investing in Comprehensive Healthcare Solutions for Public Employees
In New Jersey, developing innovative partnerships with healthcare providers will be instrumental in reducing costs for public employees. These collaborations will focus on promoting wellness programs, emphasizing preventive care, and tailoring benefits to suit the distinct needs of different generations of employees. Specifically, an innovative partnership would involve collaboration between the state agencies, healthcare providers, technology firms, and community organizations, focusing on preventive care, leveraging technology, pooling resources, implementing performance-based agreements, and emphasizing transparency and community engagement to create sustainable, and cost-effective healthcare solutions.
Fostering a Health-Conscious Environment through Accessible Care Options
Gabe is committed to strengthening New Jersey's healthcare system by emphasizing preventive care, expanding telehealth services, and promoting cost-effective treatment options. Recognizing that early intervention and accessible care are key to a resilient and efficient healthcare system, Gabe's policies aim to reduce barriers and encourage residents to take proactive steps for their health. Telehealth services, in particular, can bring quality care into homes, especially in underserved areas, ensuring that all New Jerseyans have access to the medical support they need. Together, these efforts create an environment that prioritizes health, not just healthcare, setting a standard for responsible and compassionate policy.
Incentivizing Healthcare Reforms through Financial Mechanisms
The high cost of healthcare is a burden for many in New Jersey, and Gabe believes that smart financial incentives can drive significant improvements. He will advocate for grants, tax incentives, and financial support mechanisms designed to reduce healthcare costs without compromising quality. These include promoting generic medications as cost-effective alternatives to branded drugs, limiting out-of-pocket expenses for patients, fostering competition among providers, and emphasizing preventive care to catch health issues early. By incentivizing healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies to put patients' needs first, these reforms aim to create a system where quality care is accessible and affordable, aligned with the broader goal of ensuring that New Jersey's residents have the support they need to live healthy lives.
Education and School Funding
Education is the cornerstone of a prosperous economy. Ensuring quality education for every child in New Jersey is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity for the state's long-term economic growth and sustainability. As we strive to make New Jersey more affordable for families, businesses, and communities, we must recognize the interdependence between education, economic opportunity, and overall affordability. From equitable school funding to the recruitment and retention of talented teachers, the following strategies are designed to cultivate excellence in education while promoting efficiency, reducing costs, and supporting the broader goal of a more affordable New Jersey.
Incentivize Unified School Systems
Administrative overhead in New Jersey's public schools accounts for more than ten percent of educational expenses. By providing State incentives to unify school systems, we can significantly reduce these costs and lower property taxes, aligning with New Jersey's goals for affordability. This action would consolidate administrative functions, allowing for more focused use of resources on student learning and teachers, where they truly belong. The average administrator's salary five years ago was approximately $122,500, notably higher than the $70,400 earned by teachers and it has undoubtedly risen since then. It's essential to tackle duplicative administrative overhead without undervaluing the crucial role of educators. By achieving this balance, we create a more streamlined education system and ensure that funds are utilized in areas that contribute most directly to student success.
Implement a Phased Plan for Full School Funding:
A steadfast commitment to equitable school funding is more than a policy; it's a promise to every child in New Jersey that access to quality education won't be determined by their zip code. By supporting teacher retention, fostering curriculum development, and emphasizing career and technical education (CTE), we pave the way for student success in both technical and STEM fields. This strategic investment not only empowers young people with the skills to secure well-paying jobs, offsetting some of the high living costs, but also strengthens the state's economy. By enhancing the tax base, New Jersey can reduce taxes, stimulating further economic growth and creating a self-sustaining cycle of prosperity.
Attract More People to the Teaching Profession
Incentives like student loan forgiveness, competitive salaries, continuing education opportunities, and greater autonomy to teach are necessary to attract and retain quality educators. Investing in teachers is an investment in the future success of students who in turn graduate and fuel New jersey’s economy.
Business and Economic Development
In New Jersey, our goal should be to cultivate a business environment that is not only ethical and fair but also conducive to the growth and success of businesses, particularly small enterprises. The following initiatives are designed to make doing business in the state more affordable and easier, with a focus on equitable wages, employee participation, and transparent financial practices. By creating incentives aligned with these values, Gabe's committed to fostering a more responsible and community-minded commercial climate in the state. This commitment not only encourages companies to prioritize the well-being of their employees but also supports the affordability and ease of operating a business in the state, contributing positively to the wider community.
Incentivize Small and Local Businesses
Small and local businesses are vital to the economy, fostering innovation and community growth. Supporting these businesses with targeted grants, tax breaks,low- or no-cost loans and incentives can fuel entrepreneurship and enhance local economic development. Tailoring incentives to address unique local needs and integrating mentorship programs can empower small businesses to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. We can sustainably accomplish these things by establishing a state bank—inspired by successful models like the Bank of North Dakota. This will empower the State to facilitate these loans and grants, ensuring profits are reinvested right back into our communities. By building strategic public-private partnerships and crafting responsive policies, we can create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, strengthening the economy and benefiting the entire region.
Streamline Reporting and Interactions for Small Businesses
Implementing a single, user-friendly, centralized online portal powered by AI will simplify the way small businesses comply with state regulations and make doing business in New Jersey easier. By translating esoteric requirements into plain language and providing a one-stop location for all reporting, licensing, applications, etc., this portal will reduce complex bureaucratic processes, saving businesses time and resources. Small business and professionals should be free to focus on their work and innovation rather than worrying about state compliance or fearing unexpected fines.
Remove Unnecessary Regulation and Red Tape
By cutting unnecessary regulations and bureaucratic hurdles that have no appreciable public benefit, small businesses can concentrate on innovation, community service, and growth. Streamlining the regulatory environment not only makes it easier for entrepreneurs to start and run a business in New Jersey but also fosters growth for local economies.
Modernize the NJ Liquor License System
Reforming the antiquated liquor licensing system in New Jersey to eliminate bureaucratic red tape would enable greater flexibility and responsiveness for many New Jersey businesses. This modernization can provide much-needed support to key New Jersey industries impacting tens of thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of jobs in hospitality, retail and manufacturing industries, making it easier for new establishments to open and existing ones to adapt to changing regulations, potentially boosting revenue, and job creation. Examples of how we could do this are by allowing burgeoning NJ microbreweries to offer food, expanding the number of licenses, or lifting the ban on supermarkets selling alcohol. We support Governor Murphy's call for comprehensive reform, recognizing that opening the market to fair competition will foster innovation and growth while dismantling the barriers that have constrained the industry.
Incentive-Based Corporate Tax System
In place of a broad tax reduction, an incentive-driven approach can reward companies that embrace fair and inclusive employment practices. By linking tax benefits to actions such as maintaining equitable wages, minimizing wage gaps, and encouraging employee ownership or strong union representation, the system can motivate businesses to act responsibly and ethically. This approach aligns corporate behavior with societal values, leveraging fiscal policy to foster a business culture that prioritizes the well-being of workers and the broader community. For example:
High Median Wages: Companies maintaining a median wage above a certain threshold, e.g., $50,000, may receive a tax incentive. This approach ensures that employees are rewarded fairly for their work, creating a more balanced and equitable workplace.
Limited Wage Gap: A tax incentive can be offered to companies that maintain a small gap between the lowest and highest paid employees, e.g., a ratio of 1:20.
Employee Ownership and Unionization: Encouraging practices where employees have a stake in the company or have strong union representation can also be rewarded with generous tax benefits.
Caveats and Loopholes: To avoid misuse, provisions would address potential loopholes such as deferred payments, stock options, or other forms of compensation that could falsely represent wage structures. Rigorous audits and clear definitions of what constitutes compensation can help ensure the system's integrity.
Unification and Efficiency in Government Services
It's essential that New Jersey's government services operate with maximum efficiency to reduce the burden on taxpayers in the state. Too often, overlapping responsibilities and fragmented service delivery lead to unnecessary costs and complexity. By encouraging municipal, county and state collaboration and seeking opportunities to streamline operations, we can deliver quality services to our residents without waste or duplication.
Encourage Unification of Townships or Services
Collaborative efforts between municipalities offer a strategic pathway towards greater efficiency and sustainability. By sharing or unifying services such as public safety, waste management, or recreational facilities, communities can leverage combined resources and expertise. Through generous state incentives, we can foster these collaborations, leading to significant cost savings and a more seamless service delivery experience for residents. Importantly, unification efforts must be carefully planned and executed to enhance, rather than dilute, the unique characteristics and identity of each township or locality. By maintaining a focus on local needs and community values, unification can align with New Jersey's overarching goals of fiscal responsibility and community-focused governance without erasing the distinctive qualities that make each township special.
Create a Task Force to Identify Efficiency Opportunities
By establishing a specialized task force, modeled after the Lean Six Sigma approach, the state can identify opportunities to eliminate waste and streamline operations. This task force would focus on pinpointing areas of unnecessary complexity, redundancy, and inefficiency within government services, ensuring that taxpayer funds are used effectively and responsibly. By adopting a proven methodology for reducing waste, New Jersey can deliver quality services to its residents without excess expenditure.
Public Transit and Infrastructure
Enhancing affordability in New Jersey goes beyond housing and taxes; it requires an investment in accessible and efficient public transit options that alleviate commuting costs and reliance on personal vehicles. By creating a transportation system that prioritizes affordability, we're not only connecting communities but also putting money back in the pockets of residents. A stable and desirable public transportation system means reduced fares, greener commuting options, and the transformation of car-oriented areas to foster accessibility without requiring expensive car ownership. These initiatives not only contribute to the sustainability and well-being of our communities but are central to making life in New Jersey more affordable. The following strategies are intended to reduce individual costs and increase quality of life for all New Jerseyans.
Invest in NJ Transit
A permanent funding solution for NJ Transit is more than a logistical necessity; it's a foundational step toward a more affordable New Jersey. By focusing on keeping fares stable, we are prioritizing accessibility for all residents, regardless of income. Stable fares mean that those who rely on public transit for work, school, or daily needs can plan their budgets without fearing sudden increases in transportation costs. This commitment to affordability also aligns with broader sustainability goals, as public transportation offers a greener alternative to individual car use. Investing in NJ Transit ensures that public transportation remains an attractive and economical choice for New Jersey's residents, thereby contributing to the overall effort to make living in the state more financially accessible.
Expand and Improve Public Transit Options
Developing more routes and better facilities not only reduces commuting costs but also supports broader sustainability goals. It creates a more interconnected community and lessens reliance on personal vehicles. Relatively few choose to utilize public transportation because it is viewed as unsafe, dirty and or dysfunctional. Changing this dynamic to make public transport the preferred mode of transportation will increase ridership helping to make NJ Transit self-sustaining without needing infusion from the tax base.
Incentivizing Municipalities to Adopt "Strong Towns" Principles
Offering generous incentives to municipalities for redesigning their communities along "Strong Towns" principles would enable a reduction in the reliance on cars and expensive infrastructure. It would also empower more New Jerseyans to forgo expensive car ownership, increase local economies, and ultimately lower tax requirements. This can be achieved through grants, tax incentives, and technical support that encourages:
- The transformation of car-oriented areas into mixed-use spaces that foster social connections.
- The creation of accessible public transportation options to decrease car dependency and the added individual costs that that brings.
- The revitalization of urban spaces with trees, public restrooms, and other amenities that promote walkability.
The integration of "Strong Towns" principles into public transit and infrastructure planning represents a holistic vision of what makes a community resilient, connected, and healthy. By focusing on reducing car reliance, encouraging walkability, and supporting local systems, we can create environments that are not only economically viable but also contribute to the overall well-being and happiness of their residents. The proactive implementation of these principles can make living more affordable and foster communities that are better positioned to thrive in the long term.
There is no magic bullet solution to the many challenges facing New Jersey, but the frameworks outlined here mark the beginning of a strategic and sustainable approach to building a more affordable future. Gabe and his legislative team are committed to creating long-term plans without yielding to the influence of special interests or lobbyists who may have ulterior motives contrary to this objective. Some initiatives can be implemented immediately and even have bills in place, while others require thoughtful study with experts and collaboration with community stakeholders.
But the focus is clear: to create long-term plans that prioritize the well-being of all New Jerseyans. These are the first steps towards a more livable state, where affordability and quality of life are achievable for all.
Building a More Affordable New Jersey is part of a broader vision that also includes "Protecting Our Environment" and "Supporting Our People." To learn more about these other core issues, please explore the links below.