In 1972, I joined the United States Navy and served on board the USS Joseph Hewes during the Vietnam War, achieving the rank of Yeoman Second Class before being honorably discharged. After my tour of duty, I went on to become a successful entrepreneur, running my own HVAC business in Garwood, NJ, for 27 years before retiring comfortably.
But I know that many of my fellow seniors and veterans here in New Jersey have not had the same opportunities to do so. In the United States, more than 7 million adults ages 65 and older live in poverty, and almost 1.5 million of our veterans live in poverty. Some of the highest property taxes in the country further compound the situation in New Jersey for our seniors and veterans.
I believe that our seniors and veterans deserve better. I believe that we owe them more.
When I was appointed to Council in Garwood earlier this year, I decided to use my position to improve the lives of everyone in Garwood, including our seniors and veterans. So at the May 9th council meeting, I proposed Garwood advocate for a higher property tax deduction from the State for seniors and veterans.
The property tax deduction for seniors and veterans was $250. And while we all know that the cost of living and property taxes have continued to increase each year, the veteran's deduction hadn't been increased since 2002.
The full bipartisan Garwood Council adopted a resolution at our May 23rd meeting, which requested the State legislature to increase the property tax dedication for seniors and veterans to $1,000.
Additionally, our resolution requested the State to increase the minimum income requirement from $10,000 to $20,000, so seniors and veterans who make less than that amount do not have to file a New Jersey tax return.
It's heartening to see that other towns around the State have followed suit and adopted similar resolutions advocating for property tax relief for our seniors and veterans.
Since then, the State legislature has passed a budget that takes the first steps in improving the quality of life for New Jersey's seniors and veterans. A program that reimburses seniors and individuals with disabilities for part of their property tax bills received an $18 million increase, and now veterans honorably discharged from the military can claim a $6,000 deduction from their state taxes.
These funding increases from the State are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to fight against poverty and homelessness in our senior and veteran populations. And I intend to continue to advocate for our seniors and veterans as well as everyone else in Garwood if I am re-elected by the people of Garwood on November 5th.
So I hope that you will come out on Election Day to re-elect myself and my running mates — Jen Blumenstock and Marc Lazarow — for Council in Garwood, so we can continue to provide real action and deliver real results for everyone in Garwood.
Russ Graham, Garwood Councilman and Candidate