MANVILLE, NJ – State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, (R-16th), proud of his New Jersey roots but troubled by a dysfunctional state government, tax inequities, a flawed school funding formula and runaway debt declared his candidacy for the GOP nomination as governor yesterday.
Surrounded by supporters outside the main entrance of Manville High School, the Hillsborough resident’s long-anticipated announcement was forceful and specific, detailing a five-point plan to reform school funding and state employee benefits as well as other priorities.
Some of the specifics include:
- Excess school aid in overfunded school districts will be reduced;
- State-funded Pre-K should be available to all 4-year-olds statewide, at no additional cost to taxpayers, with a co-pay for families of means;
- A reduction of 5-10 percent in the state workforce of 65,000 employees; money saved will be invested in state-of-the-art technologies that will replace outmoded systems and improve the efficiency of state government;
- Abolish the estate and transfer inheritance tax;
- Increase retirement income exclusion;
- Never tax a gain on sale of a primary or secondary residence (if never used for commercial purposes);
- Exclude the first $5 million of gain on the sale of a “Mom and Pop” shop business.
- Ciattarelli, who has lived in Hillsborough since 1998, has been a member of the state Assembly since Dec. 5, 2011. Born in Somerville and raised in Raritan, the lifelong Somerset County resident served on the Raritan Borough Council and as a Somerset County Freeholder prior to his election to the Assembly.
Ciattarelli is focused on the state’s tax code and inequities in the state’s school funding formula stemming from the 1990 state Supreme Court ruling in Abbott vs. Burke. The court ordered the state to remedy an imbalance in the amount of state aid distributed to poor urban districts and more affluent suburban districts.
Fast forward 25 years, and many of those urban centers, including Jersey City, have experienced a revival, with a resultant shift in good fortune and demographics.
More than 200 school districts statewide are overfunded, according to Ciattarelli, at the expense of school districts like Manville, which he said is grossly underfunded.
Ciattarelli said he chose Manville High School as the setting for Tuesday’s announcement with good reason.
“When an $800,000 home in Jersey City pays less in property taxes than a $300,000 home in Manville . . . when three new schools are opening in Jersey City, paid for not by Jersey City, but 100 percent by the state . . . when people living in million dollar townhomes in Hoboken can send their children to free Pre-K, paid for not by Hoboken, but 100 percent by the state.
“Manville, by the way, recently had to sacrifice library space for more classrooms and it doesn’t get a dime for free Pre-K,” Ciattarelli added.
“Let me be clear: despite the lack of state support, the Manville School District offers as good an education as you will find anywhere in New Jersey,” Ciattarelli added. “I know; in representing this great community for close to 10 years as a freeholder and state legislator, Manville students have impressed me time and again.
“The success of this school district is a direct result of the dedicated efforts of students, their families, the Board of Education, the superintendent, administrators, educators and all other school professionals,” Ciattarelli said.
Manville is one of 200 school districts statewide that is underfunded, according to Ciattarelli.
“For the 2016-17 school year, state aid to Manville is $9 million less than it should be; that’s 43 percent of its school budget,” Ciattarelli said.
“State school funding is the one issue above all others that holds the key to improving New Jersey,” Ciattarelli said. “Know this: we cannot solve the property tax crisis or the pension crisis until we solve the school funding crisis. The three are inextricably linked.”
Those three issues, in addition to streamlining government and fostering bi-partisan communication with all branches of state government and New Jersey representatives in Washington, will be Ciattarelli’s top five priorities as a candidate, and if elected, will be the foundation of his administration.
“We’ve been heading in the wrong direction for decades. Under both Democratic and Republican Administrations and State Legislatures, we’ve reached the tipping point,” Ciattarelli said. “We’re on the brink. We are last in economic growth, drowning in debt, unable to fund core priorities like infrastructure and pensions, crippled by rising property taxes and paralyzed by an unfair school fund formula that cheats children, taxpayers and school employees.
“Instead of real solutions” he continued, “we’re stuck with commissions and task forces that talk about problems instead of solving them, and special interests that spend tens of millions each election to preserve the failed status quo.
“We need a comprehensive and dynamic plan worthy of bipartisan support,” Ciattarelli said. “A plan we can honor and afford. A plan that acknowledges our fiscal realities, while setting the stage for long-term prosperity for all citizens; a plan that creates a ‘tide that lifts all boats.’ ‘’
Though she has made no formal announcement it is widely expected that Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno will declare her candidacy, setting up a Republican Primary in June next year. New Jersey will elect a new governor to replace Gov. Chris Christie in November, 2017.
“I have the utmost respect for the legislature and those elected to serve in it, but I did not go to Trenton to vote on the state song, the state butterfly or stink bugs,” Ciattarelli said. “And as much as I enjoy groundbreakings, ribbon-cuttings, and parades, that’s not why the citizens of the 16th Legislative District sent me to Trenton.
“After nearly five years in Trenton, as one of 120 legislators, I’ve come to the realization that the only way to make the change we need is from a different seat,” Ciattarelli said. “I feel very strongly about doing right by the people of my district and the people of New Jersey,” he added. “I am determined to make this state a better place to live, work and retire. I am committed to charting an entirely different course, a new direction, a more prosperous future for our state.”