Spotlight: BettyLou DeCroce, NJ Assemblywoman 26th Legislative District

BettyLou DeCroce, assemblywoman for NJ District 26, seeks re-election in primaries on June 6. Credits: Gail Bottone

MONTVILLE, NJ - BettyLou DeCroce is a New Jersey Republican assemblywoman who has represented the 26th Legislative District since 2012 when she was elected to fill a vacancy left by the passing of her husband, Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce.

In a special election, she beat former Kinnelon Councilman Larry Casha by 120 to 67. In Nov. 2012, she won in the general election to fulfill the remainder of her husband’s two year term by defeating Democrat Joseph Raich.

This year DeCroce is running for re-election. The primary election is on June, 6, with the general election on Nov. 7. Her opponents for the primary election are Republican Freeholders Hank Lyon and John Cesaroand incumbent Assemblyman Jay Webber. 

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DeCroce also is the owner of and agent at ERA Gallo and DeCroce, Inc., a local real estate agency located in Parsippany. She resides in Parsippany-Troy Hills and has two sons and four grandchildren. 

She describes herself as an “up front person,” and said that when she took the oath of office, she promised to “always be a legislator with and open mind, listening ear and a willingness to work with everyone.” 

DeCroce grew up in Rockaway, NJ with her parents and three brothers. She got her first taste of politics from her grandparents Edward and Lulu Gleckler. Lulu was an aide to Peter Frelinghuysen, a Republican politician, who represented New Jersey's fifth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1953 to 1975. Lulu also was chairperson of the Republican County Committee and the Republican Club in Rockaway for 35 years, and Edward was a councilman in Rockaway for 30 years. 

As a registered Republican, she began working at the polls at the age of 18, and in her early 20s, she ran for a seat on the Township of Mine Hill’s Council and won.

In elementary school, DeCroce was a Brownie and a Girl Scout. She also played third base for the Orioles, a recreation softball team that was sponsored by her father’s small business.

DeCroce graduated Morris Hills High School, where she was in the color guard and participated in skiing and softball. In the summers, she taught Vacation Bible School and was a Sunday school teacher.

DeCroce graduated from Berkley College majoring in professional development and then went on to Rutgers University to finish required courses for government certifications. At Rutgers, she took a three year course to receive a municipal clerk certification.

After earning her certification, she served as the Roxbury Township municipal clerk from 1988 to 2010. She also was on the Roxbury Planning Board from 1984 to 1987, and she served on the Parsippany Board of Adjustment for 11 years.

She worked for the Morris County Sheriff's Office in administration from 1984-1986. From 1999-2010, she served on the Morris County Joint Insurance Fund and during this time, she also was the North Jersey Health Insurance Fund Commissioner.

DeCroce was the Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs from 2010-2012. It was here that she authored the Best Practices for Municipalities, which became a statewide model for identifying efficiencies in local government that helps reduce property taxes. 

In the Assembly, DeCroce currently serves on the Commerce and Economic Development, Health and Senior Services, Transportation and Independent Authorities committees and the Joint Committee on Public Schools.

One of the major points in the 2017 campaign is the fact that DeCroce voted yes on the gas tax. She explained the bill was multifaceted and to vote no would have defeated many good components. She indicated that there had to be some compromises in the bill for it to pass since there is a majority of Democrats in the legislature. The Democrats wanted the increase in gas tax, and the Republicans wanted the decrease in sales tax and the elimination of the estate tax.

Some politicians wanted the bill to be divided into two parts so one could vote no to the gas tax and yes to the elimination of the estate tax, or vice versa. In order for both parties to win, the bill stayed as one.

The following are some of the reasons why DeCroce voted yes: The bill is the largest broad base tax cut in over 20 years. It includes decreasing sales tax from 7 percent in 2016 to 6.875 percent in 2017 and to 6.625 percent in 2018. Facts show that this .375 percent decrease in sales tax is the first cut given to New Jersey since 1994.

Municipal aid for local roads has increased from $200 million to $400 million, and there have been low interest loans from $100,000 to $200,000 from the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank within New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust.

Tax savings for lower income residents increased from 30 percent to 35 percent of the federal benefit beginning in tax year 2016.

Each taxpayer will be allowed a personal exemption of $1,000, which may be taken as a deduction from their New Jersey gross income. There are additional exemptions.

Tax savings for veterans will provide a personal exemption on state income taxes for all New Jersey veterans who have been honorably discharged from active service in the military or National Guard of $3,000.

It will phase out estate tax over the next 15 months, replacing the current $675,000 threshold to $2 million on Jan. 1, 2017 and be eliminated by Jan. 1, 2018.

And the bill eliminates taxing on retirement funds by increasing the New Jersey gross income tax exclusions on retirement/pension income to $100,000 for joint filers, $75,000 for individuals and $50,000 for married/filing separately by 2020.

As for the gas tax, it has increased from 14.3 cents on a gallon to 37.5, which is an increase of 23 cents. DeCroce said the 23 cents would be divided into 11 cents going to pay past debt, and 12 cents going for new roads, highways and infrastructure.

Last year DeCroce supported Ballot Question 2, which constitutionally dedicated funds to the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), placing it in a lock box to prevent it from being used for anything other than transportation/ infrastructure improvements. 

With the passage of Ballot Question 2 in the Nov. election, every penny of the state's 37.5-cent per gallon gas tax will go exclusively to transportation costs in the TTF.

DeCroce also pointed out that New Jersey is the only state that has transit as part of the state’s TTF. Therefore, comparing transportation figures to other states is not accurate.

She believes the state government needs to meet its obligations. She recommended the state to cut 3 percent from top line items in the budget except for debt service, leading the state in the right direction.

DeCroce stated that municipalities, counties, and boards of education have always paid their share towards pensions, but the state has not. She said it began with Governor Christie Whitman who suggested a “Pension Holiday.”

Concerning state aid to schools, she believes the formula has to change to make the funding more equitable. The way money is distributed to schools is “truly unfair,” she said. “It has to be fixed,” she added.

When not involved in politics and her family, DeCroce enjoys working in her yard and decorating for the holidays.

When asked what most people do not know about her, she said that she is a very good cook and makes great meatballs. She loves cooking in the crockpot and making homemade bread.

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