A first-time candidate running to serve in the General Assembly for the 21st District, I am, quite simply, tired of politics as usual. I believe that with the right leadership, New Jersey can be a beacon of hope amidst a volatile political and economic landscape.
Born and raised in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, I eventually settled in Summit with my husband and our three sons. While I have spent the last fourteen years of my life spearheading initiatives that serve people in need, protect the environment, and promote arts education, it was the Sandy Hook Massacre that spurred my political engagement. I witnessed the inaction and cowardice of our legislators and vowed to be a voice of reason in my District.
Our country now stands at a crossroads: we can continue to accept politicians that ignore the needs of our community and kowtow to the lobbyists that fund their campaigns, or we can take a stand this November and elect people that will work in our best interest.
I believe that by working together, we can create success for New Jersey by doing the following:
1. Tackle Property Taxes Head-on. Our state property taxes are the highest in the country. I propose a 5-point plan to confront this problem: 1. Increase state aid to all schools, which will lessen the property tax burden; 2. Consolidate and coordinate services within the 21st Legislative District. Promoting shared services such as street-sweeping and road repairs among the District’s municipalities allows for economies of scale and eliminates redundancies; 3. Enact foreclosure reform. Foreclosed homes depress property values and erode the tax base. By requiring the banks that own the homes to pay property taxes, we can help prevent shifting the burden of foreclosed properties to taxpayers; 4. Enforce across-the-board tax fairness by ensuring that commercial properties, non-conforming properties, and farm-assessed non-farming properties (“fake farmers”) carry their share of the burden; 5. Create a fair and transparent property tax methodology, which will incentivize property owners to invest in their homes and comply with permitting regulations.
2. Maximize New Jersey’s Growth Potential. Over the last eight years, our state has not fulfilled its growth potential. It is time we get back on sound economic footing. We can achieve this by: 1) encouraging our revenue system to anticipate the future by moving away from a retail economy and toward a service economy, 2) changing our corporate incentives programs to stimulate high-growth industries and, 3) ending corporate welfare to companies that ship jobs out of state. Harnessing our talent pool will also help maximize our growth potential. Establishing apprenticeship programs with stackable credits will strengthen our community colleges. Efforts such as these will help our community colleges produce students with the right skills for the right jobs. Investment in modernizing government service delivery using technology will improve inefficiencies in workflow systems. Finally, focusing on public finance transparency will help us identify opportunities to streamline and find savings.
3. Invest in Infrastructure. Transit is at the heart of our economic future, given our proximity to the largest metropolitan area in the country. Transportation difficulties are an obstacle to doing business and attracting and keeping a qualified workforce. New Jersey’s future success depends on the strength of its main transportation source, NJ Transit. This will require a multi-pronged approach: identifying a dedicated funding source for NJT; increasing that funding; improving service by appointing professional managers to helm PATH and NJT; streamlining infrastructure repair coordination to eliminate waste and optimize public dollars; and finally, completing a long-term, strategic master plan in conjunction with New York and Philadelphia as they contemplate significant modifications that will impact New Jersey commuters (i.e. congestion pricing) while addressing safety concerns within their transportation systems.
4. Ensure That All of Our Students Get a Top-Quality Education. Historically, New Jersey has provided a quality education for its young people, but the achievement gap persists. In addition, talented students tend to migrate to out-of-state universities, many of whom do not return home to New Jersey after graduation. In-state college students have an alarmingly low completion rate and crippling student loan debt. Ensuring a high-quality education requires a variety of tactics. First, we need to fully fund our public schools. Second, focusing on expanding access to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten is imperative given that early childhood education has been proven to positively affect education outcomes while relieving our working families of some of the burden of child care costs. Finally, we must confront the burgeoning student loan crisis that is hurting many New Jersey families by working to provide consumer protections to borrowers including: loan-cost transparency and counseling; oversight of for-profit colleges; expansion of federal income-based repayment plans; and fast-tracking bachelor degree programs at our in-state institutions.
5. Prevent Gun Violence. Preventing gun violence should be a non-partisan issue. New Jersey should focus on passing common sense gun legislation. I propose mandating gun safety training for all firearm owners, limiting magazine capacity to help prevent mass shootings, and closing deadly gun ownership loopholes to prevent guns from falling into the hands of the wrong people. We should also focus on instituting a regional gun trafficking taskforce in cooperation with neighboring states to prevent the cross-border proliferation of guns from states with lax gun laws.
See the full version of our Gun Violence Prevention platform at https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/54ac8d_ce7b7b9494774df39f0b1f0c2bf7fb30.pdf
6. Safeguard the Environment. New Jersey has fallen behind in the race for clean energy. At the same time, toxic substances have caused six of New Jersey’s reservoirs to close – the largest, Wanaque, is threatened by contaminated groundwater from a Superfund site. We must reverse course. We can safeguard our environment by prioritizing clean energy,encouraging expansion of New Jersey’s wind and solar infrastructure, and in turn creating numerous green jobs. We need to protect our drinking water by restoring $100 million cut from the Department of Environmental Protection during the Christie Administration and directing the agency to adopt and implement the Drinking Water Quality Institute’s recommended health-based standards for 16 hazardous drinking water contaminants. Further, the preservation of open spaces should be a priority, given we are the most densely-populated state in the country. Finally, we need to support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a ten-state regional compact to combat climate change and air pollution.
7. Break the Glass Ceiling. The ladder of opportunity is not equally open to women. By closing the gender gap, women can maximize their potential, helping not just themselves, but all of the people who depend on them. Ensuring equal pay for equal work can be achieved by eliminating wage discrimination, incentivizing women entrepreneurs, and helping women get access to capital and investment. We can also work to pass legislation that expands paid family leave, offers a child care tax credit, expands access to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, and provides private-sector employees with earned sick leave. Raising the minimum wage is a must -- women are disproportionately in lower-wage jobs and have families living below the poverty line. A living wage will help to provide stability for at-risk families. Finally, New Jersey must protect women’s health. Funding Planned Parenthood will help ensure that all women have affordable access to essential health services. Implementing access to free, long-lasting birth control similar to Colorado’s LARC program (which reduced teen pregnancy and abortion rates by 40% in three years while saving the state $50-$100 million in Medicaid costs) is a must.Defending a woman’s right to choose and preventing our state from adopting any of the major abortion restrictions that exist in many other states is of the utmost importance.
You can read the full version of our policy platform at https://www.laceyforassembly.com/copy-of-priority-icons.
To further discuss our campaign’s policy platform please contact us at Lacey@laceyforassembly.com
See you at the polls on November 7th!
Lacey Rzeszowski is the Democratic Candidate for State Assembly in the New Jersey's 21st Legislative District.