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Despite Fierce Struggles in 38th, Both Parties Claim to Be Bipartisan Choice

“The big issue is the affordability of New Jersey, and close behind that, jobs,” said Gordon, the co-owner of a solar energy company. “And in this district and some other places, we have flooding issues.”

Government spending, and the Legislature’s failure so far to follow through on a proposed property tax cut, are the first things Alonso brings up. They underlie the economic problems that Gordon mentions, he said.

Joe Lagana
Joe Lagana

But Alonso also quickly mentions floods, saying the district needs more outside help as well as fewer restrictions on countermeasures. They could take the form of having the Army Corp of Engineers dredge the “entire” Passaic River, he said.

Alonso disputed Gordon’s claim of working with Christie on property taxes. Indeed, his ads even feature a clip of the governor enthusiastically talking about getting Gordon out of Trenton.

One way to provide property tax relief would be to try again to overturn the school-funding formula that favors failing districts, he said. “I’m not saying there should be charter schools everywhere,” but they certainly can help in struggling districts, Alonso said.

Christie did accept the property tax relief plan put forward by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester). The body delayed action after state revenues came up short. Democrats maintain the interruption is temporary while Trenton gets its fiscal house in order, but Republicans consider that an excuse, not an explanation.

“We don’t have the money for property tax aid?” Alonso asked. “Well, where can we cut from?”

fernando alonso
Fernando Alonso

Otherwise, he said, the money “is coming out of your pocket.” While a 2 percent cap on municipal spending seemed like a good idea, “they left enough wiggle room” that it has not controlled property taxes, Alonso said.

Gordon agreed, but said some of the cuts Christie has made, like cutting homestead rebates, have made the property tax burden worse. In a time of growing financial inequality, Gordon said that restoring higher marginal tax rates on income above $1 million could “fully fund the school funding formula and provide additional municipal aid.”

New Jersey’s high taxes do reflect excessive government costs, but they need to be fixed on all levels, he said. The state should not pass its budget problems along to towns and schools, but it should do more to make them control costs, he said.

joseph scarpa
Joseph Scarpa

“Part of the problem is the large number of jurisdictions, and the duplication and inefficiency that results from that,” Gordon said.

Rather than simply advocate for towns, counties. and other bodies to share services, Gordon said he has worked to make it easier for residents to push them into such deals, and even into consolidations, such as the two Princetons becoming one.

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