The question for candidates on the open space issue was “New Jerseyans have historically supported the purchase of land to preserve open space in our densely populated state. How should the state renew the funding: a new bond issue or creating a new stable source of funding from a new revenue source? If the latter, should it be a dedication from an existing source, such as the state's sales tax or a new surcharge, such as a new tax on water bills to be dedicated to preservation efforts?”
Each candidate was also asked for his or her legislative priorities upon taking office next year.
"Generally what I talk about is jobs and the economy and property taxes," said Greenstein. "Democrats have introduced 30 bills on jobs and the economy, and the governor vetoed most of them."
"In 2006," she continued, "we had a special session on property taxes. We brought in speakers from all over the country, about a hundred bills came out of it. One on shared services, another on the school funding formula."
Greenstein is particularly concerned with school funding, which she called "the real issue," adding, "Do we want to continue to fund schools with property taxes?"
By Greenstein's count, the Democrats introduced 30 bills in the past session by Democrats -- including ones that would have given tax breaks for businesses and the film industry.
One measure, “back-to-work New Jersey,” paired unemployed people with jobs, and if the match worked out, "they would get to keep that job."
“That was our attempt as Democrats to address the issue of jobs," she said. "And he (the governor) pretty much thumbed his nose at it.”
On the way the federal Affordable Care Act is being administered in New Jersey, Inverso said, “I think the governor’s position on that was that he’s not enamored of he Affordable Care Act. I think he’d rather have the federal government handle it. I think he made the right decision. So far only 14 states have set up their own exchanges, or marketplaces. That means 36 states decided not to. He (Christie) didn’t have the confidence that the federal government could handle it and so far it looks like it’s a bit of a boondoggle.”
On the charter schools issue, as it relates to possible future action in the Legislature to amend state law to allow local referendums on deciding whether a charter school should be established in a community, Greenstein said, “Not only would I support it but I think I was the first one to support it in the Assembly.
“I’m not a big fan of charter schools,” she said. “My attitude is call them public schools, try out some new things, then let’s make all public schools better. The area where I live I see zero need for charter schools. I say let the community vote. It should be something local people get to vote on.
On healthcare reform, Greenstein said “I want to assist people on that. At this point we’re referring people over to U.S. Rep. (Rush) Holt’s office. It’s interesting, because what I do is ask public health officials, ‘do you think the Affordable Care Act will be a good thing?’ They’re guardedly optimistic.”
On setting up health care exchanges in New Jersey, a key part of implementing the new law that Gov. Christie decided to forego, Greenstein said, “From what I have read, I believe if we did it locally it would be a good thing. One thing I read is that if we did it locally we’d save money. I think we have to do it and see how it works out.”
On potential referendums on charter schools, Inverso said, “That’s an interesting question. My perspective is, the state is the body that issues a charter. From the standpoint of democratic access it’s certainly appropriate to give the public a say. My concern is that if you put it up for a vote the NJEA could squash it. We do need to hold charter schools to high standards. The record has been good so far, even though some charters have failed.”
Open space funding was an issue Greenstein said she followed in the last Legislative session. She said she favored a bill that “would create a constitutional provision dedicating a portion of sales tax revenue to preservation of open space, including lands that protect water supplies and flood-prone areas, farmland, and historic properties.”