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In Democratic 18th, GOP Hopes to Pick Up Seat Once Filled by Sen. Buono

Patrick Diegnan Jr.
Patrick Diegnan Jr

Barnes, an attorney in private practice, serves as the chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and vice chair of Appropriations.

"I have enjoyed serving in the Assembly the last seven years,” said Barnes, a lifelong resident of the district. “I enjoy public service. I believe I have done a lot of good things and want to continue to serve."

Barnes has sponsored bills that imposed the current 2 percent property cap, sought to ban .50-caliber rifles in the state, which Christie vetoed, and economic stimulus legislation that he hopes will create jobs.

Stahl, who received a law degree from George Washington University, and his running mates, Bengivenga and Goldhamer, say they are hoping to provide property tax relief for middle class families and boost job growth in central Jersey. They also say they are Republicans who support marriage equality, community approval of charter schools, a referendum to fund the preservation of open spaces ,and a 10 percent reduction in property taxes.

Nancy Pinkin
Nancy Pinkin

"The first step is passing Governor Christie’s plan to provide the middleclass with a 10 percent reduction in property taxes," Stahl said. “Peter Barnes has done nothing but put up roadblocks to Gov. Christie’s property tax reform plan.”

The Democrats had originally proposed a 10 percent reduction in property taxes, rather than Christie’s across-the-board income tax cut. But they backed off that plan when revenues were lower than the Christie administration had projected, saying the state could not afford a tax cut without first identifying budget cuts.

"We need to end jackpot payouts for unused sick and vacation time and need independent representation in the Legislature focused on securing our fair share of school funding," Barnes said. "Making sure our suburban communities get their fair share of education aid will not only provide our children with the opportunities they deserve, it will also lessen the burden of property taxpayers."

Barnes said he is looking for a more comprehensive approach to the problem of high property taxes.

"We need to hold a constitutional convention to address the single issue of property tax dilemma," said Barnes. "The convention would address how we raise revenue, because right now we rely on property taxes. Whatever the experts come up with, we have to have the courage to adopt. New Jersey also needs to start thinking about shared services among municipalities. I would not force it, but definitely recommend it."

Robert Bengivenga
Robert Bengivenga

Goldhamer, who has an MBA in finance from Pace Unversity and previously worked in financial services, agreed with Stahl on the tax reduction and sympathizes with the middleclass, being part of it herself.

"While my opponents made millions off taxpaye-funded jobs, I lost mine. Now I work fulltime in retail to provide for my family. After voting for taxes that make the middleclass pay more for healthcare, our mortgages and even our utility bills, it is clear that Trenton politicians have forgotten about families here at home," said Goldhamer.

Diegnan, a child of Irish immigrants, said he also believes in a strong middle class and in supporting residents. He has introduced a bill that would cap property taxes at a maximum of 7 percent of a resident's reportable income on his or her New Jersey tax return. "The reason that I like that idea is because when people retire and their income goes down they would be able to afford to stay in their house," said Diegnan, who chairs of the Assembly Education Committee, and is vice chair of the consumer affairs committee. "If you are laid off, you don't end up losing your house because of property taxes. It is an understandable way to fix the issue."

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