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Incumbents Face Spirited Foes in Contests for 7th District Legislative Seats

On specific policy positions, all six candidates say they are in favor of allowing gay marriage. But it is unclear whether the Republicans would vote to override the governor’s veto on the issue.

The candidates were also unanimously in favor of funding open-space preservation with existing revenue -- as proposed by a recent bill to dedicate a fifth of a cent of every dollar in sales tax revenue to preservation, up to a maximum of $200 million a year -- rather than with any new taxes.

Singleton said preservation should have a stable source of funding. “I would support a carefully crafted, realistic and reliable stream derived from current revenue, as opposed to creating some new tax or fee,” he said.

Ogozalek and Banasz said in a joint statement that they support the current proposal to amend the state constitution and provide $200 million annually for open-space preservation.

Asked whether New Jersey should have set up its own health-insurance marketplace to implement the Affordable Care Act, rather than choosing to have the exchange run by the federal government, candidates were split along party lines. The Republican Assembly candidates said Gov. Christie “made the right choice” by allowing the federal government to operate the program, while their Democratic opponents said a state-run exchange would have been a better choice.

Conaway, who wrote a bill that would have established a state-run exchange, said it would have provided additional dollars in federal tax credits to properly educate people on all of their healthcare options under the federal law.

Asked whether local communities or school boards should have the final say over whether a charter school can open in a district, the Democratic candidates called for local approval while the GOP candidates favored centralized control.

“I do think the Board of Education in each district should be involved but should not have the final say,” Allen said in an interview. The GOP Assembly candidates said charter schools “can serve an important role” in districts where public schools are failing.

Asked to name budget priorities for the next legislative session, candidates for both parties identified job creation and further property tax relief as their top items.

Allen said she wants to cut business taxes to make it more attractive for companies, particularly in manufacturing, to set up in New Jersey, while Ogozalek and Banasz said their first action, if elected, would be to pass property tax legislation to reduce homeowners’ bills by $1,000 over four years, as already proposed by Christie. The cut would be paid for by excess revenues, Ogozalek said.

Conaway also called for tax incentives for small businesses, as well as boosting education funding.

“Innumerable studies have shown that an educated populace is a successful and prosperous one,” he said.

Catrambone predicted that the Legislature and the governor will focus on job creation in the coming session.

“The most important issue facing New Jersey today is ensuring that middle-class families have good, stable jobs,” he said.

Jon Hurdle is a Philadelphia-based freelance reporter who covers energy, environmental, and general news for national and regional media.

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