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

Eustace suggested the Republicans should talk less about the potential 10 percent property tax reduction and do more to make such a property tax break possible by retaining jobs in the state. Eustace supports steps to prevent companies from outsourcing jobs. “At the very least,” they should not get state contracts and tax breaks while shipping jobs out of state, he said.

In the meantime, legislators continue to monitor state revenues and have kept the property tax cut plan alive, Eustace said.

“If the money is there, I think it’s going to move forward,” he said. “It’s not very conservative to say we’re going to do something even though we don’t have the money to pay for it.”

Similarly, he said discussion continues on how to provide more stable funding for the state open-space trust fund, possibly by dedicating a share of sales tax revenues. That also could produce results next year, he said.

The other piece of flood control is the state’s neglected infrastructure, Eustace said, and continuing to ignore problems only increases their costs. He praised Bergen County for stepping up to commit $4 million to relieve chronic flooding from the Marcellus Bridge in Garfield, where debris collects during storms. Christie vetoed a state contribution sought by the 38th District Democrats, but Bergen County provided the funds.

When it comes to charter schools, Eustace finds procedural questions about siting and approvals a distraction.

“The real question is whether you want big business running public education,” he said. “That’s something that’s up to the voters to decide.”

Like other candidates, Lagana points to a history of bipartisan cooperation on issues like local budgets and taxes.

“If you came to a council meeting in Paramus, you wouldn’t be able to tell who was on which side of the aisle,” he said.

He acknowledged that Christie, with his sizable lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) could play a role in legislative races. But talking to voters about the governor produces some “interesting” results, Lagana said.

Enthusiasm for Christie, “goes to his persona, how he talks” and his reaction to Hurricane Sandy, Lagana said. “But when you remind them about education, women’s health, gun control, property taxes, they disagree with him on the issues.”

“We have to reduce property taxes,” Lagana said, adding he supports the 10 percent cut.

The Governor touted a 2 percent cap on municipal spending as a step forward, but it has not worked, Lagana said. In Trenton, “there’s been very little real cost control, because the Administration ducked hard choices by cutting aid to schools and towns, he said.

Lagana sees the Blue Acres program as one vehicle to address flood problems, including debris removal from waterways and purchases of flood-prone homes.

But the problem with permanent funding mechanisms, whether for transportation, open space, or pensions, is that governors continue to raid them for short-term budget fixes, Lagana said.

As a first step toward fiscal prudence, “leave the dedicated money where it is,” he said.

Charter schools are another area where “there’s not enough oversight,” Lagana said. “Public money should be dedicated to public education.”

Fragala, a retired principal of Lodi High School, ran for Fair Lawn council two years ago. This time around, she again presents herself as a fiscal conservative concerned about the economy.

"People are very supportive of the Governor," and want legislators who will support his programs, Fragala said. In particular, the Republican slate will push the 10 percent tax cut, she said.

In brief remarks at a campaign stop in Hawthorne, she said that as a legislator, she would “work for business.”

Compared to the past, “what we’re seeing today is less people and more vacant stores on downtown Main Street,” Fragala said. The Democrats "have not allowed the American Dream to take place."

“We have seen with a Democratic-controlled Legislature that unemployment has risen,” Fragala said, adding, “we need to reverse that.”

For most voters, the main issue "is always property taxes, and school funding is the other issue," she said.

As an educator, Fragala said she believes charter schools can be helpful in some areas. But local districts "absolutely" should have a say in the process, "because money for charter schools comes out of public school funding."

"We have to preserve our public schools, because they're what our property values are based on," Fragala said.

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