Despite a crowded field of gubernatorial candidates, it seems like the core issues that will drive the 2017 gubernatorial race have yet to solidify.
That’s probably because (if you’re like me and believe that progressive policy is sound economic policy) the single “core” issue of achieving a fair and just society comprises things like restoring the pension system, investment in Main Street, protecting our most vulnerable citizens in the age of Trump, jobs, clean air, minimum wage, affordable housing, public education, mass transit, and fair labor.
But this “all of the above” concept worries me. It could be nothing, and while I feel fairly confident that a Republican will not reclaim Drumthwacket, the above list of very important policy goals comprise what appears to be the “greater good.”
And we didn’t vote for the greater good in 2016.
Will New Jerseyans deliver in 2017 if there are no clearly defined policy discussions? Well, at an event today, the “Real State of Our State,” which preceded Governor Christie’s State of the State address, advocates, activists and community leaders sought to place the policy ideal of a just society in sharp relief from what we’ve seen the last eight years.
Renee Koubiadis, executive director at the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, said the state has a long way to go for residents living in poverty, which has risen by 13 percent since 2009, according to the New Jersey Policy Perspective.
“We have an environment where some families are unable to meet basic necessities and are skipping meals. We need to be doing much better for people living under the poverty level and for the working poor, and ‘working poor’ are two words that should never be mentioned together,” Koubiadis said.
At Real State of Our State, Koubiadis was joined by Better Choices New Jersey, NJ Working Families, NJ Sierra Club, New Jersey Education Association, CWA District 1, CWA Local 1032, Clean Water Action, Anti-Poverty Network, NJ Work Environment Council, NJ Organizing Project, NJ Citizen Action, and that Housing Community Development Network of NJ.
Better Choices released this statement prior to the event:
Advocates will document the real state of New Jersey’s working families prior to Governor Chris Christie’s 8th and final State of the State address. The State of OUR State address will shine a light on the cumulative damage caused by Gov. Christie and New Jersey lawmakers during his tenure. Since Governor Christie took office in 2010, his fiscal policies have compromised essential services and shifted costs from the wealthy on to the state’s working families. In the past year, he has eliminated $2 billion over five years from the budget, and continues to underfund school districts, increase economic hardship, and provide more tax cuts for millionaires and heirs.
Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey, pointed to the crisis of the state’s housing market, saying New Jersey ranks first in the nation in foreclosures, but also zombie foreclosures, properties that are in the middle of the foreclosure process but have yet to be repossessed by the lender.
“What we’ve seen in New Jersey over the last nine years is an absolute theft of housing dollars that are intended to go to the investment in and creation of new homes that people can afford,” Berger said, noting the fact that the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which is funded through every home sale transaction, is intended for the development of affordable housing but has nevertheless been diverted to the state’s general coffers under Christie.
“Those funds have just disappeared and with them, we’ve also seen the vanishing of lead poisoning prevention funding,” she said. “This is not the kind of state any of us wants to live in. We an do so much better if we put resources into the programs and policies that our state needs to thrive.”
Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey said environmental policy issues were, up until recently, bipartisan, “but Gov. Christie has turned it into a personal rampage against our land, air and water.
“We’ve seen impacts in the state but also in our budget, as this administration has raided $1.4 billion from the Clean Energy Fund. Six years ago he signed into law to move forward with off-shore wind investment, but ever since then he’s done everything he can to stop it, losing a $50 million federal grant.” O’Malley also raised Christie’s well publicized battles with the Highlands Council and the New Jersey Pinelands Commission.
“This governor’s record is abomination, but the people of New Jersey have woken up.”
For me, we can act on the local level and for our legislators, we must demand that our representatives act through the lens of the working class economy. We measure our success as citizens by how prosperous we are and our access to prosperity: Access to safe, decent, affordable housing; access to public education (underfunded statewide by $6 billion since 2009); access to mass transit; access to stable jobs that pay a living wage; access to a life without fear of discrimination; access to credit and the ability to grow a business; access to free, public college and health insurance; access to clean air and water.
Seems like a winning platform to me.