The Sky-Rocketing Cost of Living in NJ

While I am a candidate for a federal office, I am in constant dialogue with individuals in the district and the state, about the high cost of living in NJ.  It is financially challenging to live here.  Real estate taxes keep going up at a rate that has forced many people to move or lose their homes to foreclosures.  There is an increasing number of NJ residents who have second homes in states, like Florida, who use their other residence as their primary, to avoid paying income taxes here.  We all must pay for health insurance or pay the government a penalty for not having health insurance.  Some people just don’t earn enough to pay for either.

Many school districts are seeing significant cuts in their budget.   Where is the money to educate our children supposed to come from? Where has all the money gone over these years?  We can agree that education is the foundation for building a workforce and developing good citizens.  We must thank our educators who dedicate their lives each year to teach our children.  Education is the most important part of our infrastructure that we cannot let slip or continue to fall through the cracks.  It is our children’s future and their parents who suffer from increased property taxes.  Have teachers, educators, and healthcare professionals been part of this process to help make those decisions? I’m assuming the answer is no.

NJ just approved sports betting, to make money from an addictive behavior.  A projected $13 million in tax revenue will be raised from sports betting in the fiscal year.  According to NJ.com “Some officials have estimated anywhere from $50 to $100 million -- would not have a massive effect on New Jersey's budget.”  There are talks about adding toll roads, yet we do not have affordable, accessible or reliable public transportation and potholes that destroy our cars; not to mention that we have the leading, highest auto insurance rates in our country.

I was shocked to see that Governor Murphy wants to enact legislation to increase the price of gun purchase and carry permits, identification cards, manufacturing and retail sales licenses to a rate for which there is no rationale.  I appreciate that the rates have not been adjusted since the 1960s, but is the proposed amount actually justified?  I say no and it’s unfair to those who practice responsible gun ownership. I am particularly concerned about individuals – often women – who are the victims of domestic violence, who feel they need to have a handgun to protect themselves from their abuser due to a “justifiable need”.  Let’s face it, restraining orders are just a piece of paper.  Few women who’ve been physically abused, have an extra $1000 plus it will cost to protect themselves while raising a family as a single parent because our legal system and law enforcement cannot.

Most of the gun violence we see here in NJ, is not necessarily a result of law-abiding gun owners, it’s gang members, gang violence, criminals, or others who obtain guns illegally off the streets. Street gangs like the Bloods and MS13 will continue to obtain weapons regardless of our Governor’s new proposed laws.  Some recent gun violence has been carried out by young students who’ve been bullied, picked on, who feel as though no one hears them or is willing to help them. Where can people turn to when looking for help and guidance? Our mental health care system is broken.  It’s yet another message we all need to get out there to make a difference as a society. It seems that policy is enacted without looking down the road at the ripple effect, trying to predict all of the potential long-term outcomes and its impact on life in the Garden State. 

How about fixing our family law system here in NJ?  With a 50% divorce rate, it seems like more people in NJ would benefit from a system that doesn’t create emotional and financial harm to parents and their children.  Let’s make it easier for individuals to get out of harmful relationships.  It costs less than $100 to get a marriage license in NJ, why is the price of divorce so outrageous? How about adjusting the child support guidelines to levels that support the REAL cost of living in NJ?  Oh yeah, and enforcement of child support payments and other agreed upon terms of property settlement agreements so children can be taken care of by both parents, not be the pawns in money deals.  Perhaps NJ should tax family law attorneys who create acrimonious situations where parents are nearly bankrupted by the process, dragging out cases through frivolous motions and rescheduling that takes years.

This week, there has been a very public outcry over the separation of children from their parents or other relatives dues to illegal immigration, yet many do not realize that our family law courts have been doing this in NJ for decades.  There are many Facebook groups that address this issue – it is a crisis in this country that has been swept under the rug.  A child’s cry from being separated from their parent is the same regardless of their citizen status.

Yes, there is a budget problem.  I don’t have the answers since I’m not privy to all the details.  However, I’m asking the Governor and the NJ Legislature, to rethink the budget, and take into consideration the faces of the people you are impacting.  I’m asking all of the existing NJ members of the House of Representatives and the current Congressional candidates to join me in protecting the rights of our residents in NJ.