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New Jersey State Assembly District 25

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    Darcy Draeger

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    Aura K. Dunn

Biographical Information

What do you think is the most serious issue facing NJ and how do you propose to address it?

What on-going role do you envision for the state government in combating both the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic?

What, if anything, would you do about property taxes?

Twitter @DarcyDraeger
Qualifications/Experience Professional experience in creating operational controls mandating accountability and transparency; risk management expertise.
Austerity. While debt scepticism is always warranted, as we saw in the wake of the Great Recession fiscal policy that prioritizes cost-cutting over stimulus slows recovery and creates lingering unemployment. We can’t repeat that mistake as NJ struggles to recover and build post-covid. Yet many legislators promote a cuts-only approach vs a smarter package of debt, investment, and spending. With the Fed signalling a zero rate environment for the foreseeable future, borrowing is historically cheap, giving us the ability to generate a meaningful return on investment by helping families, funding public health, and supporting small businesses. An austerity approach will harm NJ’s ability to recover quickly, and prevent us from creating the opportunity for accelerated growth next year and beyond.
We cannot have economic health without public health. Our legislators must make decisions based on scientific data and facts, and show leadership on face-coverings/adherence to safety protocols. Pandemic fatigue is a real risk. Moreover, if the past seven months have shown us anything, it’s that without public schools we can’t have a functioning economy. Their contributions to our communities go beyond academic measures, from providing security and stability to food/housing-insecure students, to creating rich social, artistic, and athletic opportunities for others. A failure to recognize this value, and to invest in public education to the broadest extent possible during this crisis, will dampen the growth and development of our state and its residents for years to come.
Our property taxes have long been among the highest in the nation, which remains a chronic economic issue for NJ. Gov. Christie’s deep cuts to property tax rebates plus cuts in school and municipal aid have meant our property tax burden continued to increase unchecked during his tenure. Under Democratic leadership, this is beginning to shift. The most direct route to relief is to increase direct aid to schools, as the school tax levy comprises an average of 55% of the total property tax level. School aid increased over $423 million in FY20, year two of the seven year phase-in to full funding. This included an additional $206.2 million in formula aid. In the recently passed FY21 budget, K-12 school aid and municipal funding was maintained despite the COVID-19 crisis.
Mailing Address PO Box 411
Mendham, NJ 07945
Qualifications/Experience 25 year career in family advocacy. U.S. Senate Appropriations Education Policy Analyst; Authored Clery Campus Crime Disclosure Act. Former Sesame Workshop and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood Executive
New Jersey is in an affordability crisis. The cost of living is through the roof, taxes are some of the most crushing in the nation, property taxes remain the highest in the country. Promises to reverse this trend have been made by the Trenton Democrat majority for the nearly two decades they have been in power, but the situation continues to worsen.

In just the last three years spending has gone up $5.7 billion and over 30 taxes have been increased. The simple solution is to reduce spending and reduce taxes. In the budget passed in late September there were hundreds of millions of dollars of pork included. Cutting that unnecessary spending is a good start. However, there will be no change until the party in power changes.
As elected officials, we have taken an oath to protect the residents of New Jersey. In any health emergency the state government should take a leading role in ensuring the safety of every resident. The state should be taking all necessary steps to ensure health is preserved while not doing irreparable harm to our economy.

Aid should be made available through available funding from the federal government to provide support to small businesses, renters and homeowners. Ensuring speedy and accurate testing is available, using the purchasing power of the state government to procure PPE and distribute it at a lower cost is vital. Just as important is transparency. Decisions cannot be made in the dark. The public has a right to know what data or information is driving life-altering decisions.

I was pleased to cosponsor legislation, which became law to ensure school meal distribution was not disrupted and made sure PPE got to residential facilities for disabled individuals.
School funding is the largest driver of property taxes in New Jersey. Until school funding is reformed to provide equitable funding to all students the property tax crisis will not be crushed.

Further, savings can and should be implemented. Just this year, I sponsored legislation that was signed into law to reduce the cost of health benefits for educators while reducing costs to school districts. This was a great first step that delivered savings, but it cannot be the end of the discussion. Searching for efficiencies and fairer funding of our schools is paramount.

The Senior Freeze and Homestead property tax programs should also be updated. The Homestead program is still calculating rebates on property tax data that is over a decade old. Additionally, tightening loop holes that allow fo