You deserve to be represented by people who are honest,
determined and independent of special interests
We desperately need public servants who are solutions oriented, not politically motivated
I am determined to make New Jersey a great place to live, work and retire
I am someone who seeks to serve our community in the hope of making it better
Citizens deserve elected leadership that is honest, determined, independent of special interests, and committed to working in a bipartisan manner to get things done. Citizens also deserve elected leadership that, day in day out, is dedicated to solving our greatest challenges. As Borough Councilman, County Freeholder and State Legislator, I have worked very hard to distinguish myself in these ways.
In serving citizens, my energies are focused not on the political bickering that gridlocks government, but on getting important things done and improving the quality of life in New Jersey.
Doing right by the people of New Jersey and pointing our state in a different direction – the right direction – is something I’m very determined to see happen. And so, to the citizens of this great state, I offer myself as a 2017 candidate for Governor.My Candidacy
Most Republicans in New Jersey have shown strict loyalty to Gov. Chris Christie since the start, a record that could come back to bite them in the next election.
Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who announced last week that he is running for governor, will argue that he is something very different – a maverick who has voted to override the governor five times and believes that Christie's combative style and national ambitions have done great harm.
He is 54 years old, a married father of four, and the owner of a medical publishing company. He served as a local councilman in Raritan Borough, a freeholder in Somerset County, and since 2011, a member of the state Assembly.
He spoke recently with Editorial Page Editor Tom Moran. An edited transcript appears below:
Q: Republicans in 2017 start in the shadow of Gov. Chris Christie, whose popularity has reached new lows. What grade would you give him?
A. I'd give him a "D." There was great hope in the beginning, but he lost his focus on New Jersey.
Q. Where do you differ from him?
A. In style, I try to inspire people, not incite them. I don't believe that anyone who opposes me needs to be bludgeoned to death. And I would focus on policy. The bill on the transportation trust fund is a perfect example. That's a conversation I would have started with the people of New Jersey four years ago. Instead, he said there was no crisis, and then on July 1 issues an executive order shutting down projects, snarling traffic, and laying people off.
Q. Your idea was to impose a smaller gas tax years ago, right?
A. Yes. I suggested in 2012 that there should be a couple penny increase, maybe a nickel, and do that in 2013 and 2014 as well. And that we should balance that with reducing costs. Instead we ignored the iceberg for four years, then hit it head on and asked New Jersey to accept a 23-cent hike overnight.
Q. What about the tax cuts that came with that bill?
A. It's fiscally irresponsible, as was confirmed a few days ago by Moody's. Only in New Jersey does the gas tax wind up in the same conversation with cutting the estate tax.
Q. The governor is pressing for a radical change in school funding that would cut aid to Newark by two-thirds, and shift huge sums to the suburbs. What do you think?
A. We do need to reform school funding, although I do not endorse his plan, which fails to take into account that not all communities have the same ability to pay, and not all students have the same educational needs. But look, of the 588 school districts in New Jersey, 200 are overfunded, and that's according to non-partisan legislative researchers. Hoboken is a good example. At the same time, hundreds are underfunded and that's creating a property tax crisis in many towns. Over five years, I would cut the excess funding in the overfunded districts by 20 percent each year, and make the underfunded districts whole.
Q. You say you have a different style than the governor?
A. It's a stark contrast. He has disdain for the Legislature, and at the end of the day all decision are being made by a few people in back rooms. That's not the way to govern.
Q. After Christie endorsed Donald Trump, you said he should resign if it meant he would continue spending time outside the state. So, should he quit?
A. I felt strongly that a message needed to be sent. But he's been in the state more. He heard New Jersey. He started town halls again. I don't think he should resign.
Q. What about Bridgegate?
A. He should resign if there is credible testimony that he knew about the lane closures.
Q. What should the state do to contain the exploding costs of health benefits for public workers?
A. Back in 2011 when we passed pension and health reforms, we did not address post-retirement health costs. That's a problem. I propose that if your Social Security and public pension exceed $50,000, you have to take care of those costs yourself.
Q. Are tax increases part of the solution as well?
A. Yes. My plan establishes two new tax rates at the highest levels, and closes loopholes that allow corporations to avoid taxes. I believe my plan overall will stimulate the economy.
Q. But you would phase out the corporate business tax and abolish the estate and inheritance taxes, right? Who would pick up that slack?
A. The two new marginal rates at upper brackets, and the closing of the combined reporting loophole, would balance those cuts. If we get the stimulus I think we will, then after two or three years, we'd begin to phase out the corporate business tax over 10 years. I think that's more sensible than all the corporate welfare we've been handing out over the last decade.
Q. What about the performance of state government?
A. We need to streamline it. Anyone who stood on line last summer at motor vehicles offices knows we have a problem. We are dealing with software and hardware that is 20 years old. I would work to reduce the state workforce by 5 percent to 10 percent. And those savings would be used to reinvest in state government, to make it state of the art.
Q. Democrats seem likely to nominate Phil Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive. Why would you be a better choice?
A. Because I'm Main Street and he's Wall Street. I could self-fund this campaign; I've been fortunate. But I will not. I will be the candidate of the people. And my ideas are specific. I hear only generalities from Phil Murphy.
Q. You've been in the Assembly just under five years. What you most proud of?
A. Demonstrating that I'm pragmatic in my conservatism, not rigid in my ideology. I've bucked GOP ideology a number of times. I was the only Republican on the first vote to support the Dream Act. And I voted to override Christie's vetoes five times. I win in a district that has more Democrats than Republicans, and more independents than Democrats.
Q. You told me several weeks ago that you intended to reluctantly vote for Trump, but have said more recently you will not do so. What changed your mind?
A. I intended to vote for Trump for the simple reason it would end gridlock. The revelations from the Access Hollywood tape, however, are a game changer. I will not vote for any presidential candidate, but I certainly will in Congressional and local races.
By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board