Everybody knows that compared to other states, New Jersey gets very little money back from Washington.
That’s something Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer seems to take personally. As he seeks reelection to his second term, Gottheimer continues to stress his ability to, as he puts it, “claw” money back from Washington.
Receiving the endorsement Tuesday of the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association in a Teaneck firehouse, Gottheimer said he has secured about $1.58 million in federal grants to help fire departments throughout District 5, which includes parts of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties.
He even has a name for the many states whose financial aid from the feds exceeds on average what their residents pay in federal taxes – “moocher states.”
That’s catchy, but this issue really is more complex than a sound bite.
Many states receiving much federal largesse – Gottheimer used Mississippi, a convenient punching bag for this sort of thing, as an example – are far less affluent than New Jersey. So, the argument can be made that awarding federal aid to places where it is needed most makes sense.
But not at the expense of state residents, Gottheimer contends. He said money brought back to the district can reduce the amount of money municipalities raise in tax revenue.
Members of the fire association said Gottheimer pledged two years ago to support their interests and that he has followed through. Thus, the endorsement. The district’s Republican candidate is John McCann.
Admittedly, in terms of getting grants, the bar here is pretty low .
Scott Garrett, Gottheimer’s predecessor, was ideologically opposed to spending federal money on just about anything.
James Tedesco, the Bergen County executive and onetime mayor of Paramus, said he asked Garrett for help many times.
“Not much happened,” he said.
Gottheimer, who is well aware he’s in a “purple” district, also stressed his bipartisanship, a familiar campaign theme in a district that before 2016 had been represented by a Republican for about 80 years.
He used firefighters as an example, saying that if a house goes on fire, they care little about the political persuasion of the occupants. That was a bit of a reach, but Gottheimer was in a firehouse.
All this good feeling was in contrast to an incident a few days ago in Hampton, Sussex County, when Gottheimer campaign signs and even the house where they were located were defaced with obscenities and swastikas. State police and the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office are investigating.
Gottheimer said he was heartened that elected officials from all sides condemned the vandalism.
He said he’s convinced that this is “not who we are” in District 5.