January 3, 2018

Gottheimer looks ahead to 2018: Congressman to focus on tax relief, infrastructure

VERNON — The new year started with U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer swearing in a re-elected and two new township council members.

The Democrat from Livingston was quick to point out that Jean Murphy, John Auberger and Mark Van Tassel were all Republicans.

It’s his ability to work across the aisle with Republicans in his first year that Gottheimer has touted in his first year in office, even though he considers the recent tax reform law to be an “assault” on New Jersey taxpayers.

Monday morning, he ran into a customer at The Daily Bean in Vernon saying “moocher states are killing us.”

Gottheimer said the recent law overturned rules that were in place since 1919, which allowed residents to deduct property taxes from their federal taxes.

“It’s basically a tax hike on us,” Gottheimer said.

One of Gottheimer’s goals for 2018 is to see that New Jersey gets a bigger return on its federal tax dollar. Historically, he said, New Jersey has only gotten back 33 cents, while the state getting the highest return – Mississippi – historically gets $4.38 per dollar. The average state return is 67 cents per dollar.

Part of that plan is to inform local governments of the availability of federal grants municipalities can use to pay for upgrades or items instead of bonding or paying with property taxes.

In 2017, Gottheimer helped secure fire equipment grants for fire departments in Wantage and West Milford, helping those municipalities save their taxpayers property tax money.

However, the biggest concern with the tax reform law is what it could mean going forward for New Jersey.

What does this mean for businesses who won’t come here,” Gottheimer said. “Millennials won’t come here and when kids finish college will leave because they can’t afford to stay here. That will be a huge stake in our ability to be as successful we should be.”

In order to bring relief to area taxpayers, Gottheimer plans to reach across the aisle and is working with New Jersey Republican, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, to introduce legislation that could find ways to get meaningful tax relief to people.

Another concern is property values under the new law as he said the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce fear the state will lose 20 percent of its housing value, and that could hit hardest in the northwest corner of that state. Gottheimer said Sussex and Warren counties have the highest foreclosure rates in the state and New Jersey has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the U.S.

“I’m very worried about people and their homes,” Gottheimer said. “That’s where most of their equity is.”

He said he has been attacked for his willingness to work with Republicans.

“I worry less about what’s best for my national party and focus on what’s best for us here,” Gottheimer said. “Some people in my party have a different view on that. Some think you should obstruct. That’s why people are frustrated and not why people hire you. They hire you to get things done.”

One of the things Gottheimer wants to get done is work on New Jersey’s infrastructure.

He said New Jersey has the eighth worst roads in the country and a third of the state’s roads and bridges are considered unsafe.

New Jersey Transit, which doesn’t reach into Sussex County, has the worst on-time record in the country in 2016.

The impact is felt worse here where everyone has to drive because there is no other way to get around effectively.

“We’ve got to fix our roads and bridges,” Gottheimer said. “That’s a huge reason why companies leave here.”

He said companies are relocating to areas where it is easier for them to get around and the overused roads in New Jersey make that difficult.

In his second year, Gottheimer also has to face re-election as representatives are only elected to two-year terms and is expecting a challenge from at least Republican Steve Lonegan, who has received early support from state Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths.

“I’m really focused on doing a good job and if you do a good job people, they’ll want to send you back,” Gottheimer said. “The best thing I can do is do my job and save the politics for later.”