Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

Questions for the Candidates 2017

New Jersey Future asked each of the major gubernatorial candidates about their positions on some of the most urgent issues the winner will face as he or she takes office. Below are the questions and each candidate’s answers.

Transportation

Water Infrastructure

Local Redevelopment and Revitalization

Resilience and Climate Change

Leadership and Governance



New Jersey’s transit system is perhaps the state’s greatest asset and is essential for unlocking economic growth. Yet it has been financially neglected to the point of disrepair, leading to disrupted and potentially unsafe commutes.

1. How will you initiate transformation and technological innovation at NJ Transit to modernize and professionalize operations?

Kim Guadagno: As New Jersey’s first lieutenant governor, I have given my phone number out to thousands of New Jerseyans who needed help dealing with state government agencies. While I will continue to give out my phone number if elected, taxpayers and commuters shouldn’t have to call the governor or lieutenant governor to get needed services. As governor, I will bring that same customer-service approach to transportation so that commuters are treated with respect and as the paying customers they are. This starts with requiring NJ Transit executives and the Department of Transportation commissioner to hold monthly public town hall meetings at major transit facilities so they can directly hear from riders and motorists. I will also require all top officials at New Jersey Transit to reapply for their jobs, with the goal of selecting the very best transportation professionals to lead the system.

Phil Murphy: NJ Transit’s problems start with leadership. The Christie-Guadagno administration has put political cronies in charge of the agency instead of professionals with transportation expertise. I have called for an immediate capital and personnel audit of the agency to understand its true needs, and based on the results of the audit, I will seek out a new class of professional and nationally-qualified management to run the agency. And I will insist that the agency better use technology, especially by developing a “Where’s my train?” app that would mirror the “Where’s my bus?” app.

2. What ideas for a separate, dedicated revenue stream for NJ Transit operations do you have? What percentage of general funds would you seek to continue to use to support transit operations?

KG: I think all New Jerseyans agree we need to get more for our investment in transportation and infrastructure, including NJ Transit. Despite being a densely populated state with many transportation challenges, the system is siloed without a single official in charge of all of transportation infrastructure in New Jersey. As governor, I will ensure that transportation dollars are spent efficiently and for their intended purposes by conducting a performance audit of aspects of transportation to ensure the best possible services for commuters.

The 200,000 commuters who live in New Jersey but work in New York are required to file income taxes in both states. As governor, I will look to adopt a plan floated during the primary election campaign which sought to change the bi-state tax structure to benefit New Jersey commuters. I will direct the state treasurer to explore a reciprocal tax agreement to divert New York tax revenue to help fund needed transportation projects in New Jersey to benefit the region as a whole without raising taxes.

While it has improved in recent years, New Jersey has too often been denied its fair share of funds from the bi-state Port Authority agency. As governor, I will always stand up for New Jersey and ensure we are not getting the short end of the stick from New York.

PM: NJ Transit’s lack of a dedicated revenue stream makes it particularly vulnerable to underfunding during the appropriations process. Under the Christie-Guadagno administration, the state operating subsidy to NJ Transit was cut by 90 percent, resulting in both decreased quality of service and riders paying 36 percent higher fares than when they took office. I have spoken about the need to increase operating assistance to NJ Transit and will make it a priority in my budget. While I will explore innovative proposals to redirect existing taxes and fees towards NJ Transit’s operating budget, I have not supported a new tax to fund NJ Transit.

3. What steps will you take to ensure that the state’s transit system expands access to economic opportunities for low-income New Jerseyans?

KG: I believe New Jersey has an incredible opportunity to fix affordable housing crisis once and for all by embracing a policy that mirrors the state’s current economic realities, not deny them. I think the key to cracking the code on affordable housing is to recognize that if we have a rational policy that puts housing where the jobs and transportation hubs are, it can be a great thing for our state when it comes to housing, economic development and keeping young people here. This is a topic that’s been debated over and over again, yet a solution still seems to elude all sides in Trenton, but I believe this is an approach all sides can agree to because it will be the best way to expand opportunities for low-income New Jerseyans.

PM: We need to make sure that NJ Transit’s rail service is affordable, and that starts with making sure the agency has adequate funding so it doesn’t have to raise its fares like it did under Governor Christie and Lieutenant Governor Guadagno. But we also need to improve NJ Transit’s bus service, upon which many low-income New Jerseyans rely. That starts by improving mobile ticketing options and also making sure bus service is reliable and frequent throughout all areas of the state, including less serviced areas like South Jersey.

4. What will you do to foster transit-oriented development?

KG: New Jersey is a donor state to the federal government, meaning taxpayers send more to the federal government in taxes than they get back in funding. As governor, I will represent New Jersey and work with congressional leaders and the White House to ensure federal tax dollars come back to New Jersey for important infrastructure and transportation projects like the Gateway Tunnel project. I will also work with the Port Authority to fund a new and modern NJ Transit bus terminal that will offer improved customer service.

PM: Much of New Jersey’s development is driven by its proximity to major markets in New York City and Philadelphia. And we have seen examples of thriving, walkable downtowns that are attractive to millennials in places such as Morristown, Montclair, South Orange, Maplewood and Summit, among others. I believe we need to be leveraging our tax incentives to support this type of development. And one thing all of these places have in common is their location on rail lines, which is why the health of our mass transit system is so important. I will continue to encourage development along rail lines, and also make sure that rail service extendes to more areas by supporting crucial projects such as the extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.

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The state needs to modernize its inadequate drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems in ways that strengthen communities and support future growth.

1. To upgrade our water infrastructure, we will need creative, progressive financing mechanisms that do not disproportionately affect communities and businesses that have the least ability to pay. What ideas do you have for the state, municipalities or utilities to generate new revenue, while ensuring that water services are affordable to all?

KG: First let me say that it is essential that we maintain, repair, modernize, and build new water infrastructure that protects the public health and the environment and that allows our economy to grow. For too long we have ignored our water systems because they are largely underground or out of sight and we have taken clean water for granted. We have lived off the investments of our parents and even great great grandparents who built our drinking water systems and sewer systems. We cannot put these investments off any longer. Investment in clean water is even more important than transportation investments, which has gotten all the publicity.

To adequately address this question you need to first define the scope of the problem and the actors who are responsible. Water infrastructure includes our drinking water systems, including reservoirs and other supplies, sewage systems, and stormwater. When it comes to water supply and sewers, there is no lack of entities responsible for their maintenance and upgrade. Municipalities, MUAs, and private companies have responsibilities to operate these systems and they do not need new mechanisms to raise revenues. They can do so through user fees or existing taxing authorities. The State also operates the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust that leverages federal monies with low interest loans to make borrowing for capital projects affordable for eligible entities. While more federal funding would be welcome, as well as more opportunities for grants, there largely is adequate funding for water supply and sewer projects. What is lacking is the will to invest.

Stormwater is a bit different as there generally is a lack of authority over many of these systems or a requirement to maintain them. I would support legislation to have these facilities being controlled by existing entities who can then use their authority to properly maintain them.

I do not support any new taxes on water consumption or a “rain tax”. Such “creative” or “progressive” financing is really only another name to tax one segment of our population to subsidize another, often to bail them out of decades of poor decision making. Much of the development that is occurring in this State is occurring in our urban areas. I fully support this redevelopment and want to encourage it by ensuring there is the infrastructure to support it. I am willing to have a discussion on working with urban municipalities to leverage this new development and to help them save monies being wasted in their budgets so that they can properly invest their savings for needed capital projects.

PM: In light of New Jersey’s challenging fiscal climate, I understand that we need to be putting New Jersey resources to work for the 9 million residents of our state, rather than for the special interests. That’s why I have proposed that New Jersey become the second state in the nation to start a public bank — a commercial enterprise, owned by the taxpayers, that would accept public revenues and use them to invest in New Jersey. A public bank will invest in New Jersey’s main streets — in our infrastructure, our communities, our students and our small businesses. And it will provide capital to communities that, for too long, have been ignored by the financial system.

It will operate as a strictly independent entity and follow commercial principles. It will work in tandem with our community banks and credit unions — serving as a partner, not a competitor. And its profits will be returned to the people of New Jersey as non-tax revenue, lot lost in fees to Wall Street. Through a public bank, New Jersey will be able to create a new option for towns and cities looking to improve their water infrastructure so that they can avoid the costly Wall Street bond markets.

2. How will you address the backlog of deferred maintenance in our state’s water infrastructure systems? And how will you communicate that information to the public, so ratepayers know if their systems are getting better or worse?

KG: In order to address any backlog you first have to define the scope of a problem and then rationally plan to solve it. The Legislature recently passed a law, signed by the Governor, that requires water systems to study and define their water infrastructure systems and needs. These capital needs are upward of $40 billion over the next thirty years.

While this figure seems daunting, especially for some of our older, and poorer, urban areas, we can get there through asset management, prioritization, and commitment. First, the Department of Environmental Protection, working with the Board of Public Utilities and the Department of Community Affairs, should be authorized to require every water purveyor, municipality, MUA, and private system to inventory their systems and prepare thirty year capital plans. They should be required to prioritize their needs based on their individual circumstances. Everything should not be required to be done at once. It cannot. Many improvements will take years, if not decades to be put into place. In some areas, it may make more sense to replace leaky water pipes first rather than spend money on CSOs. But we should lay out a plan to do both. We need to have these conversations. For too long we have had laws and lawsuits that demanded everything to be done immediately, even if other improvements were more important or cost effective. For instance, pipes can be repaired when roads are reconstructed, so that roads are not torn open multiple times and wasting money. Stormwater improvements may have a better water quality benefit than more costly treatment systems. We must be smart, and methodical to meet our state’s needs.

PM: My administration will work to promote and educate the public as to the benefits of replacing and upgrading water-related infrastructure. Upgrading water infrastructure is both a smart public health decision and economic decision that will create jobs and boost economic growth. Investment in our water infrastructure is also needed to enhance the ability of our systems to withstand and quickly recover from adverse conditions such as extreme weather events and unexpected water supply emergencies. I will work to maximize federal and private dollars to make sure the resources needed for these upgrades are available.

3. Green infrastructure techniques will help address stormwater runoff and flooding and improve water quality, while simultaneously building resiliency in the face of climate change. How will your administration work to mainstream green infrastructure?

KG: Green infrastructure is an essential component to how we develop and redevelop in the future and how we solve many of our environmental and water quality problems. Installing green infrastructure in many of our urban areas will not only make those areas more resilient and more livable, but may even save money by negating the need for costly CSO infrastructure retrofits.

We already have most of the authority to make green infrastructure a reality for New Jersey. The Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to require green infrastructure in new developments and for redevelopments. Working with its authority over municipal stormwater permits, e.g. MS4 permits, green infrastructure can be required everywhere. We also need to work to improve and enhance what has already been built. We need to reverse the mistakes of the past and improve our existing environment, not just maintain existing conditions. I support using EIT monies, environmental penalties, and natural resource damage recoveries to retrofit communities with resilient green infrastructure. I would also support allowing existing capital funding from a variety of sources, including transportation, to be used to for green infrastructure to address water quality related to the underlying projects.

PM: My administration will work to ensure that natural systems and natural designs are considered when developing a comprehensive state water infrastructure plan. We will focus our project considerations on the most cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly approaches.

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New Jersey’s cities and towns need to take bold and difficult steps to allow them to meet the demographic, economic, and environmental challenges of the next century.

1. A number of New Jersey towns are hesitant to embrace the growth that is essential to the state’s future. How will you encourage these municipalities to foster responsible higher-density living and redevelopment?

KG: I have spent the last eight years working with municipalities to plan for and allow growth within their communities. What I quickly learned, in a home rule state as New Jersey, is that some will be willing to accept higher density living and redevelopment while others will not. It is more effective to help those towns that want to redevelop in this way to do so efficiently and productively rather than to try to force types of development in areas that do not want it. I will continue to be a partner with any municipality that wants to grow responsibly and improve its economy by bringing in new jobs, opportunities, and housing.

PM: I understand why some municipalities have expressed reluctance about development, as they have been abandoned during eight years of the Christie-Guadagno administration. Governor Christie and Lieutenant Governor Guadagno have held municipal aid flat, cut funds for schools, and raided funds that have provided critical support for redevelopment, such as affordable housing. I believe that once we give the municipalities the support they need — starting by fully funding the school funding formula and promoting tax incentives for transit-oriented development — they will be more willing to start thinking about long-term sustainable growth.

2. What steps will you take to ensure towns meet the mandate to ensure an adequate supply of homes that are affordable to people of all incomes?

KG: Providing affordable housing has been one of the more vexing problems that has faced New Jersey for decades. While I do not support using exclusionary housing policies to keep out lower income people, I also believe the current state of our affordable housing laws passed by the Legislature and interpreted by the courts is unworkable. Clearly, the existing paradigm has not worked for those who need affordable housing or for municipalities. It has certainly not worked for New Jersey taxpayers.

I am a strong supporter of a re-invigorated State Plan that maps the areas where we should develop and should not develop. I strongly support redevelopment of our urban cities, transportation hubs, and older suburban cores. If we can attract jobs to these areas we will have a much easier time providing affordable housing in proximity to where the jobs are and where mass transportation can be provided. What we do not need is more sprawl development with pockets of affordable housing scattered around the State with no jobs nearby or mass transportation to get anywhere.

PM: The shortage of affordable housing is a crisis. We can start by stopping the diversion of money away from affordable housing funds for other needs — a practice that Governor Christie has mastered — and by expanding property tax relief programs for seniors. I will also tackle the problem of foreclosures head on. We have to make it easier for people to stay in their homes, and I have proposed that we use Wall Street mortgage settlement money to purchase vacant foreclosed properties and repurpose them as affordable housing. And I support the expansion of successful programs like the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit, where every public dollar invested has returned many times that in private dollars.

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The next governor must, through long-term planning and education about the growing risk of flooding, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change and sea level rise.

1. How would you ensure that resiliency is a priority within your administration and that these issues are coordinated across state agencies? 

KG: We obviously need to prepare for a changing climate and environment through education, long term planning, and requirements for resilient infrastructure and development. We have begun this process through new building codes and resiliency standards. We are building up our dunes and beaches and elevating structures near the water. I support working with every municipality to make sure they have the relevant facts about flooding potentials and plan for their futures. I would ensure that our building codes recognize projected sea level rise and flooding for the useful life of that development so the people can be assured that they will be protected in the long term.

PM: I plan to reinstate the Office of Climate Change within the Department of Environmental Protection, charged with advising the governor, other state agencies, and the legislature on ways to mitigate, prepare for, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. It is necessary to have experts educating our state leaders on how to strengthen New Jersey’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and build broader partnerships with federal, state and local governments, as well as the private sector, to protect against the damaging effects of climate change. The Office of Climate Change will help us prepare for the likely impacts of climate change in New Jersey and improve communication and education about its urgency.

2. What specific policies will you put into place and prioritize now that will help our state’s coastal towns and cities prepare for sea level rise? How will you protect future homeowners and renters from flood risk?

KG: As a resident of the New Jersey shore, I know all too well of the impacts of storms and the threats of sea level rise. I lived through Superstorm Sandy. I saw the destruction and heartache first hand of what a severe storm can cause.

I would support and enhance many of the programs that have been put into place since Superstorm Sandy devastated our coast. I support fortifying our coast through engineered beaches and dunes, through requiring all critical infrastructure be made resilient, and promoting micro grids to ensure critical facilities retain power in the midst of a major storm. I would ban schools and other critical infrastructure from being placed in flood prone areas. I also support our Blue Acres program so that we buy out homeowners who live in vulnerable areas so that these areas can be restored to natural conditions. Finally I want to promote nature-based solutions and living shorelines as a means to help restore natural areas and protect against future storms and flooding. These nature-based solutions will help restore our coastal wetlands and not only protect our mainland, but also enhance critical habitat. It is time we focused not just on preventing more harm, but on undoing past harms.

PM: As sea levels and global temperatures rise, our state will increasingly face frequent and damaging floods, extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy, and dangerous heat waves that threaten our most vulnerable populations. It is imperative that we prepare for climate change. After Hurricane Sandy, the Christie administration failed to secure our fair share of federal funding, oversee contractors, and direct aid to adapt and protect New Jersey’s coastlines and flood-prone areas from further storms. I promise to fight for every federal dollar, increase transparency, and make decisions on disaster relief based on the public interest, not partisan politics. My administration will ensure New Jersey is prepared for natural disasters by enforcing existing coastal protection laws, developing new safeguards, and investing in critical infrastructure so New Jersey is not caught off-guard again. We will prioritize investment in resilient electric grid infrastructure, such as smart grids, micro-grids, and advanced metering. By preparing for climate change impacts, New Jersey will avoid major losses and embark on a path toward a more resilient and sustainable future.

3. Climate change does not recognize municipal boundaries. What will you do to promote regional approaches to resiliency?

KG: We already have many vehicles for regional approaches to climate change through our coastal programs and regional land use bodies. The State has the ability to gather information, work with our colleges and universities, and ensure that all municipalities are provide with the information and tools they need to make the best choices they can for their communities. Where regional action is needed, such as for development of a strong beach and dune system or flood control project, I will support it. I will also work with municipalities and counties and encourage them to work together to promote regional resiliency projects.

PM: One of my first acts in office will be to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). After rejoining RGGI, we will use RGGI proceeds to capitalize green financing programs administered through the state’s public bank, which will provide low-interest loans for clean energy projects. One of the main barriers to clean energy expansion is access to financing, especially for organizations that serve our neediest residents. My administration will make sure that RGGI funds are reinvested in our communities to catalyze sorely needed investments. Further, RGGI proceeds must be used to improve the environment for all 9 million New Jerseyans. I will dedicate a portion of RGGI funds to be used strictly for environmental justice initiatives, such as ensuring equitable treatment across all communities during post-storm emergency management, facilitating access to clean energy and energy efficiency programs, and providing environmental justice communities the capacity to access new jobs and revenue generation in the clean energy economy.

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The state will be looking to the next governor to provide the leadership and direction to coordinate state investments and incentives to ensure a prosperous, sustainable state and to support communities’ efforts to create great places to live, work and play.

1. A number of state agencies are central to the way New Jersey grows and develops. What steps will your administration take to ensure that state agencies coordinate their efforts and work cooperatively toward achieving the goals and objectives of the State Plan?

KG: As Secretary of State, the Office of State Planning was under my jurisdiction. I strongly supported a new, implementable State Plan that would encourage growth in appropriate areas and help preserve our critical environmental resources. We worked hard to develop a Plan that could be adopted and that was ready to be implemented. Unfortunately, the Governor did not share my vision for coordinated statewide planning.
When I am Governor, one of my first actions will be to reinvigorate the State Planning process and adopt a plan within 180-days. While I do not favor mandatory compliance with the State Plan at the local level, I do support providing incentives and targeting resources to those towns and areas that are in compliance. I do, however, support mandatory compliance when State agencies take action. The State needs to act with one voice to make sure that grow our economy and protect our environment together.

PM: I believe that ensuring that New Jersey develops in a way to facilitate a growing 21st-century economy that works for everyone is the central challenge facing the next Governor. This requires addressing a number of issues, including housing affordability, environmental sustainability, and transportation accessibility. I believe that leadership must come from the Governor, who sets the vision for our state. I know how economies grow and create jobs, and I have witnessed firsthand in Germany the development of an advanced industrial economy based on successful workforce development programs, labor-management collaboration, and renewable energy sources. That type of development can happen right here in New Jersey if we have the will to make it happen.

2. How will you re-align the Department of Transportation to have a greater focus on the people of New Jersey, and not just on the movement of cars and trucks?

KG: Despite being a densely populated state with many transportation challenges, our system is siloed without a single official in charge of all of transportation infrastructure in New Jersey. As governor, I will work with local, county, state and regional agencies to consolidate overhead to reduce construction, maintenance and operating costs and improve service for New Jerseyans. As previously mentioned, I will impose a culture of customer-service when it comes to transportation so that commuters are treated with respect and as the paying customers they are. I will require NJ Transit executives and the Department of Transportation commissioner to hold monthly public town hall meetings at major transit facilities so they can directly hear from riders and motorists. I will also require all top officials at New Jersey Transit to reapply for their jobs, with the goal of selecting the very best transportation professionals to lead the system.

PM: The Department of Transportation needs to start thinking about building a 21st-century transportation system that meets the needs of New Jersey’s economy. That starts by focusing on mass transit and making NJ Transit the world-class transportation system that it used to be. But I also recognize that the majority of New Jersey commuters travel by car, and w need to make sure that our roads and bridges are safe and properly maintained. After eight years of Chris Christie and Kim Guadagno, two-thirds of our roads and one-third of our bridges have been deemed deficient, and drivers are spending an average of $600 a year on vehicle maintenance. With a replenished TTF, we must make sure that investments in our roads, bridges, and rail are made according to need, not politics.

3. How will you support or change the Department of Community Affairs to become a more substantial resource for municipalities engaging in development strategies that maximize access and livability?

KG: Almost every mayor in the state has my cell phone number, and Carlos Rendo, my running mate and the current mayor of Woodcliff Lake, will be our administration’s liaison to mayors as my lieutenant governor. He will work with the Department of Community Affairs to promote better cooperation between the state and municipalities when it comes to transportation, housing, tax and other policies. Our team will aggressively work with mayors to not only make New Jersey a more affordable place to live, but a place with a better quality of life as well.

PM: I have always believed that the state must be a partner to municipalities to help in their development. Smart development means coordinating across a number of levels of government — municipal, county, state and federal — and across a number of different agencies. The DCA is a crucial tool in helping municipalities coordinate these efforts, especially when it comes to areas such as housing and programs such as the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit. These are the types of collaborative approaches that we need to be encouraging, which is why I support expanding the NRTC.

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