Albert Kelly (Mayor, Bridgeton City)
On February 8, Mayors from across the State convened at the League’s 25th Annual Mayors Legislative Day. Topics discussed included affordable housing, reimbursement for Transportation Trust Fund projects, pension, health benefits funding, and property tax relief.
I began the day by outlining my priorities as League President which include reforms to the current regressive property tax system; to fully restore the energy tax receipts; to tie the Interest Arbitration Cap to the property tax levy cap; for the Administration and Legislature to meet us in the middle of the room and enact a reasonable, rational and achievable housing policy; and recognize it is municipal government where the most innovative and creative governing gets done. I then asked key Christie Administration leaders to discuss their priorities for the coming year.
Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Chuck Richman discussed the status of affordable housing, including the significant amount of financing from DCA for affordable housing, a fact often overlooked. The Commissioner also brought Mayors up-to-date on the Department’s efforts to address homelessness, particularly regarding initiatives to end homelessness for veterans.
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin focused on DEP’s efforts in regards to water infrastructure, storm water management and the MS4 permitting process. The Commissioner also encouraged municipalities to seek financial assistance from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust.
In response to a question, the Department of Transportation (DOT) Chief of Staff John Case indicated that the methodology to determine TTF grant priorities was the same as previous years and that local aid was expected to go out in June.
Elizabeth Connelly, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services (DHS) – the largest and most diverse Executive Branch Department – spoke about the effort to provide ‘three generation services’ to the citizens and families most in need of a hand up. She complimented all who joined New Jersey Mayors, in the successful push to make New Jersey a player in the Federal Department of Agriculture’s SNAP Pilot program, which will give needy New Jersey families better access to fresh and healthy foods. The Commissioner highlighted areas where DHS works in tandem with DCA and stated her hope the Department could work more closely with New Jersey Mayors to address social service needs and remedy problems, as they emerge first in New Jersey municipalities.
The program then moved to the presentation of certificates to the new class of inductees into the League’s Elected Officials’ Hall of Fame. These dedicated men and women have completed at least two decades of service to their fellow citizens in elected local office.
This was followed by a lively legislative policy roundtable discussion, moderated by Politico New Jersey writer Matt Friedman. The panel included Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto and Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick. These State-level leaders were joined by League First Vice President, Mayor Jim Cassella of East Rutherford, Second Vice President, Mayor Colleen Mahr of Fanwood and Third Vice President Mayor Jim Perry of Hardwick.
The Mayors engaged the Legislators on a diverse range of issues important to municipalities, including affordable housing, TTF funding and reimbursements as a result of the shutdown, the upcoming expiration of the 2% cap on interest arbitration awards at the end of 2017 and support for the ongoing efforts of the Administration and Legislature to address drug addiction.
For more information on Legislative Day please contact Mike Cerra, Assistant Executive Director at 609-695-3481 ext 120 or firstname.lastname@example.org