My name is Stephen Boracchia.  I am running for the general assembly this Republican Primary, June 4, column 3.  I am part of a team of conservative Republicans called Republicans for Conservative Leadership.  My positions and reasons for running are in part set forth below.

All RCL candidates have taken a pledge not to increase taxes or debt.  We are pro-life and strong supporters of the second amendment.  But I believe one of the biggest problems we face in NJ is the property tax.  We need a stable, predictable property tax system in NJ to help guarantee our family’s prosperity.  There are several components that go into property taxes, pension and health care benefits, school tax, and affordable housing. 

While there has been some slow down in property taxes, the decision to limit rebates left many paying higher taxes than under Jon Corzine.  In addition, the pension reform passed in 2011 (which all Republicans are very proud of this election cycle) really doesn’t work in the long run.  Although the legislation passed in 2011 made public workers contribute to their pension and healthcare benefits, it removed by statute the ability to negotiate health care benefits for only four years after the current contract expires.  Unions can still negotiate pension contributions and other benefits and the health care component sunsets after four years.  This allows collective bargaining over all benefits to resume at that time.  This simply delays the inevitable and allows the system we had to return to full strength after four years.  It does allow bragging rights for incumbents to get re-elected though.  I would support legislation that makes the contribution amounts permanent.

Then there are school taxes, the major part of your property tax bill.  Since Robinsion vs Cahill (now Abbott) in the early 70’s, the NJ Supreme Court has taken over the function of the legislature by involving itself in school funding and ordering higher and higher amounts of our tax money to go disproportionately to those school districts.  The result is we pay twice for schools - once for Abbott and once for our districts. 

The NJ constitution places the responsibility for funding in the Legislature.  But the court continues to take over this function even though in 1992 it said that one branch of government cannot meddle in the constitutional duties of another branch (this was a 7-0 Separation of Powers decision in Florio vs Communication Workers of America).  So why doesn’t the Legislature act upon their constitutional mandate and fight for us?  Each coordinate branch of government has a responsibility to interpret the constitution independently and act.  Unfortunately, our Legislature and Governor simply roll over when the court tells them to do so.  Remember the “bad law” in 2010 where the court ordered a $500 million surplus in tax revenue be spent on Abbott schools and the Governor grudgingly went along with their order?  I would not.

I believe it is easier for the Legislature to hide behind the judge’s robes and simply say the court made them do it.  In this manner they don’t get blamed directly for the high taxes and we vote them back in.  But remember what Joe Lewis said, “You can run but you can’t hide.”  We know what they are doing now.

I want to see a constitutional amendment that takes the judges out of the school funding decisions.  There are two ways to do this.  We can’t get a 3/5 majority vote in the legislature, but our NJ Constitution also allows for a 51% majority two session in a row and then the amendment goes on the ballot.  I believe the people will overwhelmingly support this.  Why don’t our current representatives push this issue?

Then there is COAH.  Even if the court found abolishing COAH permissible, we would still have to follow the law laid out in Mt Laurel, where the court said it did not care how much it costs our towns – that they must meet their affordable housing obligations.  We subsidize these lower taxed properties in our neighborhoods and add to our tax burden. 

We need to eliminate Mt Laurel by amendment and allow our towns to make these critical decisions, not unaccountable bureaucrats in Trenton.  We could have a regional alliance where several towns work together to meet the need without forcing intrusive development in our towns.

Until these changes are made, we will continue to have the highest property taxes in the nation. Our current representatives have been largely silent on this issue.  I will fight to get these measures on the ballot. 

If you want to know more, please go to www.r4cl.com.

Stephen Boracchia is a resident of Atlantic Highlands. He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1983. In 2007, he graduated from Rutgers Law School. As a former Captain in the US Marine Corps, he served six and one half years as a pilot, flying CH-53D helicopters until 1990. Since the military, Mr. Boracchia has been employed in the oil and chemical industry.