The Second Installment of Save Jersey’s Election 2013 “Meet the Candidates” Interviews
In my efforts to introduce candidates to the voting public, I started a weekly column called Meet the Candidates here at Save Jersey. In essence, it is a past day stump speech updated for the virtual world.
For this week’s column, I am honored to introduce to you Assemblyman Jay Webber. Assemblyman Webber represents New Jersey’s 26th Legislative District.
He was born on February 29, 1972. Attended John Hopkins University for his B.A. in International Studies and then went on the get his JD from Harvard Law School. Assemblyman Webber has been in the General Assembly since 2008 and was the former Republican State Committee Chair from 2009-2011. He currently serves on the Budget and Labor Committees.
My interview with the Assemblyman is below the fold…
Sanders: What makes you a more viable candidate in comparison to your challenger?
Assemblyman Webber: I’m not aware of any challenger yet, so I can’t speak about a specific comparison, but I consider myself an effective and conservative public servant who believes that public service should be just that — service. In encouraging that ethic, I have led by example by successfully fighting to end taxpayer-funded pensions for Legislators, and voluntarily refusing the gold-plated health benefits that Legislators can take at taxpayer expense.
I own and operate a small enterprise and have a family of eight, so I understand the expense of and the need for health benefits. But I believe compensation and benefits in the public sector should closely resemble compensation and benefits in the private sector, and even now, the health perks available to Legislators in Trenton are far better than those our average constituents will find in the private sector. That’s why I don’t take them.
Leading by example sends a message to taxpayers that public officials no longer view their positions of public trust as vehicles for personal financial enrichment. It also sends a strong message to other public employees that the very people who are implementing reforms to their system of compensation are themselves willing to sacrifice before making significant changes to others’ compensation.
Sanders: What do you feel are your greatest legislative accomplishments thus far?
Assemblyman Webber: From my position on the Assembly Budget Committee, I have helped put New Jersey back on the right track — sponsoring Governor Christie’s first Budget that closed an inherited $11 billion deficit without raising taxes, sponsoring historic teacher tenure reform in our schools, capping property taxes, and enacting pension-and-healthcare reforms saving taxpayers $120 billion and preserving those benefits for those who rely on them.
Recent public successes include passage of legislation assisting flood-mitigation programs, bringing education funding back to local communities, supporting families in domestic violence shelters, and combating tax fraud.
But let me shift our orientation some on this question of “legislative accomplishment” — because we should not view legislative service as a mere math exercise, where “accomplishment” is defined by counting the number of new bills passed. New Jersey needs better laws, not necessarily more laws.
Leaders should be concerned only with improving the quality of life of its citizens, not increasing the quantity of bills coming out of Trenton. In terms of that quality of life, our citizens are often more concerned with an overly large New Jersey government that too often suffocates job creation, economic prosperity, and individual freedom than they are with looking for new legislation coming out of Trenton. With those over-taxed and over-regulated citizens in mind, strong leadership and accomplishment also must come through restraining the red-tape of government, controlling bureaucracies, and resisting the knee-jerk theory that some “new law” from Trenton is necessarily the solution to every problem.
Sanders: I found it surprising you voted against Bill S29 which was introduced to reduce the property tax levy cap. Please explain why you decided to vote this way.
Assemblyman Webber: Actually, Democrats in the Legislature did not introduce S29 to reduce the property-tax levy cap; they introduced that false “cap” proposal for cynical political purposes because we Republicans were putting pressure on Democrats for a constitutional hard cap on property taxes.
S29 would have resulted in the same thing that Jon Corzine’s then-existing 4%-“cap”-with-27-exceptions resulted in: a “cap” in name only, producing ever-escalating property taxes. So, S29 in its initial form was the Democrat-proposed sham cap, better known as the “Swiss-cheese cap” because the proposal was so riddled with loopholes and exceptions that it would not have resulted in meaningful property-tax relief after all. It is that sham cap that I and other Republicans voted against.
After Governor Christie rightly conditionally vetoed S29 with specific recommendations to make the proposal a real functioning cap on property taxes, I and other Republicans enthusiastically voted Yes to that Republican-led reform. The Democrat-majority conceded at that point, with most going along in support of our Cap 2.0. The results of the law have been quite promising: record-low property tax increases this past year (at 1.4%). The cap I, Governor Christie, and the rest of our Republican caucus fought hard to win has slowed what had been the runaway train of property tax increases to the point where we can now begin the process of cutting those property taxes in real terms, not just in the rate of increase.
Sanders: What is your position in regards to gun control in New Jersey?
Assemblyman Webber: There should be no second-class rights under the United States Constitution. That includes rights recognized under the Second Amendment, which are just as worthy of protection as other rights under the Constitution.
Sanders: In a short statement please advise why your constituents should vote for you and what you wish to accomplish during your next term?
Assemblyman Webber: I love New Jersey— it’s the place where I grew up, where my parents still live, where I am raising my own kids, and where I hope to spend the rest of my life. I serve, and hope to continue to serve, so that our Garden State keeps moving toward an affordable and prosperous future as great as our State’s citizens. I am committed to pursuing policies that balance the provision of essential government services and the protection of the most vulnerable among us — while never losing sight of those too-often-forgotten folks who pay the bills: the hard-working taxpayers who play by the rules and ask only a fair shake from their government.
If you are a candidate and interested in being a part of my weekly Meet the Candidates article, Save Jerseyans, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.