Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski (19) thinks that New Jersey should be a sanctuary for its students, that institutions and infrastructure should receive greater funding, alternative energy sources should be explored in greater depth and property taxes should be reduced.
The gubernatorial candidate spoke to the Rutgers community during an open meeting in Van Dyck Hall on Wednesday night, explaining his views and why voters should choose him to lead the state during next year’s election.
New Jersey’s government should serve its residents to the benefit of all, he said.
“The government is there to make sure that those who have no one else to turn to have someone to speak up for them,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re providing the kinds of services the government should provide.”
Wisniewski is the second Democratic candidate to visit Rutgers in a week, but said there is no comparison between himself and his primary opponent Phil Murphy, former Ambassador to Germany.
Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs executive, while Wisniewski has served in the New Jersey Assembly for 21 years, he said. Wisniewski has decades of experience with the state government, which will help him in streamlining governing systems.
Creating efficiencies in government will help reduce spending, which will benefit New Jersey residents, Wisniewski said. Higher education, for example, could be funded by reallocating funds that are currently being wasted, such as those going toward jobs-incentives programs which do not work.
“We have chronically underfunded higher education, so when we ask ourselves the question ‘Why is it becoming more and more expensive for young men and women to go to college?’ we can look at one singular cause: The State of New Jersey is chronically underinvested in education,” he said. “We need to reverse that trend by investing more money in quality education.”
Wisniewski spoke against the recent gas tax increase as well, which coincided with a tax cut only for the wealthiest 3,500 families in the state. Those who are in the top 0.1 percent should pay “their fair share of taxes,” he said.
Decreasing property taxes would also assist students and landowners, as well as encourage companies to own land in the state, he said. Right now there are roughly 1,300 different government groups, including local, county and state-level, what can levy a property tax.
Working with these different groups to decrease property taxes would be one of his goals as governor.
Aiding undocumented students in New Jersey universities is another goal.
“I support DREAMers and I support DACA. We’re in uncharted territory with the (President-elect Donald) Trump administration. It’s hard to say how (he) will govern as president, but what we will do is make sure New Jersey is a safe haven,” he said. “What we need to do is make sure New Jersey (becomes) a sanctuary so people can live in this state and thrive and succeed. We’re all immigrants.”
The United States is composed of immigrants, and proposing to deport millions is against the welcoming statement on the Statue of Liberty, he said.
Wisniewski said he has a long record of standing up to people and proposals he believes will not benefit the state, including former Gov. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and current Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). Despite his years in government work, Wisniewski said he is an outsider to the political groups in the state.
He endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earlier this year for President of the United States. Sanders was also seen as an outsider during his campaign.
“I’m running against an opponent who has got the support of every political insider in the state of New Jersey. That seems to define who the insider is in this race,” Wisniewski said. “I’ve stood up against special interests because I’ve seen what those special interests will do to the working men and women of New Jersey, and they need someone standing up for them.”
Nikhilesh De is the news editor of The Daily Targum. He is a School of Engineering senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.