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U.S. Senate Candidates Answer Our Questions

Joseph Kyrillos Josepk Kyrillos


Robert Menendez Robert Menendez

NJLM’s Legislative Analysts put the following questions to both candidates. What follows are the responses from the two major party candidates Joseph Kyrillos (Republican) and Robert Menendez (Democrat).
Economic Opportunity
1) According to Census Bureau data released last September, the nation's poverty rate rose to 15.1 percent (46.2 million) in 2010, up from 14.3 percent (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. Most Americans (58.5 percent) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75. Poverty is highest in single parent households, highest among children under age 18, higher among African- and Hispanic-Americans and higher among women. In an era of growing deficits and limited resources, decisions cannot be avoided. Which current federal programs, if any, help to address these statistics? Which programs, if any, contribute to the problem? Which new programs are needed?

Poverty levels today are nearly identical to the levels that prompted President Lyndon Johnson to declare a War on Poverty 50 years ago. Then, as now, people in our society are being left behind. We have an obligation to care for society’s most vulnerable. In order to reduce poverty, we must get our fiscal house in order so that we can strengthen and secure the safety net that many rely on.

This requires elected officials to make tough decisions and finally get government spending under control.

Failure to do so would cause our entitlement programs to go bankrupt. That is why my economic plan will limit government spending by capping it at 20 percent of the overall economy.

In addition, any plan to shrink our deficit must be bipartisan and pave the way to long-term growth and job creation. This is the key to strengthening our economy and reducing poverty.—J.K.

The key to breaking the cycle of poverty is through education and job training programs. I have proposed a partnership between community colleges and businesses called the BEST for America’s Workforce Act to help train unemployed workers to fill jobs that are open today. I have also fought to keep student loans affordable and Pell Grants funded to help college students. I also support the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

I helped expand and fund NJ Family Care to provide health care to more children and families, and I supported the Affordable Care Act to help ensure more New Jerseyans can access health care and prevent insurance companies from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions. I oppose attempts to do away with Medicare and Social Security.

Because the housing crisis played a significant role in the recession, we must continue to support programs to help give homeowners the chance to refinance their mortgages at low interest rates.

To help the working poor keep food on their tables, I helped fight to keep food safety-net programs funded through the 2012 farm bill.—R.M.

2) Joblessness and under-employment caused by the Great Recession significantly contribute to these poverty statistics. New Jersey has fared worse than the country at large during the three-year economic recovery, making the future challenging for municipal governments. A recent Bloustein School report, "Year Four of Economic Recovery: New Municipal Realities to Come," shows New Jersey has regained only 85,000 of the 248,000 private-sector jobs lost during the recession and beyond. According to May, 2012 statistics, our state had 1.4 percent fewer jobs than at the start of the millennium, compared with the nation overall, which has 1.7 percent more jobs than in 2000. What can Washington do to improve these numbers?

The greatest threat to the future of our country is unemployment. We need jobs. To date, we have not recovered the jobs lost during the recession and Washington has made it worse by not making the tough decisions that would give the economy the certainty that job creators need to invest, expand and create jobs. That is why I am the only candidate who has put together a comprehensive jobs plan. My plan holds the line on taxes so businesses can reinvest and expand, reduces over-burdening regulation on small businesses and strengthens the ‘Buy American’ requirement for highways and infrastructure projects. The result is support for American jobs and the use of American material for American projects.

My jobs plan will restore fiscal responsibility, reduce job-killing red tape, build a competitive workforce and restore America’s place as the home of innovation. My jobs plan spurs economic growth to stregthen New Jersey’s communities and middle class families.—J.K.

The transportation bill I helped craft this year continues federal investment by creating or maintaining 2.8 million jobs nationwide—54,000 in New Jersey—through infrastructure improvements.

The government can help create jobs in emerging industries, which is why I created a new program that provided $52 million to New Jersey biotech companies. When lending institutions made access to capital and credit difficult, the Small Business Jobs Act provided $33.8 million to New Jersey’s small businesses.

We must correct our tax code to stop providing incentives to companies that outsource jobs overseas, and give incentives to businesses that bring those jobs home. We must stop providing subsidies to oil companies at taxpayers’ expense.—R.M.

The Federal Deficit
3) Political compromise will be needed in order to make any progress on bringing the federal deficit down. The bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (the Bowles-Simpson Commission) plan calls for significant cuts in discretionary spending — in both defense and non-defense areas; tax reform — including the reduction or elimination of many current tax breaks; health care cost containment; savings from cuts in agriculture subsidies, the modernization of the military and civil service retirement systems, and student loan program reform; Social Security reform; and budget process reforms. Does this look like a reasonable basis for deficit reduction? Would you be willing to compromise on parts of this plan, in order to enact a meaningful deficit reduction package?

One of the fundamental problems with Washington is that our elected officials are holding the economy hostage by putting politics ahead of people— when they should be coming together to get America back on track. My economic and jobs plan endorses many of the proposals put forth by the Simpson-Bowles Committee, because I realize that our country cannot afford to have hyper-partisan politicians pull America asunder.

Ignoring a Simpson-Bowls style methodology would lead to drastic cuts that would endanger Social Security and Medicare. I will not let that happen. I want to keep America competitive for our children and grandchildren and that means everything must to be on the table. However, we must make sure any reform is done in an economically responsible way that does not threaten our way of life.—J.K.

Compromise is necessary to fix our economy. But we have not seen a political environment that allows for an honest discussion that can produce a genuine compromise. I opposed the Budget Control Act, which created this process, because I felt the process was stacked against success, and we saw this was the case.

Spending cuts alone will not restore our nation to a sustainable fiscal path. It will take a balanced approach to spending cuts and reforming tax policies, such as closing corporate tax loopholes that allow companies to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes.

I have always been willing to compromise with my colleagues to enact meaningful deficit reduction. I do not support deficit reduction solely on the backs of the middle class and the most vulnerable. We cannot force the middle class to bear most of the burden while leaving wasteful tax subsidies in place for the oil companies making record profits and companies shipping American jobs overseas.—R.M.

Investing in the Future
4) In its final report, the Commission also noted, “… (W)e must invest in education, infrastructure, and high-value research and development to help our economy grow, keep us globally competitive, and make it easier for businesses to create jobs.” We will not be able to compete with other economies, without effective, efficient and modern transportation and environmental infrastructure. How will you work to strengthen the federal-state-local partnership that had built, but now struggles to maintain and improve, a world-class transportation and environmental infrastructure?

From the Empire State Building to the Interstate Highway system, there was a time when America built great things that improved the lives of so many. I know that a strong infrastructure and transportation system is vital to our economy.

That is why I was the prime co-sponsor establishing the landmark Environmental Infrastructure Trust that helped municipalities finance major infrastructure projects that modernized our townships and created 110,000 jobs to date. Today, due to regulatory obstacles, it can take years to get approval to build an infrastructure or energy project. That means lost or delayed jobs opportunities.

We need common sense reforms to speed up permitting of new projects, including prioritizing high job-creation projects, setting deadlines to approve new permits, and cutting back on excessive litigation delays. We must also strengthen the ‘Buy American’ provisions to put Americans back to work by ensuring goods used in taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects and procured by government agencies are made right here in the United States by American workers. It’s time to get America building again.—J.K.

The transportation bill that will create or maintain 54,000 jobs in New Jersey will also provide a record increase of over $70 million per year for transit. This bill also provides the state with $1 billion per year in highway funds. These investments are critical, especially when hundreds of major bridges in New Jersey are structurally deficient.

To build upon the success of our port and transportation infrastructure, I secured $88 million for the Liberty Corridor project, which allows companies to move freight more efficiently.

To create green jobs, I helped secure an extension of the investment tax credit for solar power, helping to make New Jersey number one in solar installations in the first quarter of this year. I helped create incentives for clean energy manufacturers and secured $3.2 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, including $75 million for New Jersey.

I am also fighting for legislation that would create 57,000 jobs in its first year helping communities leverage private investment to rebuild aging water and sewer infrastructure. I secured $68 million for New Jersey to complete a channel deepening project that will allow bigger ships into the Port of New York and New Jersey.—R.M.

Health Care
5) The report noted the need for healthcare cost containment. Escalating healthcare costs were a significant problem for the State of New Jersey, for New Jersey municipalities and for New Jersey families and businesses, before passage of the Affordable Care Act. Will the Act help to address this problem? If so, how? If not, what reforms will?

As the son of a doctor who made house calls, I understand that patient care and consumer choice are the bedrock principles of our health care system. While well intentioned, the Affordable Care Act is paid for by raising taxes on the middle class and small businesses, and gutting programs like Medicare that seniors rely on.

Sadly, these costs will fall on states and municipalities that will need to make up the difference. We need health care reform that contains costs, not increases them for middle class families and seniors while (1) ensuring coverage for those with preexisting conditions, (2) allowing a tax credit for employees who lose their jobs to purchase health care coverage so that is portable from job to job, and (3) enacting medical malpractice reform to reduce costs.—J.K.

New Jersey families pay an average of more than $14,000 in annual premiums. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law to provide insurance market reforms and begin lowering healthcare costs. It prevents insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, allows children up to 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance plans, and ensures that all Americans have access to coverage. These reforms will help provide coverage to those with no health coverage.

The law also provides tax breaks to businesses, to help reduce the cost of covering employees, and benefits to municipal governments.—R.M.

Homeland Security
6) Based on our location, our infrastructure, our population density and the nature of our economy, New Jersey presents a number of inviting targets to terrorists. Is the federal government doing enough to help New Jersey protect itself from the threat? If not, what more needs to be done and how will you see to it?

Keeping America safe starts with our military.

Thousands of young Americans risk their lives every day defending our security and freedom. We owe them the most accurate intelligence and the resources they need to do their jobs as effectively and safely as possible.

I will fight to modernize our military and restore funding to the budget baseline established by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Since the September 11 attacks, we have made significant progress in protecting our homeland.

Here in New Jersey, I’m proud to have supported and sponsored legislation that improved security at our regional bridges and ports. But there is always more that needs to be done and it starts by remaining vigilant and ensuring that our first responders have the resources and assets they need to keep America secure.—J.K.

Without question, New Jersey is a high-risk state. That’s why I fought to have all 9/11 Commission recommendations passed into law and to ensure that New Jersey receives its fair share of security funding. I continue to work to improve the security of our public transit systems, as well as our first responders by protecting funding to prevent layoffs and create first responder jobs.

Since I was elected to the Senate, New Jersey communities have received over $65 million through the COPS program to hire and recruit almost 300 police officers and over $76 million in SAFER grants to help create or save jobs for approximately 640 firefighters.

The federal government can do more. We cannot weaken New Jersey’s chemical security regulations, and we must require 100 percent scanning of cargo containers.—R.M.

Vision for New Jersey
7) As elected and appointed public officials, we have a patriotic duty to leave America, and the part of it we serve, better tomorrow than it is today. What is your vision for a better America and for a better New Jersey? What role do you see for New Jersey municipalities in that vision?

Our country is in trouble and Washington is failing us. Americans have seen their neighbors lose their jobs, their home values fall, their savings shrink, and their economic horizon darkened by a record $15 trillion national debt. In response, Washington has served up nothing but partisan squabbling and reckless spending.

I believe New Jersey deserves a senator with new ideas to put America back to work. We have proven in New Jersey that strong leadership can change things for the better. We need to do the same thing in Washington.

I offer bold ideas to renew America's vitality. As the son and grandson of immigrants who moved to this country in search of freedom and opportunity, I know and believe in the power of the American Dream. And as a father with a young family, I also know we must put our country back on the path to future strength and opportunity.—J.K.

As a former mayor, I know the challenges municipalities face. Whether it’s securing federal funding to keep communities safe and teachers in the classrooms, innovating programs like my Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, or protecting the beauty of the Jersey Shore from offshore drilling, I have never forgotten where I began my public service.

I would not be where I am today if were it not for the community in which I grew up. And New Jersey’s municipalities play a huge role in ensuring New Jersey families can achieve the American Dream, by educating our children, creating jobs, and keeping our communities safe and secure.

Every day I fight to fix our economy to make sure it works for middle class families, ensure small businesses can expand and create jobs, provide better educational opportunities for our students, and make sure families can access the health coverage they need to be healthy.—R.M.



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