Hudson County Lawmaker Becomes 170th New Jersey Assembly Speaker
(TRENTON) – Vincent Prieto on Tuesday took the oath as New Jersey’s 170th Assembly Speaker, promising to put the Assembly’s focus on tackling the nation’s highest property taxes and soaring higher education, combating the state’s shocking poverty rate, improving vocational education and providing all New Jersey workers with earned sick leave.
Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen), of Secaucus, was sworn as the 216th Assembly reorganization at the Trenton War Memorial.
Prieto was first sworn into the New Jersey General Assembly in 2004. Born in Cuba, he moved to the United States when he was 10.
“I know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet, to wonder where the next meal will be found and to worry about keeping a warm roof above one’s head,” Prieto said. “I know how a helping hand can lead to giants steps forward, and that’s why a more affordable New Jersey is my goal.”
Prieto detailed the following agenda:
- Controlling property taxes. Prieto noted a net 20 percent increase in property taxes over the last four years.
“That’s a failed system that is crushing our middle-class and poor,” Prieto said. “We can tinker around the edges, throw about criticisms and avoid tough conversations, but that’s not my style. It’s time to reduce the brutal property tax burden crushing our middle-class and poor.”
- Combating poverty. He noted U.S. Census figures show 1.35 million New Jerseyans now living in poverty.
“We’re going to take a hard look at this problem,” Prieto said. “The Assembly has taken the lead in recent years on legislation to make housing more affordable and create better-paying jobs, and we will not waver.”
Earned sick leave. Prieto noted how when a serious illness arises, many New Jersey workers face a brutal choice – stay home and risk losing their job or go to work sick because they lack financial security. He said earned sick leave for all workers would help combat this dilemma.
“Earned sick leave means stronger families, stronger workplaces and stronger communities,” Prieto said. “I want it to become law.”
- Targeting soaring higher education costs.
“We cannot allow the weakening of tuition aid grants to continue if we want better futures for middle-class and lower-income children,” Prieto said. “We will take another look at the tuition study commission to address the college affordability crisis.”
- Improved vocational education throughout the state.
“Vocational training can lead to apprenticeships and job opportunities in the trades for our youth who otherwise may be unemployed and adding to the poverty problem,” he said. “Improving vocational education for our next generation is common sense in today’s economy.”
Prieto received his certification in construction code technology from Middlesex County College; and his certification in fire code technology from Bergen County Community College. He is a construction code official in Secaucus. He and his wife, Marlene, have two children.
Prieto became Assembly Budget chairman in 2012. He previously had chaired the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee and was Deputy Majority Whip from 2006 to 2011.
He represents the 32nd Legislative District, which includes the Bergen County municipalities of Edgewater and Fairview and the Hudson County municipalities of East Newark, Guttenberg, Harrison, Kearny, North Bergen, Secaucus and West New York.
Prieto will be the second Cuban American to serve as Speaker, following current-U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-Hudson), who served as the Speaker from 2002 to 2005.
“I’m committed to using my new position as leader of the People’s House to be a strong advocate for our working families,” Prieto said. “Democrats and Republicans alike must put aside any differences we have to work together for the greater good, and that will be my goal.”
Prieto will be joined in leadership by Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington), of Voorhees, who will return as Assembly Majority Leader.
“This is a strong leadership team that will build upon the great accomplishments of the Assembly Democratic majority,” Prieto said. “We know we still have more work to do to make New Jersey more affordable for hard-working families struggling under a crushing property tax burden, high unemployment and difficulties such as soaring higher education costs, and we will be tireless when it comes to representing their needs.”