Says Resolving Transportation Funding Crisis must be a Top Priority
“A modern transportation infrastructure is vital to our future economic well-being”
Also cites Gaming, Poverty, Tax Relief & Affordable Higher Education
(TRENTON) – Vincent Prieto on Tuesday took the oath for his second term as New Jersey’s Assembly Speaker, emphasizing the need to solve New Jersey’s transportation funding crisis to help control property taxes, create jobs and boost the state’s economy.
Solving the transportation crisis, Prieto said, will help the state better focus on other pressing needs, such as combating poverty and making college more affordable.
“A modern transportation infrastructure is vital to our future economic well-being,” Prieto said. “If we fail to ensure this better future for ourselves, then all our problems get worse, including property taxes.”
Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen), of Secaucus, was sworn at the 217th Assembly reorganization at the Trenton War Memorial. He is the 170th Assembly Speaker, having first become speaker in January 2014.
Prieto, who Cuban native who came to the United States when he was 10, was first sworn into the New Jersey General Assembly in 2004.
He will preside over an Assembly controlled 52-28 by Democrats, the largest majority since 1979.
“That isn’t by happenstance,” Prieto said. “It’s the result of listening to the people of our state and doing what’s right. I hope it’s a lesson each member of this esteemed chamber takes to heart in the coming two years.”
Prieto has long called for a solution to the state’s dwindling Transportation Trust Fund, which will go broke on July 1. He said Tuesday that resolving this problem must now be a priority.
“I’ve made the difficult call for a gas tax increase to fund transportation because it’s the right thing to do for our state,” Prieto said. “No one wants to pay more at the pump, but the alternative is much more costly. And I support coupling it with ideas such as phasing New Jersey’s estate tax to match the national level, and finding ways to exempt retirement income from the income tax. I’ve been ready to compromise. Let’s get it done.
He reminded residents of the July 1 deadline.
“I want a long-term viable and fair transportation funding plan in place sooner rather than later during this legislative session,” Prieto said. “If we fail to do this, our economy will suffer, property taxes will soar and our needs will worsen. All of these outcomes are unacceptable.”
The Speaker also mentioned the need to fulfill the agreement to finalize legislation to ask voters to expand gaming to northern New Jersey.
“I’ve said all along that I wanted a compromise agreement that brings world-class casino and entertainment facilities to northern New Jersey,” Prieto said. “This compromise meets those goals, and I’m thrilled. With this deal, we’ll be asking voters to bring jobs and economic development to northern New Jersey for years to come through first-class gaming facilities, along with increased revenue for valuable programs for our senior and disabled residents.”
Prieto also cited other priorities such as:
· More property tax relief – and tax relief in general;
· Quality of education for all children;
· Making higher education affordable for all families;
· Access to health care for everyone, most notably women who have found it tougher to access quality care in recent years;
· Combating the scourge of gun violence; and
· Lifting people out of poverty.
“Consider, for instance, that more New Jersey residents live in poverty now than in the past five decades,” Prieto said. “That’s why I will be directing Assembly committees this session to put a special focus on making our state more affordable and lifting families out of poverty.”
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 is 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.
Prieto will be joined in leadership by Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington), who returns as Assembly Majority Leader; Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), who returns as Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore; Shavonda Sumter (D-Passaic/Bergen), who returns as Assembly Majority Conference Leader; and Gary Schaer (Passaic/Bergen), who returns as Assembly Budget Committee chairman.