Issues

League of Women Voters 2011 questionnaire responses:

1. Property taxes concern many New Jersey residents. Do you think current programs, such as a cap on property tax hikes and rebates, are effective ways of dealing with them? What, if anything, do you think should be done about property taxes?

Property tax payers are strained because the income tax structure results in revenue shortfalls. The Green Party advocates progressive taxation reforms that would ensure the super-affluent and the large corporations pay their fair and proper share. A dedicated fund could then be established to provide property tax abatements. Truly progressive income taxation would address the issue of school funding inequality in addition to our over-reliance on property taxes. Also: to alleviate the Medicaid cost burden on our counties we should move toward a single payer health care system.

2. In July, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released preliminary unemployment figures that showed New Jersey with a 9.5% seasonally adjusted unemployment rate. While this is comparable to the national average of 9.2%, it is higher than our neighboring states. What is your plan to lower New Jersey’s unemployment rate?

The Green Party has been advocating a “Green New Deal” focusing on proposals such as: (1) a state fiscal stimulus prioritizing public investment in renewable energy, mass transit, and other green industries to increase employment and raise consumer spending; (2) initiation of state-based single-payer “Medicare for all” (like Vermont’s “Green Mountain Care”) which would alleviate the healthcare insurance burden on small businesses; (3) states should demand that the federal  government cut military spending and allocate the savings to help state and municipal governments fund job-creating programs like the above.

3. Currently, NJ legislators are working on the “Opportunity Scholarship Act” a pilot program providing tax credits to entities contributing to scholarships for low-income children. Do you support this pilot program and/or expansion of this program?

No, I’m not supportive. Considering that our urban public schools need more in the way of resources, the “Opportunity Scholarship Act” is a diversion, at best. It’s a stealth voucher bill, essentially a government bailout of private and religious schools. Using vouchers for religious school attendance is a clear abridgement of the separation of church and state clauses in the U.S. and New Jersey constitutions. Also: Public school districts, which would be losing money, will still be required to pay for and provide transportation for those students who use the “scholarship” (voucher) to attend non-public schools.

4. As a result of the current economic crisis and associated budget cuts, municipalities are receiving less state aid. What, if anything, do you propose on the issue of state aid to municipalities?

Reductions of state aid to municipalities are symptomatic of misguided priorities. Even during periods of economic contraction government has continued to fund tax breaks for the rich, bailouts for the banks, and (at the federal level) expansion of the bloated military budget. The cities are suffering while multinational corporations use loop-holes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes (corporate profits have accounted for an unprecedented 88 percent of economic growth since the recession ended in June 2009). To the extent that the fiscal crises of state and municipal governments are due to federal-level cutbacks, the states should lobby the U.S. to shift allocation of funds away from its military budget toward social needs. Federal and state aid to municipalities must not be cut.

5. Do you think the state should fund family planning services? Why or why not?

The state should fund family planning services because unwanted pregnancy is a public health issue. Research shows that women experiencing unwanted pregnancies and carrying to term are less likely to obtain prenatal care. Their babies are at increased risk of premature birth, low birthweight, and poorer physical and mental health in later years.

6. New Jersey’s energy needs are expanding. What is your plan to meet the increasing energy requirements in our state?

The Green Party takes the position that there is no reason to accept the premise that our energy needs must keep expanding. The original Earth Day slogan was: “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.” Our society has made considerable progress in regard to recycling and even, to a lesser extent, in regard to re-use of materials and products. But we don’t pay enough attention to the idea of reduction (“living more lightly on the earth”). Considering that both fossil fuel usage and nuclear power are highly problematic, a shift toward renewable sources of energy is imperative. But the highest priority should be given to the simplest solutions: efficiency, conservation, and reduction.

7. Charter schools were originally written into legislation to innovate and share those innovations with school districts. Is that the mission you see for charter schools still or do you believe their main purpose should be to provide parental choice?

Innovation should be their mission, but I think we need to watch carefully to ensure that the charter school movement doesn’t wind up diverting too much money from traditional public schools that are accountable to the taxpayers through elected school boards. I’m concerned that charter schools significantly underserve both minority and disabled students. Charters as a group enroll a much lower percentage of students with special needs than do district schools. And a UCLA Civil Rights Project study released last year found that charter schools have increased segregation.

8. In a 2010 budget report, the United State House of Representatives identified the need for a focused study of hydraulic fracturing. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to complete the study by late 2014 with initial study results available by late 2012. As a New Jersey legislator, how would you approach the issue of hydraulic fracturing?

I advocate a ban on hydraulic fracturing. It too often results in contamination of water, air and soil. Accidents (inevitable) can result in fires, explosions, and major spills. Wherever it has been attempted hydrofracking has generated environmental problems to some degree. Residents of drilling areas can become chronically ill due to the seepage of carcinogens and neurotoxins. These impacts can be far from the drill site because hydrofracking involves horizontal drilling up to a mile and a half from the wellhead. Extensive drilling could turn rural landscapes into an industrial belt of rigs, truck traffic, wastewater ponds and pipelines. It could undermine property values and place an enormous strain on local public services.

9. The NJ Transportation Trust Fund, which funds construction and repairs of New Jersey’s bridges, highways, and mass transit system, has been under-funded and in danger of going bankrupt. There has been much debate over how to fund needed infrastructure development and repairs. How would you suggest funding New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure needs?

Maintaining the vast and complex network of roads in our state is too expensive. A priority should be to gradually shift away from the paradigm of suburban-sprawl-with-private-automobile-transportation toward clustered living patterns served by public rail transportation. To address the immediate crisis, funding for the Transportation Trust Fund must not come from regressive sources such as an increase in the gasoline tax or higher tolls. New Jersey is a relatively affluent state and we have the capability to raise revenues via taxation of wealthy households and multinational corporations.

10. The legislature has not enacted reforms to the state’s Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, despite recent Supreme Court (Gallenthin v. Paulsboro) and Appellate Court (Harrison Redevelopment Agency v. De Rose) decisions which call the existing statutes into question. If elected, how would you propose to update the state’s land use laws to conform to the above cited court decisions?

After the misguided 2005 Kelo v. City of New London decision Greens around the country fought predatory development plans in which residents and small business owners faced mass removal under excessive powers of eminent domain. Now the courts are returning some balance to the situation. Legislation should reflect that balance and it should go even further in regard to specifying strict limitations on the state’s eminent domain rights.

2010 campaign newspaper  questionnaire responses:

Global Warming: Do you support or oppose mandatory limits to reduce global warming pollution 80% by 2050?

Steve’s Answer: Large and rapid reductions in carbon emissions are essential to reverse runaway climate change. A carbon tax could be one mechanism for reducing emissions. Currently, the prices of gasoline and electricity include none of the costs associated with climate change. This omission suppresses incentives to develop carbon-reducing measures such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, low-carbon fuels, and conservation-based behavior such as bicycling, and overall mindfulness toward energy consumption.

Renewable Energy: Do you support or oppose producing at least 20% of America’s electricity from clean power sources?

Steve’s Answer: A national program of swiftly converting from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy economy will address many of the major issues facing us today. It will create millions of new “green” jobs, clean our environment, and eliminate the need to keep our troops in the Middle East. Most importantly, it will halt the major cause of global warming. We already have the technology to harness solar energy, wind, geothermal, and tidal energy. It should be a priority to put it use.

Nuclear Power: Do you support or oppose additional subsidies to build new nuclear power plants?

Steve’s Answer: Costly nuclear power poses unnecessary safety and environmental risks, is heavily dependent on taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, and generates deadly radioactive waste. I advocate phasing out nuclear power in favor of safe, clean and affordable energy alternatives.

Transportation: Do you support or oppose more federal funding for public transportation?

Steve’s Answer: At the root of the transportation problems we face are government policies that encourage the use of private cars. We should both subsidize and provide incentives for alternative transportation, including mass transit. We must expand our country’s network of rail lines, high speed regional passenger service, and urban light rail systems. One way this can be funded would be to charge automobile motorists a fair amount to use the scarce public spaces that are highways, streets, bridges, etc.

Fuel Efficiency: Do you support or oppose increasing fuel efficiency standards to at least 50 mpg by 2030?

Steve’s Answer: I support increasing the standards and, in addition, we should foster the production of gas-free, non-polluting electric cars. In another time of national emergency (WWII) the entire auto industry switched from producing passenger cars to military vehicles in just six months – why can’t we do the equivalent of that in the face of the climate crisis?

Below are responses to the 2010 League of Women Voters Candidate Questionnaire:

1. What should be the federal government’s role in funding and regulating K-12 public education?

The role should be minimal. Education should be primarily locally-oriented and locally-directed. Parental involvement is important – schools should be controlled by parent-teacher governing bodies. Federal policy on education should act principally to foster equal access to a quality education. This can be done by establishing incentives for states to direct federal monies to underfunded districts.

2. Do you agree or disagree with the US Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission? Should Congress pass new legislation as a response to the Court’s decision? Please explain your answer.

The decision in Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission was misguided and will turn elections into a corporate power game. It especially hurts the ability of parties that don’t accept corporate contributions to compete (the Green Party accepts no corporate contributions).

The decision will cement the Democratic and Republican parties’ status as subsidiaries of Wall Street and the large corporations. We’ll see a flood of election season advertisements promoting corporate-sponsored candidates, overwhelming those who would serve the interests of the public instead of the lobbyists (the ruling also frees unions from campaign advertising restrictions, but unions don’t have the economic resources of the major corporations).

I would advocate for the passage of legislation or a constitutional amendment enacting the principle that money is not speech.

3. What economic policies should the federal government pursue during this recession?

I advocate a “green” economic stimulus package focused especially on (a) retrofitting residential and commercial buildings to conserve energy and (b) fostering the use of locally generated power from solar, wind, and other renewable sources. Such a stimulus package – unlike the one passed by Congress last year – would simultaneously pump up the economy, create new environment-friendly jobs, spur innovation and investment in conservation and renewable energy, and save homeowners and businesses money with every utility bill. To pay for the stimulus and avoid increasing the deficits the tax-rate structure should be made simpler and truly progressive. The complexity of the current taxation system distorts economic decision making and enables those who can afford high-priced tax accountants to pay less than their fair share.

4. What should the US short-term and long-term goals be in Iraq and Afghanistan and how should these be achieved?

The goal, in both cases, should be the fostering of local sovereignty and responsibility. Toward that end, all our troops and contractors should be withdrawn as soon as possible and our bases should be shut down. Our military presence should be replaced by extensive diplomatic, economic and political efforts to help those countries recover. In the leaked National Intelligence Estimate of 2006, sixteen federal intelligence agencies reached the unanimous conclusion that our military presence in those countries is creating more terrorism, rather than less.

5. Do you support or oppose the health care financing reforms enacted in 2010? What aspects (if any) would you change?

Obama’s package of reforms was complex and weak. I advocate guaranteeing universal health care with a straightforward single-payer system (“Medicare for All”). National health insurance systems have been implemented by most other advanced countries. Objective measures of effectiveness indicate that they get superior results relative to our expensive and chaotic system. Why can’t the richest country in the world replicate that success? There will always be room for some private insurance because a national health system cannot provide all possible medical procedures to everyone. But a national health care system can and will take care of our basic needs. We need to affirm that basic health care is a right, and not a commodity to be dispensed or refused based on a private company’s profit margin.

6. Many students are struggling with the rising costs of tuition for higher education. What actions, if any, should the federal government take to address this situation?

The Green Party supports tuition-free post secondary (collegiate and vocational) public education. In an economy that demands higher skills and a democracy that depends on an informed, educated electorate, opportunities for universal higher education and life-long learning must be vastly expanded.

Until tuition-free higher education is available, loans should be easily obtainable by all post secondary students and should be repayable as a proportion of future earnings rather than at a fixed rate. It would be a win-win situation for our youth if an expanded program of educational loans and subsidies was paid for by a reduction of the military budget.

Individualized training accounts should be made available to students who choose to pursue vocational and continuing education.

7. Gender inequities and biases persist in our society, whether in professional opportunities (women are paid about 77% of what men are paid for the same work) or healthcare coverage. Is it Congress’ role to reduce these inequities and biases, and if so, what should be implemented to do so?

We must enshrine in law the basic principle that women have the same rights as men, and promote gender equality and fairness in the workforce. The Green Party calls for U.S. passage of CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, which was adopted in 1979 by the U.N. General Assembly and ratified by 173 countries. The U.S. is one of the very few countries, and the only industrialized nation, not to have ratified it.

Single mothers are the largest and most severely impoverished group in our country. The Green Party supports real reforms to end poverty and return dignity and opportunity to all mothers. A universal basic-income/healthcare program could ensure economic security for those who nurture the next generation.

8. Would you vote to adopt a cap and trade system or a carbon tax? Please explain your answer.

I favor carbon taxes over cap-and-trade. Carbon taxes are more effective – partly because they internalize costs directly and partly because they are less subject to the manipulation and corruption that goes along with the cap-and-trade legal/implementation infrastructure. The failure of emissions trading in Europe over the past several years proves cap-and-trade plans are full of loopholes, are vulnerable to abuse, and threaten the air quality in communities near industries that buy credits.

Along with carbon taxes, the solution must include: drastic cuts in greenhouse gases, reduction of fossil fuel consumption, energy conservation, retrofitting, and cultivation of clean energy sources. There is no way to solve the global warming crisis without profound changes to our economy and way of life.

9. The nation’s infrastructure (including highways, bridges, railroads, and tunnels) is aging. How would you approach this problem?

Essential infrastructure must be maintained, of course, but the Green Party advocates re-consideration of what “essential” means. Facilitating automobile/truck transportation has a downside. Traffic congestion both reduces economic productivity and contributes to over-emission of greenhouse gases by vehicles. Paving over the surface of the earth for roads and parking lots is ecologically problematic.

The allocation of resources toward maintaining essential infrastructure should be balanced with resources directed toward relocalization … which could gradually result in less need for transportation and eventually a scaling back of our road-building and our overextensive system of highways. Money will be saved in this way (both by governments and by individuals). Some of the governmental savings should go toward augmentation of railroad and light rail service.

10. Do you support a path to legalization for those presently in the country without authorization? If not, what actions on the part of federal or state government do you believe would improve the current situation? If yes, please specify the steps that path should involve.

Massive immigration is a result of economic policies and agreements (e.g., NAFTA/CAFTA) that impoverish people and drive them across borders. We advocate immigration reform that includes amnesty and a path to documentation for those workers who are already in this country and have been working here for years. A fair and equitable legalization program will provide equal access to working people of all nationalities, not tied to a specific employer or guest worker program.

Programs involving temporary worker status must include the option of permanent residency. We call for permanent border passes to all citizens of Mexico and Canada whose identity can be traced and verified. Work permits for citizens of Mexico and Canada must be easily obtainable, thereby decriminalizing the act of gainful employment.

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