GOP leader who may run for governor has 7 ideas to make Trenton work
With the Legislature about to return to Trenton after slowing its schedule for the summer, a top Republican lawmaker who may run for governor is urging Democrats to adopt an ambitious agenda.
As the Assembly minority leader, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, R-Union, has limited influence in compelling action of any of the seven ideas he outlined Tuesday at a Statehouse news conference. He suggested they be discussed directly on the Assembly floor, not in individual committees.
“We’ve got to get to work on all of these topics,” said Bramnick. “… I hope that we can look like a progressive Legislature, a Legislature that is at least talking, getting things done.”
Draw legislative districts so they’re more competitive and less gerrymandered. Attributing the quote to former Gov. Tom Kean, he said 70 percent of residents want centrist governing. “When you have districts that are extreme in terms of partisanship, it breeds extreme representation.”
Require the governor and legislative leaders to meet quarterly, or at least biannually. He said corporate boards meet regularly and that the idea should be adopted by the state government. “There needs to be some face-to-face communication on a regular basis, because I think that’s a lost art, and I think it’s an important art when you’re leading a company or a government.”
School funding reform. He said Christie’s school aid redistribution plan, which would give all districts an equal $6,600 in aid per student, rather than concentrate aid in high-poverty areas, is “probably one of the most important pro-taxpayer ideas that we could possibly address.”
Find a funding solution for the Transportation Trust Fund. He said the Legislature shouldn’t leave the Statehouse until it does. “Not to pass anything, not to press the button and vote for some sort of funding to me is simply unfair to the people in the state.”
Campaign finance reform requiring more transparency from independent PACs, which are upending party-based politics. He said this is the most likely topic to gain traction, given that the proposal has bipartisan sponsors. “If the independent groups have more and more power in the election process, then there’s more and more responsibility on government to make them transparent and find out who is supporting what.”
Shift public workers into a less generous health plan, with the financial savings going into pensions or being returned to taxpayers.
Affordable housing reform, including the return of "regional contribution agreements" that permit suburban towns to pay cities to fulfill at least a portion of their court-ordered obligation to provide low- and moderate-income housing.
Bramnick is considering a run for governor next year, when a term-limited Christie can’t run for re-election. He said he’ll decide whether to run after the November election. He said the priorities he outlined at the news conference are his fall agenda, not a 2017 gubernatorial campaign platform.
“All I can tell you is I think it’s important that we speak out on these issues,” Bramnick said. “You can speak out on these issues as a candidate for governor, you can speak on these issues as a Republican leader, or as an assemblyperson.”
Bramnick described the agenda as “my policy issues,” not necessarily those of the Assembly Republicans as a whole. His party controls 28 of the 80 Assembly seats; at 35 percent of the seats, it’s the smallest share either party has held in the Assembly in 35 years.
“This may not reflect my entire caucus. Some of the members will disagree on some of these, but generally I think there’s consensus,” Bramnick said.