In this gubernatorial election year, Republican candidates are hoping to ride the governor’s coattails to take control of the state legislature. NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider sat down with the Republican leader in the Assembly, Jon Bramnick (R-21), about what the Republicans would do if they had control of the legislature.
According to Bramnick, Republicans have more than a shot at being the majority party in the State House. And that’s largely due to the popularity of Gov. Chris Christie who is enjoying record high approval ratings.
Bramnick urges voters that if they want to continue the governor’s reform agenda, they should send more Republican “troops” to support that agenda.
“There’s a lot of bills that should have been passed, have not been passed, simply because of the Democratic opposition. Give us a chance,” Bramnick said. “Democrats have been there for 10 years. How did you do in those 10 years? Not too well I suspect.”
Bramnick blames the Democratic opposition for preventing property tax and civil service reforms. On property tax, he says the governor’s 2 percent cap is already providing some relief, but that much more could have been done if a number of toolkit bills had passed. He also says that exorbitant sick payouts to public employees would have been dealt with, had it not been for the Democrats.
“Sick pay is still being paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to people who weren’t sick,” he said.
If the Republicans take control of the legislature, Bramnick says lower income taxes would be passed immediately.
“The governor said that if the legislature passed that, we would find the money to give it back to the citizens. Look, in a $33 billion budget you can find a few hundred million dollars and give back to an overtaxed citizenry.”
There have been a series of gun control bills introduced in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. But Bramnick argues that most of those bills would not prevent the kinds of recent incidents that have taken place. Besides, he says, New Jersey already has the strictest gun control laws in the country.
“Bills like a gun-free zone in a school, we already have that. This would impose a lesser penalty than we already have and I don’t think they read these bills carefully because they were so interested in this wedge issue. They thought they found some issue maybe to make the governor less popular, it’s not working. People get it.”
Another area of friction between the parties surrounds the Hurricane Sandy relief aid money and the $100 million no-bid contract the state signed with Florida-based debris removal company AshBritt. As far as Bramnick is concerned, it’s a Democratically-created controversy that is much ado about nothing.
“This was part of a rapid response on a big contract out of Connecticut so we could get the job done,” said Bramnick. “But more importantly, a town can choose not to use AshBritt. So if you don’t want to use AshBritt, you find something cheaper, you can do it.”
In a recent headline, a a municipal judge came under scrutiny for moonlighting as a professional comedian. Vince A. Sicari, the municipal judge of South Hackensack, also performs as a stand-up comedian. A state ethics board ruled that Sicari’s work as a comic could “negatively affect the dignity of the judiciary” and ordered him to get off the stage and essentially abandon his acting and comic career. Sicari appealed the board’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, and last week the justices heard his case. They are expected to make a ruling in the coming weeks.
As a politician with a side career in stand-up comedy, Bramnick has more than a passing interest in the case. And according to Bramnick, it comes down to the substance of the comedy.
“I think some of his comedy has been either sexist or even over the top and that’s the problem,” said Bramnick. “If you do the kind of comedy, I’ll call Seinfeld comedy, which is observational humor without being offensive to any group, I think he should [be able to do both]. But once again, judges are held to a very high standard in this state, and as a lawyer, I think I’ll stay away from the issue. But I can tell you if I had to give up either career — comedy or the legislature — that’s gonna be a tough one.”