POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Former Democratic Assemblywoman Says Republicans Will Blame Sandy For State’s Revenue Problems

For 18 years, Joan Quigley (D-Hudson) represented New Jersey’s 32nd legislative district in the New Jersey General Assembly. In the 2011 redistricting process, the part of Jersey City where she lived was shifted into another district and she decided not to seek a eighth term. The former assemblywoman sat down for an interview with NJ Today’s Senior Correspondent DesirĂ©e Taylor to discuss a wide-range of political issues that will affect the Garden State in the new year.

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State revenue collections have failed to meet projections and Quigley is not at all surprised, saying “the Democrats always said this was going to happen because the economy was not improving, the unemployment situation was not improving.”

But according to Quigley, Hurricane Sandy is providing Republicans with the perfect excuse for missing badly on revenue projections. “Sandy is going to be the one that gets blame for all of this. The governor will say I was right except … and Democrats will say you were not right but we forgive you because of the way you handled Sandy,” said Quigley.

The drumbeat for a tax cut that was the subject of a heated debate pre-Sandy is hardly brought up by Republican lawmakers nowadays. “That’s been off the table for a long while, it’s just that nobody’s talking about,” said Quigley.

The bigger problem for New Jersey, according to Quigley, is that the state may not have control over its own destiny. What happens with the “fiscal cliff” in Washington will have a direct impact on residents here in New Jersey, she said.

“I mean unemployment is at stake, people may lose their benefits, taxes may go up, we may not get all the money we need to restore the shore and other areas injured by Sandy. A lot of the obligations the federal government is now carrying is going to be pushed down to the states at a time when we’re not able to deal with them.”

Looking back on 2012, Quigley said a major highlight for her was seeing the governor’s public persona evolve throughout the course of the year. “I think the governor’s changing style was fascinating to watch. He started out the first 4, 5 months of the year Democrat-demonizing, bombastic in all those town halls, and then he crisscrossed the country saying ‘rah rah rah Romney’ and teasing the media about whether or not he would run for president, and then after the storm, he became a warm human being, very likeable and very efficient. It’ll be very interesting to see what he turns into in 2013.”

Despite Christie’s record high approval ratings, Quigley says he’s vulnerable to attack because voters have short memories. She said, “They will start saying why isn’t it fixed, why isn’t it better, and he’s probably going to be the number one target of that.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker made headlines when he announced his decision not to enter the governor’s race and indicated an interest in seeking a U.S. Senate seat. In Quigley’s opinion, it’s a position that suits Booker’s personality. “I think we need some thinkers, some eloquent speakers in the Senate. I think he would be good for that,” said Quigley.

There will be a new twist to the gubernatorial race next year. Earlier this year, a vast majority of school districts, more than 460, opted to hold school elections in November, rather than April. The change from April to November school elections is permitted under a new state law.

“So whoever is the victor in 2013 is likely to have the coat tail like we’ve never seen before. We may all of a sudden be having Democratic and Republican politics down to the very lowest levels in our government.”

So far, the only declared Democratic candidate for governor is Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18). Quigley thinks Buono’s early start is a smart move, strategically, addiing “there’s going to be a number of people saying she’s smart and she’s a woman, let’s give her a shot.”

Money will be a major determining factor in who gets the nomination and women have not traditionally done well in that regard as compared to their male counterparts, says Quigley.

“But Hillary [Clinton] proved that wrong so I’m hoping that Barbara can do that as well but I would expect Sen. Sweeney to jump in. I’m kind of hoping Gov. Codey would jump in. There may be a few others that we’re not expecting yet.”

So what are the issues that will dominate the state house in 2013?

“I think gay marriage is not done yet and I think minimum wage is going to be a big issue. We’ll have plenty to talk about next year.”