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Op-Ed: Where Are the Legislature's Priorities?

Republican state committee representative questions whether the focus on same-sex marriage is the right move to start 2012.

Earlier this month, on the first day of the new legislative session, the leaders of the Democratic Party in New Jersey gathered around a podium to declare what they intended to do about New Jersey’s number one problem.

Was it a plan to address the economy and create jobs? Was it to announce a proposal to attract new businesses to New Jersey and to grow the businesses we have? No, it was not.

Was it legislation to cut the taxes that are forcing people from their homes, or to address the growing blight of foreclosure or an unemployment rate approaching 10 percent? No, again.

Did they talk about those who are underemployed, forced to cobble together part-time employment, without the health benefits enjoyed by the Legislature and its staff, to keep a family housed, clothed, and fed? No, they did not.

No, they said. In the midst of this Great Recession, none of those issues rose to the level of the one they intended to tackle. Instead of these kitchen table issues, the Democratic leadership decided to make same-sex marriage their top priority for the next two years.

That’s right–when more than one in ten of us is without work, suffering an enormous tax burden, with about the highest property taxes in the nation, and a regulatory environment that is among the worst in the country–this is what the Democrats claim is the state’s most important issue: Same-sex marriage. Really? Are they crazy?

We had an election a little over two months ago. Every member of the Legislature was on the ballot last November. They spent millions telling us what their priorities were so that we would give them our votes. Apparently, they lied to us. Their campaign literature was full of things like jobs, the economy, taxes, spending, the budget–but nothing about same-sex marriage.

Not one of the Democrats at that podium–from Senate President Steve Sweeney on down–campaigned with same-sex marriage as their top priority. I live in Steve Sweeney country, Gloucester County, and I’ve read his literature. It just isn’t there. And why would it be, when some of the union halls here are suffering double-digit unemployment, when Gloucester County was one of the top ten job loss counties in America.

Making same-sex marriage the Legislature’s “top priority” shows just how out of touch the legislative leadership is with the lives and struggles of the average person. Every one of the politicians at that podium has a job. Most have more than a few sources of income. Every one of them has better health benefits than does the average citizen.

This act of supreme arrogance should tell New Jersey that the Democrats have no solutions to our economic problems. This remarkable abdication of their responsibility to each of us makes it clear that they do not want to reduce our tax burden, tackle our lack of job growth or job availability, or make it easier for companies to expand and create jobs in New Jersey.

The Democratic legislative leadership does not think you will care that same-sex marriage is their number one legislative priority. They apparently are of the mindset that you enjoy some of the highest taxes in the country, high unemployment and ever-dwindling job prospects.

Think about this when the first committee hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up its first piece of legislation of the legislative session–Senate Bill Number 1–next Tuesday. It is the only piece of legislation on the agenda. Yes–the only one.

And while they are doing this, think about all the families that will lose their homes, the people who will give up looking for a job, the children who will go hungry, union halls with 30 percent unemployment. Think of them–real people who are suffering–while these well-kept politicians go about debating their “top priority.”

What is so important about same-sex marriage that it should come before everything else, in the middle of this Great Recession?

What is going on in the minds of the political class who run the Legislature? Who are they talking to? Where are their priorities?

Rob Eichmann is the elected state committeeman from Gloucester County to the New Jersey Republican State Committee.

John Hayden January 24, 2012 at 02:10 PM
There is a silver lining to the Democrats making this their top priority. It means they'll be taking a break from making this state worse. Hopefully this takes them 2 years to resolve and they don't do anything else in the meantime.

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