Stender opposes monetization

One way of determining which Democrats will oppose asset monetization is to look at who’s on the ballot this year.

Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who’s running for congress in the seventh district, is opposed to the plan. So is State Sen. John Adler, who’s running for congress in the third district. And U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who’s up for reelection this year, announced that he’s against it last week.

“Linda Stender is opposed to Governor Corzine's toll hike,” said Stender campaign manager Ed Oatman. “While Linda agrees that efforts to reduce our state debt and ending the practice of spending beyond our means must be made, it is unreasonable to penalize residents and businesses that solely rely on thoroughfares such as the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.”

Although the Stender statement today was the first announcement to the press of her opposition, coming after Republican congressional candidates Kate Whitman and State Sen. Leonard Lance challenged her on it, the liberal blog Blue Jersey obtained a letter she sent to a constituent last month declaring her opposition to the plan.

The plan has hit serious trouble in the legislature, with every single Republican in the Senate and Assembly coming out against it.

Democratic State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who’s considered a potential challenger Rep. Frank LoBiondo in the second district, is opposed to the plan, but said he made that opposition clear in his state Senate campaign last year.

“In our particular campaign in the first (state legislative) district, we were very clear and we actually signed a pledge that we do not support selling the roads, leasing the rolls, or creating a public entity to aggressively increase the tolls,” said Van Drew. “When I say something I stick to it. I don’t make a statement so that I can win elections and then change my opinion afterwards.”

Van Drew said that rather than raising tolls, he supports scaling back the executive branch of government back 10% as a first resort, having a referendum on whether non-senior citizen taxpayers still want a homestead tax rebate and curtailing the use of paper in government agencies.

Van Drew said that he still has not made a decision on whether to run for Congress.

“My public policy position here is based upon a public policy position that we formulated during a campaign, and has nothing to do with whether I’m running this current year,” he said.

Some Democrats who aren’t facing reelection battles have also announced their opposition. Senate budget Chairwoman Barbara Buono expressed reservations about the plan to the Associated Press last week, and Assemblyman John Wisniewski was among its first Democratic critics.

Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson compared Corzine’s plan to former Gov. Jim Florio’s tax hikes, saying that this issue could hurt Democrats down ballot – even those who have gone on record opposing it.

“It’s a political calculation. It’s an acknowledgement that it’s incredibly unpopular and they fear it could have reprisals for them,” said Wilson. “This is 1990 redux all over again. That was a $2.8 billion tax hike. This is five times that, 20 times that.”

Although Friday’s anti-monetization rally brought far fewer people to the state house than the “Hands Across New Jersey” rally last decade, Wilson said that 700 people was a good showing for a Friday afternoon.

Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray agreed. His own poll last month showed only 15% of New Jerseyans expressing support for the Governor’s plan, with 56% opposed. 29% withheld judgment, though a majority of those were leaning against it.

“In political terms, this is a no-brainer for folks who are running for other offices. Regardless of what happens, how it may be amended in the following months after we hear about Corzine’s budget cuts, this is just so universally unpopular that if you’re going to win in one of these tight races, you’re going to have to distance yourself from it.”

Stender opposes monetization