As a service to its readers, New Jersey Jewish News in cooperation with the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ and the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey extended invitations to major party candidates to contribute to a 2010 Voters’ Guide.
Each candidate was asked to address the same questions on issues of concern to the Jewish community.
Running for District 5
Rep. Scott Garrett (R) is serving his fourth term.
Attorney Tod Theise (D) lives in Washington Township.
What is your position on ensuring the realization of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis? What efforts would you employ to encourage both or either side to remain at the negotiating table? What role do you see Congress playing to combat the well-financed and widespread campaign to delegitimize Israel?
Garrett: Peace will only come to the Middle East when Israel is fully integrated and accepted as a legitimate and sovereign state. Furthermore, the ongoing attacks against Israel by the international community need to stop. I recently asked President Obama to express opposition to U.S. membership on the United Nations Human Rights Council because the council has proven to be stridently anti-Israel and ineffective in its responsibilities to promote human rights around the globe.
Theise: The United States and Israel have forged a unique and enduring bond premised on shared culture, a love for liberty, and decades spent standing together against the enemies of freedom. I stand firmly in support of Israel and will never attempt to force Israel to accept terms that will compromise the security of the Israeli people. That fundamental premise aside, the pursuit of peace must be a priority. Golda Meir once stated that, “Of course, we all must realize that the path to peace may be a little bit difficult, but not as difficult as the path to war.” I agree.
The future hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians rests on the mutuality of interest for both peoples to live free of fear and pursue prosperity unfettered by the limitations of the past. This is why I favor a two-state solution. It is my hope that the emergence of a Palestinian state will provide the Palestinian people with a sense of self-determination that will replace generational animosities with a sense of pride to move forward as a sovereign state and a passion to realize the promise of their new nation.
The U.S. government believes that Iran could have a nuclear weapon by 2012. What options will you support to address Iran’s nuclear efforts?
Garrett: The best thing we can do right now is to hold Iran’s feet to the fire. To that end, the Obama administration needs to push forward with full implementation of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010. As a member of the Conference Committee on the Iran Sanctions legislation, I fought hard to strengthen the sanctions and limit the ability of the president to waive them. I was also recently appointed to serve on the Iran Sanctions Working Group in the House of Representatives. Our work includes ensuring the U.S. and international sanctions against Iran are fully implemented, effectively enforced, and, ultimately, have the intended effect of bringing about Iran’s termination of all activities contributing to its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Theise: According to CIA director Leon Panetta, “Tehran would need a year to enrich the uranium fully to produce a bomb, and it would take “another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable.” That’s the timetable we’re dealing with and it’s not a very big window. We have to continue and possibly increase economic sanctions that will slow down Iran’s progress toward this disastrous end while enlisting greater cooperation from nations such as Russia and China. We must also work with the opposition movement in Iran, whose courage and conviction became evident to the world following the 2009 presidential election farce. This internal cry for liberty and respect for the democratic process must be cultivated in order to deter Ahmadinejad’s insane march toward annihilation.
Ultimately, we must make it clear that a nuclear-armed Iran is a non-starter and that we will take whatever actions necessary to prevent their development of a nuclear weapon – including swift and definitive military action. Given our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must make sure that our military objectives are carried out with precision and clarity, and do not devolve into long-term occupation or nation building.
Unemployment in New Jersey has been hovering around 10 percent. What policies would you support to increase employment?
Garrett: The first thing we need to do is extend — if not make permanent — all the Bush tax cuts. If we do nothing, the resulting tax increase will adversely impact the 75 percent of small-business owners that file taxes at individual rates — the same small-business owners responsible for nearly two-thirds of private-sector job creation. Second, we need to end all the uncertainty coming out of Washington. The American business community cannot create jobs for Americans if they are uncertain how government mandates will impact their businesses. Finally, we need to pass an economic recovery package that doesn’t throw money at pet projects of Washington politicians. I have already introduced an economic recovery package that would cut taxes for all individuals by 5 percent, reduce the corporate income tax rate, and repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals.
Theise: I am greatly concerned about New Jersey’s economic performance. This is a prime reason why I have made my Fair Share NJ Tax Equalization Plan the hallmark of my campaign. New Jersey receives 61 cents back on every dollar paid in federal taxes — dead last among the 50 states. As pitiful as 61 cents on the dollar sounds, the true dimensions and impact of this return on our taxes go unnoticed by most. The 39 cents that New Jersey donates to the rest of the nation comes to approximately $27.5 billion. To put this sum into perspective, the entire tax revenue stream for our state's budget is roughly $28 billion.
Under my Fair Share NJ Plan (the “Plan”) and the attendant Fair Share Tax Act, the federal tax distribution system will be changed to provide greater fairness to New Jersey. The Plan will deliver back $9.8 billion of our tax dollars to our state. These funds must be used to provide tax incentives to both small businesses and large corporations to keep and create jobs in New Jersey. With the funds generated from the Plan, we can go from being the worst to the best climate for business in the nation.
Federal energy policy must take into account calls for energy independence, concerns about global climate change, environmental protection, and domestic energy production. Do you think an energy bill would be important at this time, and what provisions would you make the highest priority?
Garrett: It is important that the United States reduces its reliance on foreign governments for our energy needs. Our national security and economic competitiveness depend on that. I have supported efforts to increase domestic production of energy and research and develop alternative sources of energy.
Theise: An energy bill is critical for our nation’s security and prosperity. One of the problems with the way the political establishment runs things is that they tend to look at issues as standalone units. They don’t attempt to see the potential synergies between issues and the benefits of addressing them as a whole. No better example of this can be found than with energy policy.
My energy plan for America is both ambitious and based on the best practices of the private sector. I would merge the need to create jobs with the burgeoning industrial revolution in green technology and alternative energy. We have a unique opportunity to catch the rising tide of the green industrial revolution and rebuild our industrial base with green technology that will dominate the world for the coming centuries. If we do not restore this manufacturing base, we will slide into economic obscurity as other nations dominate world trade and we devolve into a weak, service-based economy.
America needs its own industrial Marshall Plan. We can move aggressively toward not only energy independence and a cleaner environment, but get America back to work with technology that will dominate the global markets for the next hundred years.
During these difficult economic times, nonprofits are called upon to increase their services to those in need. What tax policies will you support to encourage charitable giving?
Garrett: In his budget, President Obama proposed placing a cap on the charitable deduction available to taxpayers. I strongly oppose this proposal. He believes that, with respect to the charitable tax deduction, whatever "cost" there is to the government in terms of lost revenues is more than offset by the good work performed by these charities. Charitable groups fill a huge need for our nation. They better understand the needs of their constituency than bureaucrats in Washington, DC, and they should be commended for the work that they do. Limiting donations to these charities would have terrible consequences on their work and the people they serve.
Theise: At the heart of our American ethic is the call to be one’s brother’s and sister’s keepers. Our tradition of charitable giving knows few limitations, and whenever there is a crisis around the corner or around the globe, Americans are there to help. It is critical that our tax policy reflects and promotes this noble trait. There are several good ideas out there as to how we can improve charitable giving. One of them is to continue and expand the IRA Charitable Rollover provision
This provision allows individuals aged 70-and-a-half and older to donate up to $100,000 from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) to public charities without having to count the distributions as taxable income. First enacted in 2006, this provision has spurred increased charitable giving at a time when our people are suffering through the worst economy since the Great Depression.
What changes would you support, if any, in the Medicaid program so that New Jersey can make home and community-based care more accessible to those who are in need of it, particularly for long-term care services?
Garrett: I have strongly supported efforts to allow those with long-term health care needs to have access to care through home-based, community, or faith-based organizations. For example, I have always been a strong supporter of the Jewish Federations of North America's Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities or NORCs. Programs such as these provide peace and independence for seniors and allow them to spend their later years where they are most comfortable — in their own homes. Additionally, I support efforts to increase utilization of long-term care insurance so that those who have long-term care needs do not have to spend all of their wealth on medical bills just so they can become Medicaid-eligible.
Theise: I believe that it should be our goal to move long-term care from an institutional basis to a home- and community-based system whenever possible. Changing the way we think about the delivery of Medicaid services is critical to improving the quality of care. I favor the “money follows the person” approach, which not only allows for more freedom of choice in selecting care but operates to lower the cost of care.
It is also critical to listen to those receiving care, their families, and respected public advocacy groups. Organizations such as the Autism Society of America, who deal with the day-to-day realities of providing care, have developed detailed policy analyses that must be afforded a voice in any discussion of moving toward community/home based care.