Home>Congress>Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s State of the District Address

Rep. Josh Gottheimer delivered his State of the District address on February 15, 2023. (Photo: Office of Rep. Josh Gottheimer).

Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s State of the District Address

By David Wildstein, February 15 2023 3:57 pm

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

You might imagine that I get asked all the time in Washington: “Do you like living in Jersey?” My answer, without missing a beat, is always the same: “I don’t just like living in Jersey – I love living in Jersey.”

I was born here, raised here, work here, and like most of us, I’m just very proud — and protective — of Jersey.

And for those who don’t get it — who’ve never swam in our lakes, rode the waves down the Jersey Shore, hiked our trails, been to our schools, hung out with our people, eaten our pizza, or listened to Springsteen — well, too bad for them. As Jon Bon Jovi said, “If you’re from New Jersey, don’t let anyone know how great it is here.” So, of course, if you ask me on the record, what’s the state of the District that I’m lucky enough to represent in Congress? My answer is reflexively clear: “Strong. Like a rock.”  I’m bullish and optimistic about our future.

But, since I’m not in Washington, and we’re among a lot of friends here in Jersey, as I enter my fourth term in Congress, I think it’s important to unpack that question a little more — to take stock of our District and our great state, to review our opportunities and challenges, and to chart a course for an even stronger, tougher New Jersey — a Jersey that’s willing to wage an even tougher fight for our future. For the policies and values that make us who we are.

So, today, I’m focusing on how, working together, across party lines — lines that too often divide us — we can capitalize on our strengths to grow and succeed, to fight for more good jobs and lower taxes, to strengthen our communities, to invest in our people and our beautiful state, and to protect our Jersey Values — from caring for our veterans … to keeping guns out of the wrong hands … to protecting a woman’s right to choose … to celebrating our rich diversity … to keeping our air and water clean. For our kids and our families — and for those who’ve yet to discover all we have going for us.

I truly believe that New Jersey is the greatest state in the nation, it’s not even a close call. I’m very optimistic about our future. But, we have to recognize that we’re at a critical juncture. It reminds me of what Jersey legend Yogi Berra once famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” We are at a moment — at a fork in the road — in our state’s history that will decide our future. The path we choose to take, as a District, here in Northern New Jersey, and a state, will impact us for generations to come.

Here’s the question: Will we build on our great history, and our strengths, from our economy to our people, and the values we celebrate, or will we let other states pass us by and steal our jobs and tax dollars? Will we make life more affordable, or will people and businesses keep packing up to study, work, and retire elsewhere?

To understand where we are, you need to take a quick look back to our long history and legacy of accomplishments.

Going back to before our nation’s founding, we’ve been at the fulcrum of American history. Our leaders helped craft the Declaration of Independence and fought in the Revolutionary War — at battle sites not too far from here.

Bell Labs developed groundbreaking technologies, including radio astronomy, the transistor, laser, and, of course, the telephone. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the phonograph, and the movie camera. Albert Einstein toiled at Princeton refining his theory of relativity. A few towns over, Alexander Hamilton envisioned the power of the Great Falls of the Passaic River.

Thanks to our life sciences sector, New Jersey was dubbed the “Medicine Chest of the World.” Our labs, top-notch hospitals, doctors, nurses, and industry leaders like Johnson & Johnson, BD, and Merck spurred everything from the COVID-19 vaccine to the first antibiotic to fight tuberculosis to cancer treatments, and heart and stroke medicines.

We are also home to a top-tier $33 billion-dollar financial services sector. Our small businesses, which make up nearly 50 percent of all jobs in the state, are also on the cutting edge.

We were just ranked, once again, the top state in the nation for our phenomenal public schools, thanks to our great educators. My mom was one of them.

We have some of the safest communities in the country, with the best cops, firefighters, and EMTs … and the hardest-working men and women of labor who helped build our state.

Building this legacy wasn’t easy. Even when people have tried to count us out, or thrown an elbow, we’ve remained a great friend and neighbor to the rest of the country.

Put aside our life-saving medicines, the brains we produce, and that twenty percent of the nation’s GDP travels through the northeast … New Jersey, historically, has also paid the bills to help build other states — for their roads, tunnels, and bridges. We’ve gotten back far less from the federal government than we’ve paid into the kitty. For instance, you all have heard me say this, for every dollar Mississippi and West Virginia have sent to Washington, they’ve historically gotten back $4.38 and $4.23 back respectively. In Jersey, we’ve historically received just 67 cents for every dollar we send to Washington.

Even as we faced tougher times, with harder winters, devastating storms, and older infrastructure than these other states, as I affectionately call the Moocher States, Jersey has kept doing right by our people — from helping veterans and seniors in need, to investing in education, to taking care of our hard-pressed families. Put another way, we’ve never stopped living up to our Jersey Values. And, it’s led to a higher cost of living for our families and small businesses.

Yet, these other states have continued to take and take. Louisiana’s state budget, for instance, every year starts with half their money from the federal government — from you and me, for their law enforcement, their nonprofits, their firefighters. All of those dollars offset their town, county, and state budgets, and— in turn — lower their state and local taxes. On top of that, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and others have started taking more of our jobs — literally running ads in our state to steal our people and businesses. They’ve shown up to our factories in Bergen and Sussex Counties to lure them with lower tax offers and financial aid packages.

It reminds me of the words on the bridge in Trenton that I pass going to Washington on Amtrak most weeks: “Trenton Makes, The World Takes.”

Then, in 2017, in the ultimate insult, the Moocher States stuck it to us and passed the Tax Hike Bill that gutted the State and Local Tax deduction, known as SALT, and put a $10,000 cap on the deduction nationwide. After all we’d done for them, they wanted us to pay more of their bills. This raised taxes for millions of real, everyday, middle-class folks here in Jersey.

Even our supposed friend from next door, New York City, has gotten into the game. They’re trying to implement a new $23-dollar-a-day — or $5,000-a-year — Congestion Tax on Jersey residents to drive into the City and head south of 60th Street.  Every nickel will go to their mismanaged MTA — not a penny to the PATH train or NJ Transit to help the residents of New Jersey in any way. Through the Port Authority, we have had more than one-hundred years of cooperation between New York and New Jersey. But not now.

We help bankroll New York every year. Before the pandemic, 400,000 New Jersey commuters paid $2.1 billion dollars of income taxes every year, just for the honor of working in New York.  When the pandemic hit, and our people worked from home in Jersey, New York still fought Jersey and insisted on taking every single tax dollar from our folks as if they commuted to work. It’s unbelievable.

For those familiar with the children’s book, “The Giving Tree,” I feel like we’re now at the part when the grown boy comes back to the tree — the tree that has always been there for him — that has no leaves and branches left, and he cuts down the trunk.

Now, the question is what will we do about it? Do we fight back and look out for ourselves — or do we take a few more punches from those like New York demanding the trunk, too?  Do we get more jobs and businesses here and look out for our folks — or do we continue to line the Moochers’ pockets? Do we do everything we can to lower our taxes and make life more affordable for our families? Or do we let others keep setting their tables with our food?

Folks, we are competing with the rest of the country, and from Florida to North Carolina to Texas to New York and Pennsylvania, they’ve made it clear who they’re looking out for. And it’s not us. Jersey must fight back — starting right here in the Fifth Congressional District. This is our crossroads – and I’ll tell you the path I think we should go down.

After all, we have plenty going for us. It’s time we proudly seized on it.

First, we need to stop the exodus of jobs and people — make life more affordable — and draw more good paying jobs and businesses to Jersey.

According to the Tax Foundation, of all fifty states, New Jersey currently has the highest business income tax in the nation. We rank third worst for individual taxes, sixth worst for property taxes, and our tax structure ranks worst in the country for retirees.

Over the last year, according to the Census, we lost more of our residents to other states than any other state in the country except for California, New York, and Illinois. And our red tape is legendary, putting us at the bottom of business-friendly lists.

These stats aren’t exactly something you put on a recruitment bumper sticker to attract young families and retirees — or new businesses, and the jobs that come with them.

That’s why I’ve fought so hard in Washington to claw more of our tax dollars back to Jersey, and away from the Moocher States, to help get our property taxes down and make life more affordable for us. Since 2016, working with our mayors, our counties, our first responders, nonprofits, and religious institutions, we are now up 357 percent in what we’ve clawed back in everything from fire trucks, to police salaries, to clean water projects, and pick-up trucks for our towns.

In fact, in 2021 alone, that amounted to more than $750 for every single Fifth District, North Jersey household — dollars going back into the pockets of our hardworking families when they need them most. Dollars taken off of our local property tax lines. Lower taxes for our families.

As part of my Affordability Agenda for Jersey, we’ve helped pass legislation to address our COVID-related supply chain issues, increase domestic oil production to lower gas prices, and combat collusion and concentration in the meat and poultry industry that’s led to higher prices at the grocery store.

And I helped cap the cost of insulin at $35-per-month under Medicare —legislation we passed last year — and capped annual out-of-pocket prescription costs at $2,000 for our seniors — without raising taxes one penny on families and small businesses.

I’ve also been fighting tooth and nail in Congress to restore our State and Local Tax Deduction – or SALT. I helped pass four bills out of the House to restore SALT and help cut your property and state taxes. But all four times, Red State Senators blocked the tax-cutting legislation. As Co-Chair of the bipartisan SALT Caucus, we are now back fighting to restore it and get our taxes down.

And, as I said earlier, I’ve also been fighting New York’s absurd Congestion Tax, so that someone like Arthur Elmers of Fort Lee, who’s here today, isn’t taxed to visit his children in the City. Barbara Broomall , whose son-in-law is an ironworker in the City, has driven to work for 30 years. His hours are so early in the morning that public transportation isn’t an option — yet New York wants to stick him with a $5,000 new Congestion Tax, on top of tolls and parking.

Second, we need to get jobs back to our state and help folks to stay in Jersey — whether that’s when they graduate high school or college, are mid-career, or at retirement.

To compete with the rest of the country, working with our state legislators, I’ve proposed a new “Stay in Jersey” tax incentive for businesses that move jobs to Jersey, including opening up satellite offices, and tax credits for businesses that buy Jersey-made products. Imagine what this will do for the Fifth District!

By staying and working from Jersey, we can fill up the empty office parks, help folks avoid commuting hours every day and get them to their kid’s baseball game at night, and support our local stores and restaurants. Think of how great that will be for job growth here in our District and beyond, and how it will increase state and local revenue coming here — and not New York City.

Given our phenomenal education, historical leadership in life sciences, our proximity to New York, and the back end of the New York Stock Exchange here, we are particularly well situated to attract tech, fintech, biotech, and other jobs driven by innovation. Our unmatched service sector can handle the growth, and our proximity to transit, airports, cities, lakes, beaches, and bike trails is a true competitive advantage. But we need to aggressively recruit new businesses, and we need to reward them for bringing jobs here.

On the job potential front, we are also well positioned to grow our manufacturing jobs base in Jersey. That’s why I fought so hard to pass the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act — because I see huge opportunity for my District and our state to help accelerate U.S. production of semiconductor chips that are in everything from our phones and cars to ventilators.

Jersey still has a strong edge in high skilled manufacturing, whether that’s medical devices, defense, candy, or optics, or in wind and solar. We shouldn’t be afraid to go after more of those jobs — and the millions of dollars we landed in the CHIPS Act. More of those jobs and the R&D behind them can and should be in Jersey, and it will help reduce our reliance on China.

We also need to help our small businesses grow and we should lay out the red carpet for existing and new ones, whether they’re in wind, health care, finance, or at local stores and restaurants. We need to let them know we appreciate them – and, whether that’s approvals or licenses, help them navigate and cut through the red tape, not suffocate them in it. That’s been a big priority of mine on the federal level, especially to help labor get their shovels in the ground to build roads, bridges, and buildings.

I’ve also been focused on helping moms and dads be able to work. That’s why I’ve fought for, and supported legislation for universal child care and paid family leave. None of that should be a barrier to making a living in our great state.

Third, we need to invest wisely in Jersey — in both our people and our infrastructure.

In the ultimate claw back to our state, I proudly helped negotiate, draft, and fight to pass the once-in-a-century Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to invest billions here in Jersey. These dollars are already helping our state invest in roads, ports, rails, and bridges. And they will continue to help all of our communities.

They are helping build the Gateway Train Tunnel between New York and Jersey, invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, in climate resiliency to protect our shores, and in clean drinking water. We did all of this without increasing the tax burden on North Jersey families. And, it will create millions of jobs over the next decade, especially for our hardworking men and women of labor.

To attract new businesses and make sure our schools and students are connected, I also helped claw back historic investments in broadband working with our communities — including tens of millions for Sussex County, Warren County, our cities, and other areas of the state — for young people and families who remain unconnected or under-connected.

I’ve also made it a top priority to invest in our human infrastructure — our people. There is nothing more important than making sure our kids have a good education, starting with universal pre-K and K-12.

In Congress, so our kids can succeed, I’ve clawed back federal investment to help improve school safety and security, for free healthy school breakfast and lunch, and led efforts to ensure our school buses are safe.

I’ve also been working to ensure our colleges, community colleges, and technical schools are putting the right programs in place, to expand STEM education and training, and to foster public-private partnerships with local businesses like Thor Labs and Stryker to fill jobs here in Jersey. Our colleges need to work together closely with our businesses.

And we need to invest in our colleges across the state. I’m proud of what I’ve clawed back to schools here in our District.

That’s the best way to get our students to study here, work here, and stay here after they graduate. That’s got to be the key. I’m sick and tired, probably like you are, that when kids graduate college or go off after high school, the next day you see for sale signs on lawns because people can’t afford to stay here. We need to do everything we can to help our families stay here, especially after their kids graduate.

And we must prioritize and invest in our trades, including apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs. We need to make sure our young men and women — especially those who want to work with their hands and work in different trades — have industry-recognized credentials and the training that businesses are looking for.

Fourth, we need to stick by our Jersey Values and use them as a competitive edge against those states stealing our people and jobs.

I always like to say that, in Jersey, we look out for one another. Our values are a real differentiator to many of those states trying to lure our people. As I mentioned, I’m very proud that Jersey cares about priorities like women’s health care, that we’re strongly pro-choice, and that we’ve got some of the toughest, commonsense gun and school safety laws in the entire country.

I’ve taken those Jersey Values to Congress, since day one, and, last year, helped pass bipartisan gun safety legislation — the first in thirty years — and multiple pieces of legislation protecting a woman’s right to choose. No one should get between a woman, her doctor, and her faith when making personal health care decisions.

And I’m proud that Jersey has always fought to protect our air and water, and that we’re on the cutting edge of alternative energy like wind and solar.

We have beautiful lakes and beaches, skiing, hiking trails — and we need to protect them. The economic opportunities, including the ecotourism in my District, are endless if we just continue to tap into these assets.

In Congress, to protect Jersey, with the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, we’ve helped fight climate change and invest in renewable energy and climate resiliency. You see, because the stuff we do in Washington is all about the fight here for Jersey.

And, working with local leaders from both sides of the aisle, from Vernon to Ridgewood to Mahwah to Fair Lawn, I’ve also helped claw back millions of critical federal dollars to North Jersey to help get lead and forever chemicals out of the drinking water in our schools and homes.

As I said, Jersey Values means getting the backs of those who’ve had ours, including protecting our seniors and the Social Security and Medicare they earned, and protecting them from financial scams and robocalls, with my two bipartisan bills I passed out of the House last year. We’ve got to get that done.

And Jersey Values means taking care of our veterans. I’m proud to have helped get the PACT Act signed into law to help roughly 3.5 million of our brave veterans exposed to burn pits and toxic substances. And, working with local veterans, we helped establish the mental health care services at the Sussex VA CBOC in Newton; and began veteran health care referrals to New Bridge Medical Center and ImageCare Centers, so veterans don’t have to drive hours to get care.

Over the past two years alone, thanks to my all-star team, we’ve helped hundreds of veterans get access to their VA benefits and service medals; helped more seniors access their earned Social Security checks; helped hundreds fight the IRS; and helped thousands of constituents get their unemployment benefits.

We helped Michael Tully, a Vietnam veteran from Hampton who’s here today, receive hard-earned, lifesaving health care from the VA after he was diagnosed with cancer and denied.

And we cut through red tape with the Social Security Administration, to help John Cavalier from Alpine — an Army veteran who’s also here — get his Social Security benefits after nearly a year of radio silence.

Thank you, Michael and John, for your service.

To keep our first responders and communities safe, I’ve worked with our departments and towns to claw back millions in federal resources and equipment. I see so many people here who know what I’m talking about because they’ve been involved in doing it. Helping us get everything from fire trucks, to ambulances, to air packs and radios – even resources to pay for police and firefighter salaries.

A great example is my work with Bogota Police Chief Daniel Maye, who’s here today. I’m very grateful for him. Through the LESO 1033 Program, we got a Humvee for the town that, along with our brave first responders, helped save lives during a recent flood. Chief, thank you very much for your service.

Since I’ve been in office, Fifth District towns have clawed back an astounding $7.5 million dollars in total Assistance to Firefighters Grants, and $2 million dollars in SAFER grants, not to mention millions more in Nonprofit Security Grants to protect our religious institutions.

Last Congress, my bipartisan, bicameral Invest to Protect Act — to make critical, targeted investments in local law enforcement training, recruitment, retention, and mental health — passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. We did it by working together.

We have the best law enforcement around, but they need the tools to keep our neighborhoods safe and fight crime, including the surge in auto theft, domestic terror, and antisemitic, Anti-Asian, and racially motivated hate.

After years of work with my good friends, Jimmy and Barbara Drake, we got our bipartisan Darren Drake Act signed into law to help stop ISIS-inspired, lone-wolf, and domestic terrorists from renting terror trucks and other vehicles to cause destruction and death.

Just like most of us, as it continues to surge in our neighborhoods and online, I’ve consistently stood up to hate and extremism — whether that’s against Jews, Muslims, Christians, Black Americans, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, Arab Americans, the Latino community, Irish, or Italians, or the LGBTQ community. Because hate’s not welcome here – and nearly everyone recognizes that New Jersey’s diversity remains our greatest strength. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, and now on the Intelligence Committee, I’ve taken the same approach against extremism and terror abroad, standing strongly with our allies.

Fifth, and finally, and on a related note, nearly everything I’ve gotten done in Washington has happened because I’ve been willing to reach out and work across the aisle. It’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned as Co-Chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. If you take the time to sit down, talk to, and listen to one another, the potential to help Jersey and our country is nearly limitless.

Look at what we got done: From the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to the historic bipartisan gun safety legislation to the CARES Act, to criminal justice reform and the PACT Act, and the bipartisan Electoral Count Act, I’ve helped pass some of the most important legislation in recent history. And it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t sit down and work together.

What’s clear is that people want commonsense solutions – not extremism. People just want us to talk to each other, to be reasonable, to figure out how to get things done for them. Not to scream and to yell and to fight.

The sixty-six members of the Problem Solvers Caucus — equally split between Democrats and Republicans — understand that we may have differences, and we do. But, we also know that when we talk and listen to one another — with civility — take the temperature down, and put our country first, there’s nothing we can’t get done to move America forward.

Even in these divisive times, even with a four-seat majority in the House, you can still find bipartisan agreements — without compromising what you believe in, and get done what we must get done for our great country.

I’ve tried to take the same approach here in Jersey, working with so many of you, and Democratic and Republican mayors and councils. Because, the truth is, most things we do — like fixing a road, investing in mental health, or fighting the opioid scourge — aren’t partisan issues. The bottom line is that we’re all in the same boat together. We’re all Americans. Our adversaries are the Chinese government and Putin — not one another.

At this moment in our state,our country, and our district we need more cooperation and bipartisan problem solving — not yelling and inflammatory Tweets.

We live in the greatest country in the world, and if we work together, there’s nothing stopping Jersey or America, there’s nothing stopping the Fifth Congressional District which remains strong, and our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you for your time, thank you for letting me give you a report on the state of the Fifth Congressional District. I’m very grateful for all you do everyday.

God bless you and your families, God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.


Spread the news: