South Jersey Times — The state — and counties — face many problems, but they can be overcome with the right cooperation, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney says.
“There is nothing in the state that’s broken that can’t be fixed,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney was joined by fellow third District Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro for the Salem County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the District Address Thursday morning.
The annual event, held this year at PSEG Nuclear’s Energy and Environmental Resource Center, gives local business and political leaders a chance to hear what issues the state lawmakers representing Salem County are working on. It also gives them a chance to left the lawmakers know what’s on their minds.
Among the major challenges, Sweeney said, are finding a resolution to replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund, reaching an agreement for an equitable school funding formula and making pension reforms.
On the issues, Sweeney said, Gov. Chris Christie is supporting proposals other than what he believes is fair and right way forward.
Burzichelli said reaching agreements is difficult when one of the key players isn’t involved.
“The governor’s been very distracted … (he) just sweeps in from time to time to make a speech.”
Asked about the coming bail reform law which goes into effect Jan. 1, Sweeney said Salem County will need to provide more space for judges.
He noted this Vicinage XV (which include Salem, Gloucester and Cumberland counties) has the highest case load per judge in the state.
Sweeney noted when he was Gloucester County freeholder director his county eventually had to build a new courthouse. And when it was built, it included space for future needs.
The space needs of Superior Court continue to expand and it’s Salem County’s responsibility to provide what’s needed, officials say.
A wide range of other subjects were also discussed from funding for women’s services to the future of The Memorial Hospital of Salem County which is due to be sold this year.
Burzichelli said Christie has “been horrendous” with women’s programs, holding back aid.
“He didn’t need to do what he did,” Sweeney added.
The senator also said he had met with the owner of the California company which is planning to buy Memorial Hospital and offered them help if they needed it, but he said he hasn’t heard from them since.
One audience member asked about what the Economic Opportunity Act which became law in 2013 could do for Salem County, noting Camden had received many benefits.
“Camden had a plan,” Sweeney said. He noted Salem County’s western sector is a prime location for business development, but nothing has happened there.
Salem County officials say they have been trying to lure new business — and the ratables they produce.
“Bring a project, let your imagination work,” Burzichelli told the political and business leaders. “We have at the ready state incentive programs.”
“If you don’t approach these things with a tone of optimism you have no chance of fixing anything,” Burzichelli said.
Sweeney noted that ports have been established at Paulsboro and now in Greenwich Township. The senator said the Chemours site near the base of the Delaware Memorial Bridge could be a prime location for another.
“We haven’t given up on a third port,” Sweeney said. “We’ve got the spot.”
Taliaferro told chamber members that as the junior member of the Third District team he is focusing his “two passions,” education and access to quality health care.
“I am blessed ad excited to continue to fight for this district,” Taliaferro said.