HILSBOROUGH – Running for reelection in a battleground district, Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-16) exulted this week as Governor Phil Murphy signed the state’s $46.4 billion budget, which includes $3.7 billion to clear some COVID-19 debt, even as New Jersey labors under $43-45 billion of bonded debt, or the same size of the budget.
A retired Prudential executive and political pragmatist, Freiman over coffee made the case for the significance of that $3.7 billon allocation, which contained his fingerprints. “It’s the first time in state history that we’re going to reduce a substantial amount of debt,” said the assemblyman from Hillsborough, referring to the bonded debt the state borrowed when lawmakers anticipated a pandemic shortfall.
Freiman celebrated the budget as a whole, which includes district-specific allocations for child daycare, repairs to the ailing Manville VFW building, $3.7 million for Somerset County Vocational and Technical High School, and $5 million for inpatient carrier care. “But we have debt and let’s be mindful of this,” he acknowledged, of the larger scope of a problem years in the making.
“I give a lot of credit to the speaker for helping in those negotiations,” Freiman said of Speaker Craig Coughlin’s (D-19) efforts to drive Freiman’s debt-clearing initiative through the budget process, and to ensure that it is not merely a one and done proposition.
First elected in 2017 to fill the seat of then-retiring Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (now the Republican nominee for governor), Freiman runs with Assemblyman (and Senate candidate) Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and former Montgomery Mayor (and Assembly candidate) Sadaf Jaffer. The three Democrats are facing a Republican ticket composed of former Congressman (and Senate candidate) Mike Pappas, and Assembly candidates Vinny Panico and Joe Lukac.
“Roy Freiman preaching fiscal responsibility is like asking Mike Tyson to solve your headache with an uppercut,” said Panico. “Let’s not forget that Freiman voted to dig us into the $9 billion hole he describes as “expensive credit card debt.” If he really wants to do the right thing for his constituents he’ll start by voting against the bloated budget proposal and send real relief to taxpayers. The Trenton politicians that mortgaged our children’s future are the last one’s who should be working on untangling the mess they created.”
But Freiman said voters in the district will experience decided positive consequences from the Murphy-signed budget.
“You’ll see as a district overall, a higher amount going into the schools overall,” Freiman said. “Certain schools have not done well, including Manville, which was the seventh worst funded for decades – and now you see this vitality that’s taking place in Manville – a town that’s been hit hard by flooding. To have an anchor of a growing, vital school district is very important for that town.
“I think we’ve been responsive to our district and we’ve put a lot of emphasis on small businesses incentives in support of our small businesses, including my enabling legislation to set up the EDA for funding economic recovery. Stronger opportunity and prosperity should be the baseline coming out of the pandemic.”