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ORADELL – Everyone who cares about stuff like this knows state taxpayers send much more money to Washington than New Jersey gets back in federal aid.
There’s nothing sinister going on. State residents pay more per capita in income taxes because income levels in New Jersey are among the highest in the nation. There’s no way to stop that from happening.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, however, is trying to attack the problem from the other direction. He wants New Jersey to get more money back from the feds, or as he puts it, “clawed back.” The 5th District congressman has a staffer specifically assigned to matching available grants with qualified recipients. Staffers also meet with local officials to raise awareness about grants.
And on Monday morning in this suburban Bergen County town, Gottheimer celebrated some success stories as he stood with a group of municipal officials and in front of a Humvee, a motor boat and other equipment the borough secured through federal grants.
He said that since his election in 2016, he has increased federal aid to the district by 57 percent over what it was before he got that. That represents an increase of about $110 million.
The congressman’s office put out a top 10 list. It said that since 2016, Hackensack has received nearly $2 million in grants, the most of any district town. New Milford was second with about $1.2 million.
Belvidere in Warren County rounded out the top 10 with an estimated $275,000 in grants. The grants fall into three major areas – law enforcement support and community policing, assistance to firefighters and non-profit security grants to such programs as Head Start.
Grants pay for a wide variety of merchandise. There are relatively small items like flashlights and first aid kits for law enforcement in addition to trucks, generators and computers. Fire departments can get trucks and public works departments can get dump trucks and forklifts.
This is certainly good politics for a man like Gottheimer who is in a competitive district.
But it also can be a big help to towns. Getting a truck or generator through a federal grant is preferable to bonding for one or paying for it with property taxes. Gottheimer’s estimate is that the grant program he champions has saved the average household in the district $392.
Much of the equipment secured through grants are surplus items that ordinarily would be destroyed or sent elsewhere.
Gottheimer likes to talk about the “moocher” states, his definition for mostly low-income states that get much more money in federal aid than they pay in income taxes. While New Jersey gets 33 cents in aid for every dollar it pays, Mississippi and West Virginia get back $4.38 and $4.23 respectively, according to the congressman. This suggests that if not for his efforts, that Humvee sitting behind Gottheimer Monday in Oradell could have ended up in Biloxi, Miss.