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New Jerseyans And Trenton, Not Perfect Together [AUDIO]

State House
Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media

The Governor has his priority. Top Democrats have their priority. A new poll reveals the public’s priorities do match up with the chief executive’s or the lawmakers who control both houses of the legislature.

Today, the new Assembly Democratic Leader sorts through the numbers.

When asked by Monmouth University-New Jersey Press Media poll director Patrick Murray to name, in their own words, the state’s most pressing issues right now, property taxes (42%) and jobs (42%) are the first things out of New Jerseyans’ mouths.

Governor Chris Christie is pushing for a 10% across-the-board state income tax cut over three years. Just 8% feel that’s a pressing issue. Leading Democrats have made legalizing gay marriage their top priority. Only 2% of New Jerseyans agree that it should be.

Asked if the numbers reveal a disconnect between his Democratic Party and the people of the Garden State, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald says, “I think if the only thing we were talking about was marriage equality that would be true, but I’m having a conversation with you about property tax reform versus the Governor proposal on income tax.”

The survey clearly shows that the public wants property tax reform far more than its craving an income tax cut says Greenwald.

Greenwald agrees that property taxes and jobs are the state’s top issue and says work is being done in those areas. He explains, “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

There’s a defense for pursuing the legalization of same-sex marriage despite the low percentage of people who feel it’s very important according to Greenwald, “That number may never increase above 2%. There will always be another issue that resonates greater with the vast majority of people, but it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it.”

Public schools (20%), general economic conditions (19%), and other taxes (15%) are named by no more than 1-in-5 residents. Other issues named by about 1-in-20 residents include the state budget (8%), crime (5%), and health care costs (5%). Just 2% cite legalizing gay marriage and only 8% name income taxes as top issues.

The new year brought a slew of new proposals from Trenton to address problems in the state. The poll includes a list of some key issues recently raised by the Governor and legislators, asking residents to rate the importance of each on a scale from 1 to 10. Four proposals from both parties receive high ratings with about 4-in-10 residents giving the highest rating of “10″. These include reducing income taxes (average score=7.7) and reforming teacher tenure (7.4) which are issues championed by the governor. High priorities also include two Democrat agenda items – raising the minimum wage (7.6) and the millionaires’ tax (7.3).

None of these issues come close to property taxes in importance, which is rated a “10″ by 63% of New Jerseyans, for an average score of 8.9. When asked specifically which tax cut should be a higher priority for Trenton, state residents overwhelmingly pick reducing property taxes (69%) over reducing income taxes (19%). Prioritizing property tax cuts is important for homeowners (75%) and renters (59%) alike.

Murray explains, “New Jerseyans seem to agree that prioritizing cuts to the state’s highest in the nation property would benefit everyone, whether they directly pay those taxes or not.”

On the issue of same sex marriage, the survey finds that 52% of New Jerseyans now favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally while 34% are opposed. This is the first time that more than half of state residents express support using the current question wording. It also marks the first time that opposition has dipped below 40%.

The poll conducted by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from January 31 to February 4, 2012. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.

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