New Jersey Assemblyman Vinnie Prieto, who will soon take over as the Speaker of the lower house, said Thursday that his first priority is to do something about the state's highest-in-the-nation property taxes.

Lou Greenwald (l.) and Vinnie Prieto (Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media NJ)

"Since I got to Trenton in 2004 everything had been about property taxes and we still have a problem," said Prieto. "We have done a lot of things to curtail the growth, but we have not gotten to the root of the problem: lowering property taxes. They kept going up steadily, a lot less now, but that's something we need to focus on."

The Speaker-elect said there is also a lot of work to do to make New Jersey more affordable for families struggling under a crushing property tax burden and high unemployment.

Soaring higher education costs are another priority.

"We need to focus on creating jobs (and) access for our young kids for tuition so that they will be able to stay in this state," said Prieto. "As Democrats, we stand tall for a strong middle-class, protecting our most vulnerable, creating jobs, providing a quality education for all and property tax relief."

In addition to electing Prieto to his new leadership post Thursday, Assembly Democrats also decided to retain Lou Greenwald as Assembly Majority Leader.

"Over the past two years, we fought hard to deliver middle-class property tax relief and create good-paying jobs, and make no mistake: When it comes to standing up for middle-class families, we will never give up the fight," said Greenwald. "I look forward to working with Speaker Prieto and the rest of the Democratic caucus to advance a strong middle-class agenda in the upcoming legislative session."