In Wake of Storm, Gottheimer Gives Fifth District Update On 16% Increase In Clawing Back North Jersey’s Tax Dollars from the Moocher States

Mar 12, 2018

This morning, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced that through his work to get a better return on investment (ROI) on the tax dollars New Jersey residents already send to Washington, the Fifth District has clawed back from the federal government $290 per household, a 16% increase from recent years. This increased ROI helped towns acquire emergency equipment like generators and trucks for responding to severe storms like Riley and Quinn.

Gottheimer highlighted town successes with the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) excess equipment program, FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant, and DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing grant program. Through the excess equipment program, towns like Westwood and Belvidere have received electrical generators and bucket trucks that have helped clean up in the wake of recent storms. Gottheimer also noted more towns in the Fifth District are now enrolled and competing for federal resources than in years past.

Gottheimer was joined by Westwood Mayor John Birkner, Jr., Paramus Mayor Rich LaBarbiera, Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse, Fair Lawn Mayor Lisa Swain, Acting Westwood Police Chief Matthew McClutchy, and FOP Lodge 57 President and Franklin Borough Detective Sergeant Nevin Mattessich at the Westwood Department of Public Works.

“I’m proud to announce that, working together, we’ve clawed back $290 for every household in the Fifth District — a 16% increase from what we’ve historically received in Northern New Jersey to help cut our property taxes and fight back against the Moochers States. That’s $290 back to every family to help firefighters put out a blaze and law enforcement fight crime and terror and protect the children in our schools. $290 back for storm cleanup, repair, and emergency management. These are dollars that we’ve clawed back from the federal government to help offset the strain on our local budgets and property tax bills,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer.

Congressman Gottheimer’s report can be downloaded HERE.

BELOW: Congressman Gottheimer at the Westwood DPW, in front of a police vehicle the town received through the LESO excess equipment program, announcing that the Fifth District has clawed back from the federal government $290 per household, a 16% increase from historic levels.

Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below. 

Thank you, after two storms, Mayor Birkner, for hosting us this morning and for your excellent leadership during the two storms this month, and I know many of our friends and neighbors in my District are still out of power. It’s from DPWs like this one across the District that our mayors direct emergency response to the storms that many of the federal grants we are here to discuss help us with – for generators to power well water and for emergency communications, for trucks to help clear trees, for our first responders who are the real heroes on the front lines during a nor’easter, snow storm, or a major state of emergency. 

Preparing for storms like these, and for other emergencies, are expensive to taxpayers – and are often paid for out of our state, local, and property taxes. Today, I’m here to discuss how we can – and already are – helping to lower the burden on our property taxes by clawing back more of our federal tax dollars to help pay these bills. 

It’s no secret that I think our taxes are too high at all levels. It’s just too expensive to live in our state.  

As a candidate for Congress, I discovered that, historically, in the Fifth Congressional District, we had only received thirty-three cents back for every dollar we sent to Washington – compared to states like West Virginia and Mississippi which receive $4.23 and $4.38, respectively, back for every tax dollar. Forty-four percent of Louisiana’s revenue comes from federal funds, compared to 27% in our state. So, Louisiana expects states like ours, instead of their local taxes to cover nearly half of their costs.  They are the poster child for what I affectionately call “Moocher States.”

In short, New Jersey, and several states in the northeast and west coast, have been footing the bill for decades now – for the roads, bridges, cops and firefighters in the Moocher States – while our towns and taxpayers have been expected to carry New Jersey’s load largely on their own. That’s meant higher property tax bills for the Fifth Congressional District – and lower state and local taxes in the Moocher States. 

The Tax Hike Bill jammed through in December added insult to injury by gutting the State and Local Tax Deduction, or SALT, capping all deductions for property taxes and state income taxes, and, in effect, raising taxes on my District – making it much more expensive to live here. 

As New Jersey taxpayers got hit with double taxation, who got yet another tax benefit. The Moocher States.  

After I got elected, I immediately set out to understand what we could do to reverse this overall trend. It started with a plan to fight to get back as many of our taxpayer dollars from Washington as possible.  The critical question: How could we get more of these grant dollars back to our towns, in Bergen, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren, so we could help relieve our property tax lines?  After all, given that the federal government budgets for these investments, why should Addison, Alabama get the fire gear that could go just as easily go to Franklin Lakes, New Jersey?  

If we did, that $600,000 could save the town a fortune on their budgets, and, in turn, keep more dollars where they belong — in the pockets of New Jersey residents.  As I said, we need to do everything we can to get costs down for our residents and businesses. 

After I got elected, I set out to better understand why, historically, we had received such a poor return on investment.  Here’s what I found: While there are certain factors out of our control, there were many things that we could be doing, that we simply weren’t, to claw back more of our federal tax dollars to our District – and help cut property taxes for our towns and residents. 

At the core of the problem, was something my dad always taught me: if you don’t ask you don’t get.  

So, in my first year in Congress, together with leaders across our District, many here today, we got to work asking. 

Frankly, in too many towns, we simply weren’t applying for grants that we might indeed qualify for. We just weren’t asking and the Moochers were.

Most of the time it boiled down to the fact that my predecessor simply didn’t believe in grants, even for support for residents following Superstorm Sandy, so he just didn’t let the towns, including police and fire departments, know that these opportunities existed.  Or even if they did, he generally refused to help them navigate the grant process. It’s a complicated process; you often need to really dig around to find that agriculture grant or support to fight homegrown terrorists. And you need an advocate. Even when towns applied, my predecessor often refused to write a letter of support or make a call to fight for those dollars to come to New Jersey.  

Other congressmen and women from other states did, and worked closely with their mayors, first responders, and counties, so, too often, those cops grants and fire trucks and generators went to their constituents. 

Well, I’ve decided to take a much different approach. I’m sick and tired of these other Moocher States treating New Jersey like their piggy bank — paying everyone else’s tab for their roads, bridges, and cops, while our taxes keep going up. It’s time to fight back, Jersey style – and got those grant dollars back to New Jersey.  

And I have found that there’s nothing partisan about this –getting our tax dollars back home is not Democrat or Republican issue – it’s purely what’s good for Jersey. 

Here’s what we did:  

One of my first hires was a new position, the Director of Return on Investments, Jake Briggs, whose core responsibility is to find every single  federal grant dollar that our communities qualify for, and then, to work closely with our mayors and departments to help them apply for the grants.  

Our team regularly sends updates and grant letters to mayors, police and fire departments, nonprofits, and others about upcoming opportunities, working with them and their teams.

In my first six months, we also visited all 79 towns in the Fifth — asking leaders on the ground about how we can be most helpful in this process.  

We’ve also held six Mayor’s Summits — most recently in Hackettstown and here in Westwood in December — nine grant workshops, and shipped more than 500 letters and scores of emails — making sure that town knows about approaching deadlines and the best practices in applying for federal grants.  Several mayors even came to Washington to meet with the grant-making departments to help advocate for their communities. 

Today, after working closely with towns, counties, police and fire chiefs, I am pleased to deliver an initial report on our joint, bipartisan efforts to bring our federal tax dollars back home to New Jersey – to help cut our property taxes and fight back against the Moochers States.

I’m proud to announce that, working together, we’ve clawed back an average of $290 for every household in the Fifth District — a 16% increase from what we’ve historically received in Northern New Jersey. That’s dollars to us and dollars away from the Moocher States. That’s $290 back to every family to help fire fighters put out a blaze and law enforcement fight crime and terror and protect the children in our schools. $290 back for storm cleanup, repair, and emergency management. These are dollars that we’ve clawed back from the federal government to help offset the strain on our local budgets and property tax bills. 

In total, that’s millions more of our federal tax dollars that’s come back home to invest in our communities — and didn’t go to Moocher States like Mississippi and West Virginia.

This has been a true team effort, with mayors and councils, police and fire departments, and others getting involved from across the District. I’m grateful for their herculean efforts, hours spent, and for all they did to make this happen.  It’s a big, initial win and it’s only the first step in a multi-step process.  We can’t unwind years of inaction overnight, but it’s a remarkable start. And some grants don’t come through the first year, but will produce results the next. I’m eager to work with even more mayors, councils, first responders, and county governments in the weeks and months ahead, so we can claw even more back to our District. 

In fact, I had a good conversation, during the nor’easter, with Branchville Mayor Anthony Frato who told me that he could really use a generator to help power the water in his town hall, during the next storm.  The Law Enforcement Support Office – or LESO — program or what I call the excess equipment program – would be perfect to help get his town a surplus generator – without a single additional cost to New Jersey taxpayers, aside from delivery — and that we would help get him signed up for the program right away. 

I’d also like to highlight of few of the specific resources our communities have locked in – because I think our towns deserve the recognition.

One of the easiest steps that towns can take to claw back their taxpayer dollars is by signing up for that LESO or excess equipment program I just mentioned. LESO facilitates the transfer of excess Department of Defense property, that is sitting idly and might otherwise be destroyed, to law enforcement agencies across the United States. A similar program with the Government Services Administration transfers surplus equipment from other branches of the government to local public works departments. 

This equipment, if not recouped by North Jersey, will either go to other states taking advantage of the program, or be destroyed. We have already paid for this equipment out or our federal taxes and it’s our obligation to fight to get what’s available and necessary here to our state. 

The excess equipment program includes items like flashlights and first aid kits for our cops, wagons for our SWAT Teams, and electrical generators for emergency responders who have lost power during major storms. It’s also basic supplies like copiers and computers that are essential to running a police station. All in all, the equipment helps us focus more of our town budgets on resources to help cops on the street and keep our families safe from crime and ISIS-inspired, lone wolf terrorism. Radios and video monitoring equipment that Bogota received makes sure that if there’s ever an emergency threat in their schools, our first responders will know what’s going on, immediately. 

I’m proud that Franklin Borough has been able to cut their taxes this year and has enrolled in the LESO and GSA programs — the first Sussex County town ever to do so. Thank you FOP Lodge 57 President and Franklin Borough Detective Sergeant Nevin Mattessich Franklin Borough administrative Lieutenant Gregory Cugliari, and Mayor Nick Giordano. We also had our second town in Sussex enroll, Vernon – thanks to the hard work of Vernon Mayor Harry Shortway and the town council.  

Working with my office, seventeen new towns have now enrolled in the LESO and GSA programs – to claw back more of those federal dollars and provide some relief to their property tax budges. That’s a big deal. Seventeen!

Through the LESO program, across the Fifth District, overall, we’ve received $2.7 million more than our past returns from the program — a 260% jump. That’s $2.7 million saved in local New Jersey’s Fifth’s government budgets – savings to our taxpayers.

We’ve also seen successes in more competitive grant programs like the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program — or AFG — and Community Oriented Policing — or COPS — grants. 

FEMA’s AFG award helps firehouses across the United State to upgrade or purchase new equipment, vehicles, workplace trainings, and other fire prevention activities.

My first District event after being sworn in was in a firehouse to encourage fire departments to apply for these safety grants. And, thanks to Wantage, Franklin Lakes, Harrington Park, West Milford, Teaneck, and New Milford and Ringwood, I am proud to announce that we have increased our return of life-saving equipment here to the district through these programs by 700%. 

Through the LESO program, Hackensack under Mayor Labrosse, has clawed back more than $150,000. 

Bogota, Franklin Lakes, Hillsdale, Lodi, New Milford, Oradell, Paramus, Upper Saddle River, Washington Township in Warren, the Township of Washington in Bergen, and Wyckoff have all seen tremendous success clawing back dollars through the LESO program, contributing to that $290 – the16% increase figure.  And Bergen County, under County Executive Jimmy Tedesco, Freeholder Chair Tommy Sullivan and Bergen County Sheriff Saudino, fought for $339,000 dollars this year for first responders. We’re even safer thank to their leadership. 

In December, I was proud to announce that Belvidere’s Mayor Kennedy, who has been a real leader in saving taxpayers’ money, received LESO and GSA equipment valued at $857 for every Belvidere family. This equipment will not only help the Town of Belvidere become safer, but it allows his town to provide its neighboring communities emergency services through mutual aid agreements. Chief Matt Scott, of Belvidere PD, is actively helping other Police Chiefs across the District get the most out of this program. 

Thank you, Mayor Kennedy, and Chief Scott for your dedication to your community and to saving the taxpayers money. Nothing says Jersey values like taking care of our neighbors, and saving taxpayers money. 

Warren County towns, boroughs, and non-profits have seen a hundred percent increase in direct federal investment. 

Through LESO, Warren County has gone from completing three transfers of equipment for law enforcement to twenty-seven last year.  That’s a big deal. My office has also held specific Warren County grants presentations with the USDA, Department of Homeland Security, the Farm Services Agency, and Natural Resources Conservation Services.

And, today, we’re in Westwood, where Mayor Birkner and his team, thanks to their outstanding initiative, have received a stake truck – a truck with a body designed for hauling goods –, two vans, three pickup trucks, seven digital cameras, 50 first aid kits, two utility trucks, and eight portable light units.  The Mayor has also clawed back office supplies including printers, rope, shovels, wrenches, vacuums, drills, and air compressors – all items that the borough was going to have to pay for out of its budgets.  Instead, it got those dollars back from the federal government. 

In previous years, they’d planned on borrowing more than $235,000 for two of the trucks they instead received through this program — a clear chunk of the $290 that all Fifth District residents have seen returned and a clear savings for Westwood taxpayers. 

We have a long way to go to fully leverage the LESO and GSA programs. While Belvidere, Franklin Borough, and Vernon mayors are on board, there’s more to do.  I’m eager to work with the Freeholders in Sussex and Warren Counties to see what more we can do together. I know that we can help give even more relief to local taxpayers. 

We have huge wins in communities like Wantage, where they received $102,000 in their first AFG Grant in more than 13 years, and in Franklin Lakes where they clawed back more than $600,000 to ensure that their community — and those which share its mutual aid — have the ability to respond to daytime fires.

And, in Passaic, West Milford’s Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 received $160,000 for protective gear. I know that Chief Poplaski is thrilled to have this what he called a “first sign of direct federal investment in our fire department in years.” West Milford’s Mayor, Bettina Bieri, has done great work getting this done and I’m thrilled to see that they got to cut taxes there. 

In Passaic County, they’ve seen an 808% increase in firefighter grants. In total, this year, we’ve increased funding for Passaic’s Fifth District towns by $2,000,000, or 65%. 

In Paramus, under his outstanding leadership, Mayor LaBarbiera’s police department received a $1.875 million COPS grant to train and hire five new Paramus police officers, including post-September 11th military veterans Michael Focarino and Brian Doughty.  I can imagine no better return on investment than bringing our federal tax dollars back home to hire veterans to protect our communities from crime and terror. Paramus’ COPS grant is a great example of how more New Jersey towns should be competing to claw back our federal tax dollars. 

With 76 computers, 20 generators, 213 first aid kits, seven specialty trucks, six pick-up trucks, and nearly $150,000 in bulletproof vests delivered to our communities, through these programs, that’s real safety without new local spending. And those are dollars that we’ve saved here at home that we get to invest into our families’ security and New Jersey jobs.

I’m committed to working harder every year to boost our return on investment for New Jersey, and, at the same time, I’m committed to rooting out all wasteful government spending. 

So, this summer, I’m planning another DC Mayors Summit, on June 22nd, and more grants workshops like the ones we’ve held in Allamuchy, Oradell, and at the Sussex County Fire Academy.

And my doors are always open for mayors and leaders interested in finding new ways to boost the federal tax dollars we get back home.

Thank you to everyone here for coming out, for your public service, and for supporting your towns, the Fifth District, and New Jersey. We must continue to work together, across party lines, to claw back more of our federal dollars for our schools, infrastructure, cops, and firefighters, cut taxes, get spending under control, and stop the Moocher States from stealing our wallets. 

Thank you and God bless you and God bless the United States of America. 


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