Jim Johnson grew up in Montclair, NJ. According to his website jimjohnson4governor.com Jim served as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, successfully prosecuting violent drug dealers, white-collar tax evasion, and organized crime – including members of the Genovese crime family and drug dealers who tried to assassinate an undercover detective. This year Jim Johnson is a Gubernatorial candidate seeking the democratic nomination for Governor in the June 6, 2017 primary. For more information on Jim Johnson or to volunteer for his campaign go to https://www.facebook.com/JimJohnson4NJGov/ and http://jimjohnson4governor.com
Angel Alamo: What made you decide to run for New Jersey Governor?
Jim Johnson: Last year, I took a civil rights tour of the South with my oldest daughter. The trip was a turning point in my decision to run for Governor. All along the tour, we learned about the people who didn’t have much but decided they were going to make their society better – both economically and politically. For me the question became: what is my contribution to this country, and to New Jersey, going to be?
New Jersey’s economy is off track and our political system is broken. We have one of highest foreclosure rates in the country and are in the midst of a pension crisis. The leadership of the state — not only the Christie administration, but also the Republican and Democratic leaders in Trenton — have greatly contributed to these problems. To get New Jersey back on track, the state needs a leader who will put the needs of the people ahead of the needs of the powerful. That’s exactly what I will do.
AA: As New Jersey Governor would you repeal the gas tax?
JJ: We need to address how the gas tax affects working families. As it is structured now, the tax is regressive and imposes a burden on New Jersey’s families. I believe the tax should provide a rebate for lower-income families.The gas tax legislation also provides little oversight or guidance as to how the revenue from the tax is to be spent. As Governor, I will commit to ensuring that all of the tax collected is used for transportation infrastructure projects. My administration will also frequently assess the positive or negative impacts of these infrastructure projects on our neighborhoods and on the overall economic well-being of the state.In addition, as our economy moves away from fossil fuels, we need to find a better way to fund our transportation projects.
AA: No one has been able to give property tax relief to residents how would you as Governor give property tax relief?
JJ: I have a four-part plan to reduce the property tax burden on families. First, we need to differentiate between commercial and residential properties. Under current law, the property taxes on a $5 million business are the same rate as the property taxes on a $50,000 home. In order to relieve property tax, we need to fix these discrepancies.
Second, as Governor, I will call on towns to enter shared services agreements, which will help municipalities that have duplicative departments save money by using their combined purchasing power to negotiate lower property taxes, resulting in taxpayer savings.
We also need to address the foreclosure crisis in New Jersey. Foreclosures lower the value of all nearby houses in the neighborhood, which thereby reduces the amount in property taxes collected by local governments. Collecting less in property taxes drives local governments to continue to raise the rates to close the gap.
Finally, my administration will help families appeal their property taxes through education and outreach programs. If homes are unfairly valued, homeowners should have a fair chance at appealing their property tax assessment.
AA: You have asked your opponents to limit campaign spending to $15 million any update on that?
JJ: I have pledged to limit my spending by participating in New Jersey’s public financing system because I believe that money in politics is a tremendous problem and greatly damages our democratic process. I hope that my opponents will join me, but one has already declined, which is deeply disappointing. I have been fighting for campaign finance reform for some time, and as the Chair of the Brennan Center for Justice, I was happy to help lead the charge in that fight. As Governor, I will continue to work on the issue by passing legislation that mandates the disclosure of names and employers for all donors to dark money groups.
AA: If elected Governor what are the top three issues that you would take on as Governor?
JJ:First, we need to rebuild New Jersey’s economy. We can do this by investing in infrastructure, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and supporting innovative job sources, like renewable energy. Secondly, my administration will focus on revitalizing our communities by giving relief to those facing foreclosure, protecting our environment and reforming our criminal justice system. Finally, I’ll work to restore trust in our government. We can build trust by enacting ethics reform, like enforcing restrictions on lobbyists, making voting easier and more accessible, and getting big money out of politics.
AA: If you are not victorious in the primary would you run again in 2021?JJ: Throughout my career, I have been dedicated to public service and building coalitions. Whether it was at the Brennan Center for Justice working on voting rights or at New Jersey Communities Forward working to promote fair criminal justice policies, I have always put my community work first. So regardless of victory, I will continue to dedicate my life to public service. Right now, I am focused on the June primary – talking about the issues that New Jersey families face today and presenting my solutions. New Jersey voters are dissatisfied by their political system, so my campaign is working hard to attract people who have checked out of the system but, under the uncertain political circumstances, are checking back in to make their voices heard.
AA: What would you say to the voters on why they should vote for you?
JJ: First, I represent change for New Jersey. As a former prosecutor and Undersecretary for the Treasury, I have the experience to be New Jersey’s next Governor but I am not part of the entrenched political system that favors billionaires and insiders. Secondly, I have been committed to public service throughout my career and believe that all people should have a voice in their government. I am running to put the people ahead of the powerful. Finally, I understand what New Jerseyans need — well-paying jobs, a roof over your head, quality education for your children and a working infrastructure. As Governor, I will work hard to make those needs a reality.