It’s always hard to sum up a 22-year career, let alone one in the General Assembly.
But certainly some of Roberts’ most high profile achievements came as Speaker. Most recently when he pushed for autism legislation that requires insurers to cover early screenings, the second was instituting a permanent source of funding for those popular property tax rebates ( since scaled back, btw…harumph ).
At a Statehouse news conference, Roberts played down the latter achievement which came about after the 2006 government shutdown. I am not going to rehash all the details, but the long and short of it is a first-year-in-office Governor Corzine wanted to raise the sales tax by a cent. Roberts wanted the money to go to property tax relief. That issue had reached a fever picth within the electorate, and Roberts astutely calculated that any extra money must go to rebates before he ( as newly elected Speaker ) could reasonably do anything else with it.
What the experts have said is that rebates are a bit of a gimick. That’s true. But absent a complete restructuring of the state’s system of government, it’s kinda the only option we have. Roberts acknowledges that by calling the rebates a “flawed mechanism.”
But I would actually give him a little more credit than perhaps he is even giving himself. After all, the showdown in 2006 led to a compromise which established the first permanent source of funding for those rebates. that was Roberts. The Governor and he have shared the credit since then, but the Executive branch wasn’t pushing for that money to be used for property tax bill offsets.
The next interseting question is who will take Roberts’ place. The usual considerations are out there – geography, gender and race. Roberts candidly explained why South Jersey Democrats need to stick together to eke out a hold on some key posts in state government. That is because there are full delegations from places like Essex and Hudson counties who fight for their common interest in the legislature. ( Actually, that is somewhat lauaghable when we talk about Hudson being united, but you get the idea ).
So, it comes down to who will get what. Bonnie watson Coleman, Joe Cryan and John Wisniewski wanna be speaker. I even heard Nellie Pou’s named mentioned in all of this. If South Jersey”s Senator Stephen Sweeney challenges Dick Codey for the leadership position in the Senate this fall and wins ( and btw – that is by no means certain ) then should the Assembly Speaker be from the north? That is a serious consideration.
Watson Coleman and Wisnewski are kinda both from Central J. Cryan is from up north. I asked watson Coleman if her being a woman of color would give her a leg up…and she wouldn’t go there. But others did on her behalf.
Hard to say what Wisniewski’s chances are, and Cryan’s fate could well rest within his current job as DSC Chair trying hard to get the Governor re-elected. In otherw ords if he wins, he gets it. But someone also suggested to me that even if Cryan loses, he might be the preferred guy to take on Christie as the Dem leader in the Assembly.
Poor Guv. What a pickle. if I were him I’d stay far away from this.
So, there is still quite a bit to be figured out in the convoluted universe of the Statehouse.