TOMS RIVER – Congressman Andy Kim (D-3) spoke with mayors and government officials about the importance of infrastructure projects, the joint base, and small businesses, and how to approach them in a bipartisan way.
The congressman has been holding town halls in his district, which encompasses parts of Ocean and Burlington counties, since he took office. He currently has a local office in the basement of the Toms River municipal building.
He was invited to speak to the Ocean County Mayors Association at their regular meeting. He told them his role representing the area was not to be a “partisan knife fighter or name caller,” but to reach across the aisle to make real changes. He also said he wasn’t getting into debates in the capital about changing everything, but instead has been looking for more realistic goals where people can feel immediate improvement.
He gave a brief speech and then there was a period for questions.
Washington is finally getting on board with upgrading infrastructure, Kim said, which is critical because New Jersey was rated a D+ in that category, and the state’s access to clean water was rated C. He was referring to a 2016 assessment by the New Jersey Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Several local officials had concerns about construction projects. South Toms River business administrator Joseph Kostecki discussed the red tape that costs towns time and money when it came to contracts. Freeholder Director Virginia Haines expressed the need for an overpass – or underpass depending on how you look at it – on route 539 for military base traffic. Freeholder Joseph Vicari spoke about keeping contractors local.
Steve Doyle, mayor of Island Heights, asked Kim’s opinion of the Mueller investigation of Russia’s impact on the 2016 presidential election.
Kim said that during his town halls in different communities, that issue doesn’t get brought up.
“Congress has a role in oversight, of course,” but that shouldn’t be the only thing they are focused on, he said. Lawmakers need to keep making laws instead of focusing only on that.
He’s not on any committee that directly impacts the investigation, he said.
John Novak, a committeeman in Barnegat, asked about how to get the SALT deduction back.
Previously, homeowners could deduct State and Local Taxes from their taxable income. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 capped this. Kim’s predecessor, Tom MacArthur, was the lone Republican in New Jersey that voted for this act, and some say it cost him the election.
“It was devastating to a lot of communities,” Kim said. “There’s no easy way to put it: we got screwed on that one. The cuts that the wealthiest are getting is coming down on our backs and that’s what really pisses me off.”
Currently, there is a bill going through the Ways and Means Committee that would reinstate it, he said. “We think we’ll get it past the House, but nothing from the House is getting a minute’s attention from the Senate.”
When asked what was the biggest threat to national security, Kim noted North Korea and Iran’s nuclear aspirations but said China will be the defining question of the next 25-50 years.
The nation is investing in defense, stealing and hacking information from people and business, and have a general acceptance of terrorism and human rights violations, he said.