Last November, with my grandson by my side, I had the honor of being sworn in as your congressman. Since then, I have interacted with hundreds of residents from every corner of South Jersey. It is absolutely clear that creating jobs and economic opportunities for our region is overwhelmingly their top priority, and I am committed to do all I can to ensure that South Jersey’s voice is heard in Washington.
Equally clear is people’s growing frustration with Congress. Nonstop gamesmanship and negativity is standing in the way of our progress. As your congressman, I vow to do my part to break free of the partisan divide that’s holding us back.
Nothing is possible without bipartisan, results-driven action. This is how I operated every day during my time in the state Legislature, and frankly it is what people expect and deserve from their public officials. Just last month, a bipartisan bill I authored while in the state Senate was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, and as a result veterans and their families will receive in-state tuition at New Jersey’s public colleges, regardless of where they live.
Titled the New Jersey Tuition Equality for America’s Military Act, the measure extends federal law requiring in-state tuition rates for recent veterans and their families. While the federal law only covers veterans for three years after their military discharge, the law I authored extends in-state tuition to all veterans, their spouses and dependents — regardless of the veteran’s date of discharge.
Therefore, any veteran or covered individual attending a New Jersey public college or university while living in state will be considered a resident for tuition purposes, irrespective of their state of residence, regardless of where the student is from originally. For a student attending Rutgers–Camden, the savings can be as high as $14,000.
But far from a handout, this is about doing what’s right for those who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.
The new law is not only a win for veterans and their families, but it will aid our local economy by attracting more students to our colleges. Our nation is home to over 21 million veterans, 12 percent of whom served after the attacks on 9/11. By making New Jersey’s schools more affordable, we will boost enrollment and provide veterans with some much-needed relief on their student loan debt.
As it stands today, student loans are the largest source of debt on American families. While we work to make college more affordable, it is only fitting that we provide our veterans with some assistance since more often than not they are forced to put their education aside to defend our country.
I am proud of the strides we made in the state legislature to deliver bipartisan solutions for local veterans. Whether it’s the NJTEAM Act or a bill I championed allowing local governments to offer contracting opportunities to veteran-owned or staffed businesses, we came together to stand up for those who stood up for us.
Unfortunately, Congress has not embraced this type of bipartisanship just yet. Last month the House Budget Committee rejected an amendment I fought for that would have provided additional resources to improve access to veterans’ health care and benefits. This modest proposal, like every other one offered by any Democratic member of Congress, was rejected by the majority party regardless of the merits.
When providing care for our veterans takes a backseat to partisan politics, we know we have work to do, but that’s why I ran and why I am proud to serve. As your congressman and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will continue reaching across the aisle to find real solutions for South Jersey’s families and veterans, because it worked in New Jersey and it’s what our veterans deserve.