by Paul Mullin
Issues in the upcoming N.J. Legislative Elections, including property taxes, the state budget and political corruption throughout the state were the focus of a student debate Thursday.
The Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University sponsored the face-off between college Democrats and Republicans in Sweigart Hall Auditorium.
Representing the Democrats were seniors Jamie Papapetros, president of the Rider University Democrats and opinion editor of The Rider News and Charles Burton, vice president of the University Democrats. On the Republican side was junior Kyle Battaglia, who completed the debate alone because his scheduled partner was unable to attend.
The two sides were noticeably at odds concerning monetary issues, especially the budget, which Battaglia said has made it impossible to move forward with new programs.
“We cannot continually focus on new programs and new services when we can’t even pay off the obligations we already have,” he said.
New Jersey is currently more than $33 billion in debt, with $17 billion of that amount incurred in just the last six years.
“If we can’t cut spending, the future is looking really poor,” said Burton.
On the issues of stem cell research and college funding, Battaglia said he would be all for measures promoting these areas if the state was not in such dire financial straits.
“We need to get off this spending track,” he said. “We need to have an affordability agenda for now and for the future.”
As a solution, Burton mentioned a “pay as you go” borrowing plan that would mandate the state to pay off existing loans before borrowing more money.
“We are in dire straits financially and need to employ new ideas,” Burton said.
Also a hot topic of the debate was the political corruption the state is known for.
A solution both sides agreed on was an end to dual-office holding, where politicians can serve in two positions and collect both pensions, which
“breaks the system down, totally and completely,” Papapetros said.
“Voters go to the polling booth and pull the lever expecting these leaders to represent them fairly and honestly, and it’s time that we lived up to our side of the bargain,” he said.
The debaters also touched on the subject of student voting, especially on the collegiate level, and commented on the college generation’s political involvement in the last several years.
“I think we have a great start, but we can do even more,” said Burton. “I think it’s up to educators and local leaders to get out there and encourage people.”
Papapetros emphasized the need for young people to vote and fight against the stereotype that these issues are not a college student’s concern.
“It’s important for us to go out and vote and show political leaders that we care,” he said. “The only way we are going to be able to hold our leaders accountable, and the only way they will listen to us, is if we go out and vote.”