Different vision: Polistina questions high costs of housing, education, clean energy and health care

State Sen. Vince Polistina was supposed to give the welcome address Wednesday morning at the ReNew Jersey Business Summit & Expo — it’s a somewhat ceremonial role annually given to a local politician.

Polistina (R- Egg Harbor Twp./Atlantic City) went off script.

Following the theme and purpose of the ReNew Summit, now in its third year, Polistina offered frank commentary on the issues that impact the state. His thoughts on affordable housing, the funding of education, property taxes, clean energy initiatives and the cost of health insurance for businesses were not so much inflammatory as they were inquisitive — which was the purpose of the event.

“I bring a different perspective,” he said.

A recap:

  • Affordable housing: Polistina noted that, for 50 years, municipalities have not been able to zone to exclude affordable housing. “That is the premise,” he said. “Fifty years we’ve been at it and, for 50 years, it hasn’t worked. We see a state this is more unaffordable year after year. We have to take a step back and say: ‘We will never make New Jersey more affordable by subsidizing separate units. It’s not going to happen.’”
  • Education spending: Polistina noted the state Department of Education estimates it should cost $145 million to educate the students in Atlantic City. Last year, he said, the city spent $227 million. “You want to get property taxes under control, you got to start by properly funding the education system,” he said. “You’ve got to make it fair; you’ve got to make it equitable for every child, regardless of ZIP code, regardless of background. And, if we do those types of things from an affordability standpoint, all the sudden we change the dynamic for the state of New Jersey.”
  • Offshore wind/clean energy: Polistina disputed the idea that Republicans are the biggest opponent of offshore wind energy. “You’ll never see a statement where we oppose offshore wind,” he said. In reality, he said, “It’s about asking questions — such as, ‘What is the total project cost?’ or, ‘What is the environmental impact?’” Polistina said he can’t get any specific answers.
  • Health care costs: Polistina said health care costs have had the biggest impact on his small business (engineering) over the past 20 years. “It’s an impact that is going to cripple business as we go forward,” he said. “And you’re sure to think to yourself, ‘What is going on?’ It’s wonderful to do things like Anchor, which are great for families, but we never really look at these underlying causes. What is driving this health care situation in the state? I don’t know, but we need to build consensus with the business community, with our providers, with legislators on both sides — we really need to start looking at what is driving the increased in costs all the time.”

Polistina said New Jersey needs to find a new path forward.

“If we can work together to build consensus, regardless of who you are and where you’re from, then we can really improve the business situation in this state,” he said.

“We can give people more opportunity. We can give them the ability to stay here, work here, raise their families here, retire here. That’s what it was all about.”