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James Joseph "Jim" Florio (born August 29, 1937) is a Democratic politician who served as the 49th Governor of New Jerseymarker from 1990 to 1994, the first Italian American to hold the position. He also served as a member of the United States House of Representatives for 15 years between 1975 and 1990.

History

Florio was born and raised in Brooklynmarker, New York, where he attended Erasmus Hall High Schoolmarker. He attended Trenton State College (now The College of New Jerseymarker) and received a law degree from Rutgers School of Lawmarker (1967). He was an amateur boxer. He served as an officer in the United States Navy from 1955 to 1958, and afterwards was a reservist until 1975 eventually achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

After being admitted to the bar, Florio became the assistant city attorney for the City of Camdenmarker, a position he would hold until 1971. Florio would also be the borough solicitor for the New Jersey towns of Runnemedemarker, Woodlynnemarker, and Somerdalemarker from 1969 until 1974.

Politics

Florio made his political career in opposition to the allegedly corrupt Democratic Party machine that prevailed in those days in Camden Countymarker, that was headed by Angelo Errichetti. His opposition to this pervasive corruption around him has been suggested as the cause for Florio's comparatively (for a politician) go-it-alone attitude, which would later help to undermine his popularity as Governor.

In 1970, Florio was elected to the first of two terms he would serve in the New Jersey General Assembly, from 1970 to 1974. In 1974, Florio was elected to the United States House of Representatives from New Jersey's 1st congressional district, and served from January 3, 1975 until January 16, 1990.

In Congress, he was best known as the author of the Superfund legislation to clean up the most polluted sites in the country. He was also cosponsor of the Exon-Florio Amendment, which created the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and effectively removed Congress from the approval process on foreign takeovers of US industrial concerns. This legislation was a factor in the Dubai Ports controversy in 2006.

Governorship

While in Congress, he would make three attempts to be elected Governor of New Jersey, in 1977, 1981 and 1989. While Florio's first attempt was unsuccessful (due to the fact that he was running against an incumbent in Brendan Byrne), he did manage to win the Democratic nomination in 1981. Florio lost in a controversial election to Tom Kean, Sr.; the election involvement of the Republican National Committee received significant subsequent attention; the RNC allegedly appointed a Ballot Security Task Force, made up of off-duty police officers, to intimidate prospective voters.

Florio's loss in the 1981 general election was the closest in New Jersey history, and was not decided with certainty until several weeks after Election Day.

He declined to run against Kean in 1985, and in 1989 he finally won both the nomination and the governorship, with 61% of the vote. Florio served a single four-year term as Governor from 1990 to 1994. He supported a substantial tax increase once he gained office, after the perception that he had ruled out tax increases during his campaign.

Within months of his term, Florio signed a 20% reduction of auto insurance premiums.[53107] In May 1990, he enacted the stiffest laws in the U.S. on owning or selling semi-automatic firearms. However in 1993, Florio vetoed a bill the Republican-led legislature introduced, to repeal most of the law. The National Rifle Associationmarker lobbied hard to override the governor's veto, but the Republicans backed down. [53108]

It was also during his term that New Jersey National and Air guard units were deployed for the Persian Gulf War. Florio expanded the New Jersey-Israel Commission, to include tourism during his 1992 trade mission there.

The Florio administration started during the late 1980s recession, and recessions are notorious for overwhelming government budgets. Faced with a projected 1991 deficit of $3 billion, Florio asked for a $2.8 billion tax increase. It was the largest increase of any state in U.S. history. The money generated would balance the budget, increase aid to public schools and increase property tax relief programs. Governor Florio also eliminated 1,500 government jobs and cut perks for state officials.

A grassroots taxpayer revolt sprouted in 1990, spearheaded by a citizens group named "Hands Across New Jersey" founded by John Budzash, a postal worker from Howell Townshipmarker.

Budzash was a frequent guest on radio and television shows throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania speaking out against the new taxes. Florio was a regular topic on active anti-tax broadcasting from talk radio stations New Jersey 101.5marker, Curtis Sliwa's AM Radio Talk Show and Bob Grant's AM Radio Talk show, both based in New York City. Sliwa, Grant and John and Ken from New Jersey 101.5, along with Alan Keyes, who in later years was a Presidential Candidate in the Republican primary, were guest speakers at two rallies held by Hands Across New Jersey protesting both George H. W. Bush and Florio's tax increases. Bumper stickers with "Impeach Florio" and "Florio Free in '93" were seen around the state.

The legislature left the tax hikes largely intact; yet, however, repealed the property tax break.

1993 Election

In 1991, the Democrats lost their majority in the state legislature, for the first time in 20 years. The governor's approval ratings were as low as 18% but stabilized to roughly 50% by 1993. He made an effort for conservative support by making tighter restrictions on welfare payments to mothers and enjoyed the strong support of President Bill Clinton. Clinton advisers James Carville and Paul Begala worked on the campaign.

Due in large part to the tax hikes, Florio lost his bid for re-election to Republican Somerset County freeholder Christine Todd Whitman and became the first governor since the adoption of the state's current constitution in 1947 to lose a re-election vote (although William T. Cahill, who was elected in 1969, was defeated in the Republican primary in 1973). Whitman won by a narrow margin of 26,093 votes out of 2,505,964 votes cast.

Post Governorship

In 2000, Florio ran for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat that was being vacated by Frank Lautenberg. His opponent was businessman Jon Corzine, former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. In the most expensive Senate primary in history, Corzine won with 246,472 votes, or 58%, while Florio had 179,059 votes, or 42%. (Coincidentally, Corzine was later elected governor of New Jersey and like Florio was defeated for re-election.)

Florio served as the Chairman of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission from November 2002 to June 2005. As a congressman in the late 1970s, he was instrumental in shaping the legislation that established the New Jersey Pinelands National Reservemarker.

Florio was a critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq war. In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, he made a connection between the war and Bush's energy policy saying, "the nation's right to know has never been more important".

He and his wife, Lucinda, have been residents of Metuchen, New Jerseymarker.

During the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, Florio supported Hillary Clinton to be Democratic Nominee for President.

Current position

Florio serves on the board of directors of Trump Entertainment Resorts and Plymouth Financial Company, Inc. He is a founding partner and of counsel to the law firm of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader.

He teaches a course each semester at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers Universitymarker.

References

External links

National Governors Association


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