Jim Florio, former New Jersey governor, dies at 85


Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement that the state’s environmental movement had lost a “titan.”

“Governor Florio never stopped working to conserve our beautiful state for future generations, and we will miss his wise advice and advocacy,” Potosnak Executive Director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “We were proud to work with him on legislative initiatives to demand clean air, safe drinking water, and to protect open space in New Jersey.”

In 1993, Florio was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, celebrating his role in passing what are largely regarded as the strictest gun control measures in the nation.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum wrote of Florio’s efforts: “Despite legislative attempts to override his vetoes and tireless efforts by gun lobbyists, who spent nearly one million dollars to defeat the assault weapon ban, Governor Florio succeeded in mobilizing the people of New Jersey into an unprecedented counter force against the National Rifle Association and in support of the ban, demonstrating, as Florio said, that ‘the state of New Jersey will not be held hostage by the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association.’”

The JFK Library also credited Florio for his work that “swiftly and boldly restructured the state’s income tax system that previously had millionaires paying the same top rate as the middle-class, and reformed an unconstitutional school finance system that relied heavily on unjust property tax assessments which had increased 12-14% every year in the 1980s.”

The tax restructuring, focused on increasing taxes for individuals who made more than $100,000 per year, helped finance $1 billion in additional funds for public education under the Quality Education Act of 1990.

U.S. Rep Bill Pascrell Jr., on Twitter Monday, described Florio as “a good man, an inspiring leader, and a picture of perseverance.”

“He had a lot of big wins, some tough losses, and always bounced back always to help New Jersey be even better,” Pascrell wrote. “Jim was my good friend. The whole state is poorer without him today.”

Florio lived in Metuchen for the last quarter-century of his life. That community’s mayor, Jonathan B. Busch, said he studied Florio’s decisions for years, “struck by the boldness of his character.”

He quoted Florio: “The first thing I learned as governor is that you can’t please everybody. The second thing I learned is, some days, you can’t please anybody.”

Former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said on Twitter that he spoke often to Florio, and frequently found his advice helpful. They disagreed philosophically on the role of government, Christie wrote, but their conversations were always respectful.

Whitman, the Republican who defeated Florio in the 1993 race, praised her former opponent for holding to his convictions.

“Jim Florio was a patriot who put principles first,” she wrote on Twitter.

After his governorship, Florio unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Frank Lautenberg, ultimately beaten by future Gov. Jon Corzine. Florio was chairman of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission from 2002 to 2005.

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