Good afternoon, everybody. I'm glad to be here. The last time I was near the "burg," I was on a train and I was hungry and I had a great horseshoe made out of bread delivered to me at the train station from the "burg," and I do appreciate the good food and the expression of friendship.
I understand this is the home of some of the greatest pizzas in the world. Or as we say in Italian, tomato pies. [Laughter]
And also, of course, this great city of Trenton is the home of a President who was an inspiration to me and to many others. As you know, Woodrow Wilson lived for a while and practiced law in Georgia, and he began his own political career at a rally and an endorsement back there at the old Taylor Opera House, which I understand is now a parking lot. And I hate to say that Plains, my hometown, is becoming a parking lot as well. But I think there's a lot that ties us together. My own family came to this country, my ancestor, as an indentured servant.
I was talking to Brendan Byrne on the way here from Newark this morning, and his parents arrived about 100 years ago. One of his grandfathers worked in the Stetson Hat Company. Another one was a caretaker and a gardener who worked for the wealthy people in the Orange area. And I know many of you and your families have come here from other European countries. This is a sign of two things: One, the strength of our Nation depends upon this diversification, the fact that we are different. We are proud of the differences that exist between us, but we all fit in together to comprise Americans. And that's what makes us have the greatest nation on Earth.
I've done a lot of campaigning in the last couple of years. And as I came down the street behind me and shook hands, I noticed a special thing. Quite often everybody rushes forward and reaches out to grab my hand. But down the street behind me, I noticed that almost every parent stepped back and pushed their little child forward to reach out and shake the President's hand, and I think that's a good sign.
The first time I heard of Brendan Byrne was a little more than 4 years ago. I was Governor of Georgia in 1973, and I began to hear radio programs and see on television about a man from New Jersey that couldn't be bought. And I became interested in him. And I came up to help him raise money and to help him plan his campaign for Governor of your State.
There is a characteristic about politicians that's important, and Brendan Byrne has these characteristics. One is courage. Now, I know that one of the most unpopular things that a Governor can do is to change the tax program of a State. This change was made because of the courage of Brendan Byrne.
I think this is becoming recognized, as the months go by, as an unpopular step at the beginning, but as people get more and more acquainted with the consequences and results of the income tax, they begin to like it more and more.
Mayor Holland just told me that it had been possible for him to lower property taxes in Trenton more than 40 percent. Another thing that I've learned is that retired families have an average property tax rebate of $240 a year.
This kind of tax change is good for both the poor people, the retired people, but primarily for the working people of New Jersey. Eighty-five percent of the retired citizens of New Jersey pay zero State taxes, and at the same time, you've been able to add to better schools for your children more than $500 million. So, what turned out at first to be an unpopular and a courageous decision is now beginning to be known as the proper thing to do.
I'd like to make one other comment about that. When you come down to a choice between high property taxes on the one hand, high sales taxes on the one hand, and the richer people in the State begin to pay their share of taxes, the choice for working families is very clear. And that choice is that Brendan Byrne, with the help of many of you, did the right thing last year.
I'm also glad to see this community restore--I believe last year--your celebration of the Festival of Lights. It's important for us to preserve not only our family heritage in countries in Europe and other places but, also, the commitment that we have to our own religions.
This is a festival that started more than 150 years ago. But I want to be sure that 100 years from now we still preserve these fine attributes that remind us of our backgrounds, our present and, also, our future. It ties us together, it's an enlightening thing, and also, I have understanding, at least in the "burg" it's a very enjoyable thing, because you have a festival every night for a week.
I'd like to comment on a couple of other things quite frankly with you. The first time I came to New Jersey to campaign, I have to tell you in complete frankness, that there was not a very good, hopeful spirit about the future. We have seen in the last 4 years some very quiet but very significant changes take place in your own life.
When Brendan Byrne became Governor of New Jersey, New Jersey ranked 49th in the amount of your Federal tax money that came back to your State for better education, better housing, better transportation, better law enforcement, and other programs that help your families--49th. Even when we had a Republican administration, there was great progress made with Frank 'Thompson, other members of the congressional delegation working with Brendan Byrne.
And now, New Jersey ranks 34th in getting back your tax money that you paid that formerly went to other States. Well, I don't want him to go too far with this, but I wanted to point out that he's gone a long way already in making sure that you are treated fairly.
I want to make another point, too. There have been some great new changes made that pay rich dividends and are going to pay more in the future. In many parts of the country, even including my own capital city in Georgia of Atlanta, we have not been very successful in bringing in professional sports. But there's not a better sports center in the whole Nation than the New Jersey sports complex that is now operating for your enjoyment and pleasure and pride, established by Brendan Byrne.
You've already shown, again, that New Jersey can be the State of champions. I just met Jersey Joe Walcott right behind me, who's a great champion and whom I admire.
I've observed very closely in recent months the decision that has been made to revitalize Atlantic City. There was a time, when I was a young man, when Atlantic City was looked upon as one of the finest, most beautiful, most progressive, most enjoyable places in the Nation to go. But it began to go downhill. But now, I think, with the new laws that have been passed, Atlantic City can be revived.
But there's a danger there, because we don't want to see the prospective recreation facilities, including gambling, being used to support illegal activities or leading to government corruption. And if there's one person in this country that I know can stand firm against the pressures of corruption and guarantee honesty and integrity in the future operations in Atlantic City, it's Brendan Byrne. And I know you agree with me about that, too.
Another thing that concerns me very much as President is the very high unemployment rate. In the last 4 years, in New Jersey, the unemployment rate has been reduced 25 percent. We've had more housing programs come into your State than we did in the 8 years gone by. And I just came from a medical center in Newark where, because of the good preventive health care that's now coming to New Jersey, the infant mortality rate has been reduced more than 50 percent, cancer deaths have been reduced more than 50 percent, and tuberculosis deaths have
been reduced more than 60 percent, just in the last 10 years.
So, in many ways, including environmental quality, health care, law enforcement, progress for education, pride, recreation, the Brendan Byrne administration has done you a good job.
One other point I'd like to make is this: It's very difficult for a politician to come from nowhere and to win an election.
This first time I heard about Brendan Byrne, he had never run for office before. He was given very little chance to win. But as you know, 4 years ago, he was elected Governor with your help. Earlier this year, because of the unpopularity of the income tax law, particularly, Brendan Byrne was given practically no chance to win the Democratic primary. Well, he's a fighter. He's slow in bragging about himself, but he believes in you and you have never betrayed his confidence.
And something that I cannot say about myself that I can say about Brendan Byrne is that he's never lost an election yet. [Laughter]
The last thing I want to say is this, about this good man: He's a personal friend of mine. I know him. I've visited him in his home. His wife, Jean, and my wife, Rosalynn, are good friends.
And I believe that it's important to you as a State that does have economic problems, a State that does have a new lease on life, a State that does now have strict controls over elections, openness in dealing with your own government, a good relationship between administrators and employees in State government, one that's struggling for better transportation, housing, health care, and education, to keep a good administrator in office.
As you well know, just a few months ago when New York City across the river couldn't sell its own bonds, there was a great outpouring of surprise when the
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bonds for the sports complex sold so easily at such a low rate of interest. And that's because of sound fiscal management.
Compared to the Republican administrations before him, the rate of increase in government spending has been cut in half. And although New Jersey has the highest population density of any State in this Nation, you have the lowest number of State employees per capita of any State in the country.
So, I think in almost every way you're getting a good bargain out of Brendan Byrne. And I want to be sure that when the election comes in November, that he gets a good bargain from you and your help and that New Jersey benefits all around with a partnership that's paid off so far and, I believe, is going to pay off even more in the future.
Thank you very much. I'm proud to be with you, and I'm proud of you.