Assemblyman Vincent Prieto’s rise to the top of state Democratic politics has been steady since his arrival on the scene in 2004, and will culminate early next year when he takes the mantle as the next Assembly speaker.
Following the recent elections, Prieto, of Secaucus, was chosen by Assembly Democratic Majority to serve in that post starting Jan. 14, when the body reorganizes.
Prieto will become the 215th Assembly speaker. He also serves full-time as the Secaucus construction code official.
He will preside over the 80-member General Assembly, where the Democrats have held the majority since 2002.
“I am humbled and honored to receive the support of the Assembly Democratic majority,” Prieto said. “As Democrats, we stand tall for a strong middle-class, protecting our most vulnerable, creating jobs, providing a quality education for all and property tax relief. We have made great strides, but more work always remains and new challenges will arise.”
"I would like to congratulate my close friend and running mate Vincent Prieto on being voted as the next Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, one of the most powerful and influential positions in our state,” said State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-32) of North Bergen, also that township’s mayor. “Vinny has always stood side by side with me to fight for Democratic values and for the residents of the 32nd District, and I am excited to see him bring that same determination to work for the middle class to a higher level.”
Prieto was first sworn into the New Jersey General Assembly in 2004. He previously had chaired the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee, and was Deputy Majority Whip from 2006 to 2011. He became chairman of the powerful Assembly Budget Committee last year.
Prieto will be joined in leadership by Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington), of Voorhees, who will return as Assembly Majority Leader.
“This is a strong leadership team that will build upon the great accomplishments of the Assembly Democratic majority,” Prieto said. “We know we still have more work to do to make New Jersey more affordable for hard-working families struggling under a crushing property tax burden, high unemployment, and difficulties such as soaring higher education costs.”
Prieto represents the 32nd Legislative District, which includes the Hudson County municipalities of East Newark, Guttenberg, Harrison, Kearny, North Bergen, Secaucus, and West New York, as well as two Bergen County towns.
Always active, Prieto can regularly be seen around Hudson – and the state – whether it be at a dedication for new affordable housing, at political fundraisers or victory parties, or in Trenton, advocating for epilepsy awareness.
About an hour and a half after the polls closed on election night, Prieto had already reviewed his vote tallies, attended the victory celebration for Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli and his ticket, was working his cell phone in the hotel lobby, and then was on his way to his next destination.
Tax relief success
Prieto and his 32nd District fellow legislators, Sacco and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez of West New York, have been credited by Mayor Gonnelli with helping to forge the stopgap measure that gave tax relief this year to some of the communities that are part of the Meadowlands’ Inter-Municipal Tax-Sharing Program.
“Throughout my tenure in the Assembly, and as the budget chairman, I have always made sure to look out for the most vulnerable residents of New Jersey,” Prieto said last month. “Recently, I was able to produce substantial tax relief for North Bergen and Secaucus by finally reforming the Meadowlands Tax Sharing system to stop unfairly hurting the ‘sending’ municipalities.”
Created by state statute, the program incorporates the 14 municipalities that make up the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission district. Seven of the participating towns with higher concentrations of development pay into the program, while the remaining ones with more open space receive funding. It has been the paying communities’ contention that the formula is antiquated and not equitable to their towns. Negotiations are under way for a permanent solution.
Prieto was also one of the legislators calling for increased oversight of jitneys and other commuter buses during the summer after the death of an 8-month-old North Bergen girl, killed in West New York on July 30 by a falling pole that had been struck by a driver allegedly texting.
Goals of next term
Prieto, who won handily on Nov. 5, garnering 18,000 votes to his two Republican Assembly opponents’ approximately 7,000 each, said there are several reasons he was running again and several goals he had during his next term.
One of them was to continue to advance the causes of his home county.
“[I am] a member of the legislative leadership team that helps shape the state’s policy agenda,” he said before the election. “This is a valuable asset for Hudson County and I am proud to give our communities a voice in the highest chambers of government. I will continue to use my influence to back policies that help improve the economy, support public education, and reduce middle class taxes here in Hudson.”
Restoring property tax rebates for seniors is another of his goals during the next legislative session, he said.
Prieto will succeed Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic), who served as Speaker since 2010.
Born in Cuba, Prieto moved to the United States when he was 10. He will be the second Cuban- American to serve in the leadership post, following current U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-Hudson), who served as Speaker from 2002 to 2005.
Education & cooperation
Prieto received his certification in construction code technology from Middlesex County College and his certification in fire code technology from Bergen County Community College. He and his wife, Marlene, have two children.
“I’m committed to using my new position as leader of the People’s House to be a strong advocate for our working families,” Prieto said. “Democrats and Republicans alike must put aside any differences we have to work together for the greater good, and that will be my goal.”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.