The upcoming election is about the future of New Jersey's middle class, and whether we move forward with the progress we have made in job creation and greater opportunities for everyone.
I want to keep moving forward. That's why I ask the people of New Jersey to send me back to the U.S. Senate.
A few years ago, the Bush administration's failed economic policies drove our nation into its worst economy since the Great Depression. We're still restoring our economy, but we have made progress. Through the Recovery Act I proudly supported, more than $5 billion in federal funding was provided to New Jersey, and it created or saved 100,000 jobs.
I sponsored legislation that brought $52 million in tax credits to 133 biotechnology firms in New Jersey - supporting jobs as well as medical advancements.
The Atlantic City Fire Department received $9.7 million that I helped secure to keep firefighters working.
The $63 billion Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill I supported protects jobs at the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township. The same legislation provides $11 billion to implement NextGen, the FAA's effort to modernize our air traffic control system. The research for the multi-year project is being conducted at the Hughes tech center.
To protect tourism and fishermen, I fought a GOP proposal that would allow drilling off the Jersey Shore. I'm pushing federal authorities to invest in better science and to work with fishermen to make more accurate assessments of fish stocks in order to keep them working.
And I will continue supporting programs to create more jobs in education, law enforcement, renewable energy, and small businesses.
We're moving in the right direction in health care reform, too. I fought for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which is already making a difference in New Jersey.
Now, more than 133,000 New Jersey seniors have greater Medicare prescription drug coverage, and more than 985,000 New Jerseyans with Medicare received free preventive services or a free annual wellness doctor visit. In addition, 73,000 young people in New Jersey are covered through their parents' coverage until they turn 26.
Despite its benefits to New Jerseyans, my opponent supports repealing the Affordable Care Act. He would rather go back to allowing insurance companies to deny a person coverage due to a pre-existing condition or lack of ability to pay. That is simply out of touch with the people of New Jersey, but it's what we can expect from my opponent.
Today, more women than ever have become their families' breadwinners. Yet, when my opponent had the chance to vote in support of pay equity for women, he walked out of the room.
Women need preventive health care, but my opponent voted six times in the last three years against state funding that would provide women access to those services.
As a senator, I voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment, and will always uphold women's reproductive rights. New Jersey's women will be able to count on me to fight for them.
It's just another example of the choice voters have in this election. It is a choice between women continuing forward on the path to greater equality or throwing away decades of progress. It is a choice between working to expand Pell Grants and keeping student loan interest rates from doubling - or holding students' futures hostage for the sake of political agendas. It is a choice between working for a fair tax system, or continuing to allow the middle class to pay a disproportionate amount of taxes to fund tax breaks for America's wealthiest people and subsidies for big oil companies.
My opponent spent more than 24 years in Trenton voting against the needs of the middle class and upholding the interests of the state's wealthiest residents. But the issues most important to the middle class are very real to me because of my own life experience.
My parents immigrated to this nation and worked hard to raise their children. My father was an itinerant carpenter, and my mother was a factory seamstress. Home was a small tenement apartment in Union City. I was the first in my family to graduate from college, with the help of federal financial aid programs, as well as a solid public education and a loving family.
I fight for the middle class because I am of the middle class. Count on me to continue that fight in the Senate.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, of North Bergen, is a Democrat.