James Florio

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

Jim Florio
Florio c. 2006
49th Governor of New Jersey
In office
January 16, 1990 – January 18, 1994
Preceded byThomas Kean
Succeeded byChristine Todd Whitman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 16, 1990
Preceded byJohn E. Hunt
Succeeded byRob Andrews
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
In office
January 13, 1970 – January 3, 1975
Serving with John J. Horn (1970–1974)
Ernest F. Schuck (1974–1975)
Preceded byLee B. Laskin
Succeeded byRonald Casella
ConstituencyDistrict 3D (1970–1974)
5th district (1974–1975)
Personal details
James Joseph Florio

(1937-08-29) August 29, 1937 (age 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Maryanne Spaeth
(m. 1960; div. 1985)

Lucinda Coleman
(m. 1988)
EducationThe College of New Jersey (BA)
Rutgers University–Camden (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1955–1975
RankUS Navy O5 infobox.svg Lieutenant Commander

Early lifeEdit

Florio was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His father was of Italian descent and his mother was of Scottish, Irish, and German descent.[1] In Brooklyn, he attended Erasmus Hall High School.[2]

He attended Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) and received a J.D. degree from Rutgers School of Law–Camden (1967). He was an amateur boxer. He served as an enlisted man 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 Camden, a position he would hold until 1971. He was the borough solicitor for the New Jersey towns of Runnemede, Woodlynne, and Somerdale from 1969–1974.


In both 1969 and 1971, Florio was elected to represent the 3rd Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly, covering portions of Camden County, each time with Democratic running mate John J. Horn, whom Florio had served as a legislative aide while he was still in law school.[3][4] He was elected in 1973, together with Ernest F. Schuck, to represent the 5th Legislative District in the General Assembly, which covered portions of Camden County and Gloucester County; Florio resigned in 1975 to take a seat in Congress.[5]

In November 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 the author of the Railroad Deregulation Law which saved the nation's freight railroads, including Conrail. 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 World controversy in 2006.


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 (partly due to the fact that he was running against an incumbent in Brendan Byrne), he did manage to win the Democratic nomination in 1981. He 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.[6][7][8]

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 the 1989 New Jersey gubernatorial election he finally won both the nomination and the election. During his campaign, Florio said "You can write this statement down: 'Florio feels there is no need for new taxes.'" Florio won the election over Republican Jim Courter with 61% of the vote.[9]

The Florio administration started during the late 1980s recession and thus faced a budget deficit, and Florio had his own desires to increase education aid to New Jersey's low-wealth school districts. Faced with a projected 1991 deficit of $3 billion, Florio asked for a $2.8 billion tax increase, most in the way of a sales tax increase and an increase in the state excise taxes on various goods. It was the largest increase of any state in U.S. history.[10] The money generated would balance the budget, increase property tax relief programs, and increase education spending in the Abbott districts. Governor Florio also eliminated 1,500 government jobs and cut perks for state officials.[11]

Florio also redistributed hundreds of millions of dollars of school aid to urban (see the Abbott case) and rural districts away from suburban districts. Under Florio's plan, known as the Quality Education Act, 151 suburban districts would lose almost all of their education funding and have to assume pension costs, Social Security payments, and retiree health costs; another 71 districts would have large reductions in aid and have to assume smaller portions of retiree benefits; and about 350 districts would see increases in aid. The aid cuts fell the most heavily in northern NJ, especially Bergen County, West Essex, East Morris, Union counties and on the Jersey Shore.[12]

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 Township. 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 101.5 to 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.[13]

Prior to the 1991 "mid-terms" for NJ, Democrats held majorities in both the NJ Assembly and the State Senate. But voter anger was so great that after the 1991 election, Republicans were to win veto-proof majorities in both Houses. An example of Republican strength at this time was their promise to rollback the sales tax, which was raised by one percentage point during the first two years of the Florio administration. The rollback was passed in both Houses, only to be vetoed by Florio. Republicans then overrode Florio's veto and the rollback was passed.

In order to pay for the increased aid in rural and urban districts and maintain suburban school aid, Florio and the legislature passed the "Pension Reevaluation Act." The Pension Reevaluation Act changed the actuarial calculations used to calculate the State's pension contributions, from using the book value of pension assets, a more conservative approach, to a market-related value, and increased the assumed rate of return for investments from 7 percent to 8.75 percent. The Pension Reevaluation Act reduced New Jersey's pension contributions by $1.5 billion in 1992 and 1993 alone.[9]

Florio also signed a 20% reduction of auto insurance premiums.[14] 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 Association lobbied hard to override the governor's veto, but the Republicans backed down.[15]

1993 electionEdit

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 Democratic Governor since the adoption of the state's current constitution in 1947 to lose a re-election vote. Republican William T. Cahill, elected in 1969, became the first Governor to lose reelection when he was defeated in the Republican primary in 1973.[16] Whitman won by a narrow margin of 26,093 votes out of 2,505,964 votes cast.

Cabinet and administrationEdit

The Florio Cabinet[17]
GovernorJames FlorioJanuary 16, 1990 – January 18, 1994
Secretary of AgricultureArthur R. Brown Jr.July 1, 1982 – January 15, 2002
Attorney GeneralRobert Del TufoJanuary 16, 1990 – August 24, 1993
Frederick P. DeVesaAugust 25, 1993 – January 18, 1994
Commissioner of BankingRobert M. JaworskiJanuary 16, 1990 – April 9, 1990
Geoffrey M. ConnorApril 9, 1990 – January 18, 1994
Commissioner of Commerce and Economic DevelopmentGeorge M. ZoffingerMarch 14, 1990 – December 13, 1991
Barbara McConnellDecember 13, 1991 – January 18, 1994
Commissioner of Community AffairsRandy PrimasJanuary 18, 1990 – September 18, 1992
Stephanie R. BushSeptember 22, 1992 – January 18, 1994
Commissioner of CorrectionsWilliam H. FauverJune 15, 1978 – December 31, 1997
Commissioner of EducationSaul CoopermanJuly 7, 1982 – June 30, 1990
John EllisJuly 3, 1990 – December 31, 1992
Mary Lee FitzgeraldJanuary 4, 1993 – January 18, 1994
Commissioner of Environmental ProtectionJudith A. YaskinJanuary 18, 1990 – February 15, 1991
Scott A. WeinerFebruary 15, 1991 – July 31, 1993
Jeanne FoxAugust 1, 1993 – January 18, 1994
Commissioner of HealthFrances J. DunstonApril 2, 1990 – October 15, 1992
Bruce SiegelOctober 16, 1992 – January 18, 1994
Chancellor of Higher EducationT. Edward HollinderAugust 9, 1977 – June 30, 1990
Edward D. GoldbergJuly 1, 1990 – June 30, 1994
Commissioner of Human ServicesWilliam WaldmanSeptember 8, 1989 – March 26, 1990
Alan J. GibbsMarch 26, 1990 – November 30, 1992
William WaldmanDecember 1, 1992 – June 30, 1998
Commissioner of InsuranceJasper J. JacksonJanuary 16, 1990 – April 9, 1990
Samuel F. FortunatoApril 9, 1990 – July 6, 1994
Commissioner of Labor and Workforce
Raymond L. BramucciJanuary 17, 1990 – January 18, 1994
Adjutant GeneralMajor General Francis R. GerardFebruary 10, 1982 – April 9, 1990
Major General Vito MorganoApril 9, 1990 – April 4, 1994
Personnel CommissionerAndrew WeberJanuary 18, 1990 – October 12, 1990
William G. ScheuerOctober 12, 1990 – January 15, 1992
Anthony J. CiminoJanuary 15, 1992 – January 18, 1994
Public AdvocateThomas S. SmithJanuary 16, 1990 – April 9, 1990 (acting)
Wilfredo CaraballoApril 9, 1990 – July 31, 1992
Zulima FarberAugust 18, 1992 – January 18, 1994
Secretary of StateJoan M. HaberleJanuary 16, 1990 – January 31, 1992
Daniel DaltonJanuary 31, 1992 – January 18, 1994
Commissioner of TransportationRobert A. InnocenziJuly 7, 1989 – March 26, 1990 (acting)
Thomas M. DownsMarch 26, 1990 – December 6, 1993
Kathy A. StanwickDecember 7, 1993 – December 31, 1993 (acting)
State TreasurerDouglas C. BermanJanuary 18, 1990 – January 10, 1992
Samuel F. CraneJanuary 10, 1992 – January 18, 1994

Post governorshipEdit

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%.[18]

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 Reserve. He 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".[19]

He and his wife, Lucinda, have been residents of Metuchen, New Jersey.[20]

During the 2004 Democratic primary campaign, Florio endorsed and campaigned for Ret. Gen. Wesley K. Clark[21] while in the 2008 Democratic Primary campaign, he supported Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee for President.[22]

Current positionEdit

Florio served on the board of directors of Trump Entertainment Resorts until he and other board members were forced to resign following the company's entry into its third bankruptcy. He also serves on the board of Plymouth Financial Company, Inc. He is a founding partner and of counsel to the law firm of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt, Cappelli, Tipton & Taylor.[23]

Florio teaches a course each semester at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.[citation needed]


In 2014, Florio was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.[24] The Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders named the Governor James J. Florio Center for Public Service, a primary county administrative building, in Florio's honor in 2017.[25][26]


  1. ^ Kerr, Peter (May 20, 1990). "READ HIS LIPS: MORE TAXES". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Boyer, David. "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: FLATBUSH; Grads Hail Erasmus as It Enters a Fourth Century", The New York Times, March 11, 2001. Accessed December 1, 2007.
  3. ^ Results of the General Election Held on November 4, 1969 Archived July 7, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Secretary of State of New Jersey. Accessed October 9, 2016.
  4. ^ Results of the General Election Held on November 2, 1971 Archived July 6, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Secretary of State of New Jersey. Accessed October 9, 2016.
  5. ^ Results of the General Election Held November 6, 1973 Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Secretary of State of New Jersey. Accessed October 9, 2016.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Joseph F. (November 13, 1993). "Florio's Defeat Revives Memories of G.O.P. Activities in 1981". New York Times. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  7. ^ Smith, Glenn W. (2004). The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. John Wiley and Sons. p. 124. ISBN 0-471-66763-3. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  8. ^ United States Congress (October 5, 2004). Maximizing Voter Choice. Library of Congress. p. 65. ISBN 9780160741685. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  9. ^ a b "Archives | The Philadelphia Inquirer". Inquirer.com.
  10. ^ King, Wayne (July 23, 1990). "Florio Faces Growing Anti-Tax Storm in New Jersey" – via NYTimes.com.
  11. ^ Attinger, Joelle. "New Jersey's Robin Hood", Time, July 2, 1990; accessed August 7, 2007.
  12. ^ Hanley, Robert; Times, Special To the New York (May 26, 1990). "New Jersey Suburbs Attack Florio's Plan to Shift Their School Aid" – via NYTimes.com.
  13. ^ Robertson, Brian. "A model for Clinton – comparing Bill Clinton's tax policy to that of New Jersey Governor James Florio" National Review, May 24, 1993; accessed August 7, 2007.
  14. ^ Attinger, Joelle. "James Florio: New Jersey's Robin Hood" Time July 2, 1990
  15. ^ "Lacyo, Richard; Cole, Wendy; Johnson, Julie; Towle, Lisa. "Wounding the Gun Lobby" Time; March 29, 1993". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  16. ^ Salmore, Barbara G. and Salmore, Stephen A., New Jersey Politics and Government: The Suburbs Come of Age Archived September 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Rutgers University Press, 2008; ISBN 0-8135-4286-3; ISBN 978-0-8135-4286-7. Accessed October 24, 2008.
  17. ^ "Governor James J. Florio Cabinet | Center on the American Governor".
  18. ^ "New Jersey's Corzine beats out former governor in Democratic primary: Last round of presidential primaries passes virtually unnoticed" Archived February 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, CNN, June 7, 2000; accessed August 7, 2007.
  19. ^ "Origins of the Iraq War", The New York Times, October 4, 2003; accessed August 7, 2007.
  20. ^ Jacobs, Andrew. " PRIMARY IN NEW JERSEY: THE LOSER; For Florio, His Days as the 'Comeback Kid' May Be Over", The New York Times, June 8, 2000; accessed May 26, 2008. "Mr. Florio, who lost the race, 42 percent to 58 percent, spent the day with his wife, Lucinda, in their home in Metuchen."
  21. ^ Nation, The (August 2, 2004). "Postcards From Boston" – via www.thenation.com.
  22. ^ Alexovich, Ariel (April 18, 2008). "Clinton Gets 3 New Superdelegates".
  23. ^ James J. Florio profile at Forbes.com; accessed August 23, 2007
  24. ^ The Star Ledger. August 1, 2014. pg. 19
  25. ^ Walsh, Jim (February 4, 2017). "Camden County changes may have big impact". The Courier Post. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  26. ^ "Camden County Board of Freeholders dedicates Building to Governor James J. Florio". Camden County. August 9, 2017. Retrieved January 6, 2021.

External linksEdit

New Jersey General Assembly
Preceded by
Lee B. Laskin
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 3D district

Served alongside: John J. Horn
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Constituency established
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 5th district

Served alongside: Ernest F. Schuck
Succeeded by
Ronald Casella
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John E. Hunt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Rob Andrews
Party political offices
Preceded by
Brendan Byrne
Democratic nominee for Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Peter Shapiro
Preceded by
Peter Shapiro
Democratic nominee for Governor of New Jersey
1989, 1993
Succeeded by
Jim McGreevey
Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Kean
Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Christine Todd Whitman