New Jersey faces big affordability issues, and the new Steve Sweeney Center for Public Policy at Rowan University is ready to take them on.
The formation of the center, announced March 2, has been in the works since 2021, according to founding director Mark Magyar. When Sweeney lost his reelection bid, he began to think about starting a group to look at state issues.
“It was a meeting of the minds, essentially,” Magyar said. “Rowan invited Sweeney to help guide the policy center that was being created.”
Sweeney, the state’s longest serving senate president, will serve as chairperson of the center’s advisory board. Magyar, who was policy director in the Senate majority office for seven years, said his former boss was always focused on policy.
“[Sweeney is] very interested in continuing to make sure that we develop public policy proposals that can make New Jersey stronger and more competitive,” Magyar added.
The Sweeney Center will look at big picture fiscal issues such as school regionalization, shared local government issues and, of course, property tax issues.
“Frankly, take on some of the major issues that are not necessarily sexy, but are huge parts of the New Jersey budget such as Medicaid, for example,” he said, adding that the center will also look at government efficiency and transparency.
That research will be given to politicians on both sides of the aisle.
“The idea is to develop workable and pragmatic solutions to New Jersey’s most complex public policy issues with rigorous academic research and a data driven analysis,” he added.
Sweeney has long been a champion for South Jersey and for Rowan University. He’s been credited for using his position to advocate for the school in the Legislature. As the policy center launches, its namesake remains a possible contender next year for the senate seat he lost to Republican Ed Durr in 2021. He is also on a short list of candidates for governor in 2025.
“I’m not ruling out anything,” Sweeney told NJ.com in January.
For Rowan, it’s another opportunity to expand their footprint in South Jersey. The school has announced the creation of the state’s first veterinarian school, joining Michigan State University as one of two universities in the country to have medical and veterinary schools.
Now it’s entering the public policy space. The school started to plan for a graduate degree in public policy in 2019. It will begin to offer one in September.
“This was a tremendous opportunity to expand Rowan’s public policy footprint on New Jersey issues,” Magyar said.