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(COLLINGSWOOD) — Democratic lawmakers on the Assembly Budget Committee released the following statements Wednesday as the panel convened its first public hearing on Gov. Chris Christie’s budget plan:

Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden):
“These cuts are deep and the impact on the community is great. People are stretched to the limit and the cuts that are proposed in this budget will strain their resources even more.

“The number one issue in this state is property taxes, and this budget would lead to the largest property tax increase in the history of this state, putting the burden of these difficult economic times on the backs of the middle-class and those less fortunate.

“This budget does nothing to change our addiction to property taxes and just rearranges the deck chairs on a sinking ship. If we do not get off of that reliance, then the ship will also go down.”

Assembly Appropriations Chairwoman Nellie Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen):
“Today’s hearing was an invaluable start to what will be a difficult budget process that will certainly involve budget cuts. As we move forward we will look to find ways that we might be able to keep some of these services that are important or certainly find ways to make sure they’re not compromised to the detriment of our residents.”

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem):
“Today’s testimony clearly shows we all need to do more work to ensure this budget doesn’t disproportionately impact New Jersey’s working class families and senior citizens. Senior citizens deserve better than to have their property tax relief stripped away while being asked to pay more than double for medication vital to their well-being. We need to work cooperatively to find alternatives that value our middle-class, children, senior citizens and disabled.”

Assemblyman Jack Conners (D-Burlington/Camden):
“The concern that particularly stood out to me today is the cuts that impact the mentally disabled. We have to be sure we’re doing everything we can to protect those who cannot take care of themselves.”

Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-Camden):
“These hearings are important because there are 8 million residents in this state and the opportunity to hear their concerns can help to develop a consensus. As someone who has long been concerned about teen suicide and mental health, the cuts surrounding mental health care that we heard about today are a particular concern.”

Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem):
“It’s important to hear from the public on what their concerns are because this budget will impact their lives moving forward. The concerns that I’m hearing that have to be addressed include the people who cannot speak for themselves — the people in homes and the disabled – that need our voice, that need to be taken care of, that need our help. We cannot turn our backs on them.”

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