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(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Paul Moriarty, Linda Greenstein and Celeste Riley to eliminate Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to hit senior and disabled citizens with increased prescription drug fees and slash their property tax relief was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.

Moriarty, Greenstein and Riley sponsor the legislation (A-20) to restore property tax rebates and eliminate the prescription drug fees for more than 600,000 senior and disabled residents.

“Let’s face it, the Christie budget plan means a tax increase for many senior citizens and a tax cut for the rich,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “That’s not fairness. That’s putting a brutal burden on the backs of our most vulnerable elderly residents while the rich get richer. This is really a question of priorities. We think everyone should share the sacrifice, and our priority is senior citizens. Gov. Christie’s priority is tax breaks for millionaires.”

“Gov. Christie’s proposed budget, while purporting to be based on the principle of shared sacrifice, places much too high a burden on the state’s poorest senior citizens,” said Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “This plan eases this burden on more than 600,000 of our most vulnerable senior citizens by simply asking for true shared sacrifice.”

“Targeting senior citizens with higher medication fees and property taxes while endorsing a tax break for the rich is not shared sacrifice,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “We want to work the governor to solve our problems, but not on the backs of our senior citizens.”

An analysis prepared last month by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services reported that under the Christie plan, a retired couple living on a fixed income of $40,000 would see a $1,320 increase in taxes while a family making $1.2 million would receive a tax cut of $11,598.

That analysis did not include estimates for the higher prescription drug costs, which the New Jersey Foundation for Aging estimates will cost the average senior citizen an extra $430 per year.

Under the bill:

Christie’s plan to charge a new $310 deductible to 105,000 senior and disabled citizens in the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled prescription drug program and 23,000 senior citizens enrolled in the Senior Gold prescription drug program would be eliminated.

Christie’s plan to more than double prescription drug co-payments on those senior and disabled citizens would be eliminated.

Property tax rebate checks for more than 600,000 senior homeowners and tenants would be restored to last year’s levels, providing as much as $1,295 in property tax relief to senior and disabled residents.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union) sponsor the legislation (A-10) to restore the millionaire’s tax surcharge to fund the restorations.

“This is a compassionate plan that allows the shared sacrifice of our most fortunate 16,000 residents to help more than 600,000 senior and disabled citizens struggling to pay for medication and keep their homes,” Oliver said. “We have made it very clear that we will work with the governor to solve our budget problems, but Democrats will not do so at the expense of elderly New Jerseyans. This plan spreads the pain and protects our most vulnerable.”

“Senior citizens living on the edge of poverty simply cannot afford such unmerciful cuts,” Cryan said “We know that many cuts in Gov. Christie’s budget plan are painful, and spending cuts are clearly needed. But Gov. Christie’s cuts to seniors stand out as among the worst and would devastate those on fixed incomes. This plan steers us in a more caring direction for our seniors and the disabled.”

The leaders noted that limiting the surcharge to taxable incomes of at least $1 million would shield small business owners.

The bills are expected to get floor votes a week from today – May 20.

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