(NEWARK) – Assembly Democratic budget committee members released the following statements Monday as the panel convened a public hearing in Newark on Gov. Chris Christie’s budget plan:

Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden):

“Cutting property tax relief for seniors and forcing them to pay significantly more for prescription drugs, leading them to ration or skip their medication as they lose their home, does not equate to shared sacrifice under any measure.

“We’ve heard a lot about how Gov. Christie is not going to approve any tax increase, yet his budget proposal is already built on tax and fee increases on the poor and middle-class, especially placing a heavy load onto the poorest seniors.

“Gov. Christie clearly needs to begin setting aside his sound bites and start working with us to eliminate these brutal cuts to vital senior citizen programs.”

Assembly Budget Vice Chairman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen/Essex):

“The senior citizens participating in our prescription drug programs are not millionaires. They’re lower-income elderly residents who under Gov. Christie’s budget would be forced to pay significantly more for prescription drugs as their property tax relief is slashed.

“Taxing senior citizens with new fees while giving millionaires a tax break does not, by any reasonable measure, represent compassion and shared sacrifice.

“It’s long past time for the governor to begin working with us to find a better way to solve our budget problems and ensure everyone shares in the sacrifice.”

Assembly Appropriations Chairwoman Nellie Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen):

“Today’s testimony again calls into question Gov. Christie’s claim of shared sacrifice.

“Gov. Christie’s plan to require poor and middle-class senior citizens to pay significantly more for life-saving prescription drugs while cutting their tax relief is wrong. Doing it while protecting a tax cut for millionaires is even worse.

“We can do better than targeting senior citizens who already can barely afford to make ends meet. It’s time for the governor to work together with us to ease the burden he has placed on our senior citizens.”

Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D-Hudson):

“Gov. Christie’s budget plan and his preference for protecting millionaires may push many senior citizens over the edge and into poverty.

“More than a third of New Jersey senior citizens earn less than $25,000 per year, which is about $1,500 less than the New Jersey Foundation for Aging estimates is needed for a Hudson County senior renter to pay for basic housing and living expenses.

“And that’s before Gov. Christie’s plan to eliminate senior citizen property tax relief and charge them significantly more for prescription drugs.

“It’s time for everyone to share in the sacrifice and for everyone to work together to eliminate these brutal cuts to senior citizens.”

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem):

“This is a defining moment.

“Who stands for more than 600,000 senior citizens struggling to afford their medication and keep their homes? Who stands for 16,000 millionaires simply being asked to join in the shared sacrifice to fix our budget problems?

“More than 600,000 senior citizens are staring down a huge property tax increase under Gov. Christie’s budget. But many seniors will be out nearly $1,800 total in property tax and prescription drug fee increases, while a family making $1.2 million gets a tax cut of $11,598.

“This is a matter of fairness and priorities. Our priority is helping senior citizens through these tough economic times, not tax cuts for millionaires.”

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen):

“Let’s be clear – Gov. Christie supports a tax cut for millionaires, saving them nearly $12,000, yet supports charging senior citizens $310 just to get access to crucial prescription drugs and doubling co-payments for those drugs.

“Those plans would increase the cost-of-living by an average of $430 for seniors, including the 15,000 in Bergen County needing prescription drug help.

“The governor also wants to strip senior citizens and the disabled of as much as $1,295 in property tax relief.

“Slamming senior citizens with higher medication fees and property taxes and while endorsing a tax break for the rich hardly seems like shared sacrifice, and it’s time for the governor to work cooperatively with us to ensure everyone shares in the sacrifice.”

Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex):

“Today’s testimony has everyone still looking for Gov. Christie’s shared sacrifice.

“Poor and middle-class senior citizens have to pay more for vital prescription drugs while losing their property tax relief.

“Bottom line – senior citizens in communities throughout our state are going to feel the sting of this budget while millionaires enjoy the tax cut Gov. Christie has promised to give them.

“That simply is not fair, and it’s time for the governor to realize that and work together with us on a plan to spread the pain and spare our seniors from the worst cuts.

Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex):

“Gov. Christie needs to admit his mistake and compromise to restore senior citizen property tax relief and eliminate his plan to charge seniors significantly more for prescription drugs.

“Seniors are already strapped, with many on a fixed income and already living on the edge of poverty. They cannot afford property tax hikes, nor can they afford to be taxed with higher medication fees.

“Under Christie’s plan, many seniors, in fact, will lose $1,295 in property tax relief while paying $430 more to get prescription drugs, while millionaires enjoy a tax cut.

“Gov. Christie should not be targeting senior citizens, especially while supporting a tax break for our wealthiest residents. That’s not shared sacrifice.”

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