(TRENTON) – Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) made the following statement Wednesday on Democratic budget legislation (A-4200):
“Thank you, Madam Speaker.
“Thank you to my budget committee colleagues…Vice-Chairman Schaer, Assembly members Burzichelli, Coutinho, Johnson, Pou, Quigley and Watson Coleman, Minority Budget Officer O’Scanlon, Assembly members Bucco, Chiusano and Webber…
“OLS staff…David Rosen and his team…
“Partisan staff…Mary Messenger, Aaron Binder and Mishael Azam.
“And I want to thank the hundreds of people who came to our public hearings and met with us in our offices to make sure their voices were heard in this process.
“They are the voices of the 8.8 million people who couldn’t make it to these hearings and who represent the faces of New Jersey.
“It was their input and their stories that helped us take steps toward making this a plan that represents the values of working and middle class families in New Jersey.
“Some of us have gone through this process many times.
“For others, the budget remains a new experience.
“But last year was unlike any other.
“We had a new governor who consistently talked about share sacrifices while defending tax cuts for the very wealthiest among us and pushing more and more pain for everyone else.
“The Governor’s idea of ‘shared sacrifice’ is that the wealthiest should share even greater riches while the rest of us make all the sacrifices.
“He insisted that his way was better.
“He insisted that change had arrived.
“He took to Fox News and YouTube with sound bytes, claiming credit for real solutions that put New Jersey families first.
“But as we stand here a year later, let’s take a look at reality.
“Thanks to Chris Christie, we had a 4.1 percent property tax increase, the largest increase struggling New Jersey taxpayers have seen in years.
“Thanks to Chris Christie, many parents and children now pay a new tax – the Christie school activity tax.
“It’s a tax middle class families must pay to see a child participate in the school band, play on the soccer team, or take part in many other extracurricular activities that are such a key component of a complete education.
“Thanks to Chris Christie, many senior citizens suffered a freeze in their property tax relief – even as their property taxes went up.
“Thanks to Chris Christie, homeowners throughout this state saw their property tax rebates either eliminated or slashed.
“Thanks to Chris Christie, we have an unemployment rate that still hovers above 9 percent, and a Governor who has repeatedly vetoed bills to create jobs.
“Thanks to Chris Christie, we have seen women’s health care slashed, with six women’s health clinics closing their doors to the women and families who depend on them for basic health care needs like mammograms and ovarian cancer screenings.
“Thanks to Chris Christie, the number of adults enrolled in NJ FamilyCare has been reduced by almost 20,000 – putting more and more strain on our hospital emergency rooms and passing more and more costs onto taxpayers who must pay for the uninsured.
“Thanks to Chris Christie, legal services for the poor were decimated.
“Income taxes were increased for working poor families struggling to make ends meet.
“Job creation and economic development in our most distressed urban neighborhoods was stunted.
“And despite all this pain borne by seniors, middle class and working families, 16,000 millionaires enjoyed a very sweet tax break.
“That is this Governor’s record.
“These are the cold, hard facts that face our families.
“There’s no denying that progress has been made in some areas thanks to my Democratic colleagues.
“We have implemented a 2 percent cap on property tax increases and imposed arbitration reform that will, hopefully, help taxpayers.
“And we have made difficult reforms to ensure that health benefits and pensions remain affordable for taxpayers and solvent for the beneficiaries who rely on them.
“But, ladies and gentlemen of New Jersey, when it comes down to it, it has been a very painful year overall.
“Democrats know that.
“Democrats understand that.
“That’s why I am appalled that time and time again this Governor has sided with the rich at the expense of the middle-class and the poor.
“Time and time again this Governor has asked middle class and working families to do more and more with less and less.
“Time and time again this Governor has made decisions that force senior and disabled citizens to shoulder the burden of this difficult economy, while his privileged friends are protected from paying their fair share.
“We have heard from seniors and from their loved ones testifying before our committee who will be forced to sell off what meager assets they have left in order to live out their lives in a nursing home – all because the governor would rather protect multi-millionaires than them.
“We have heard from pregnant women who are afraid that they won’t have access to prenatal care for their babies – all because the governor would rather protect multi-millionaires than them.
“We have heard from a mother who is stricken with aggressive breast cancer and is terrified that she won’t be able to get life-saving surgery – all because the governor would rather protect multi-millionaires than her.
“Is that the New Jersey this governor stands for?
“Is that the New Jersey we as elected officials stand for?
“Just this weekend, the governor went on yet another of his national talk shows and lectured the president and Congress to compromise to get the federal budget done.
“Unfortunately, the Governor refused to sit down with us to have any budget talks whatsoever and instead chose to criticize our budget publicly even before he had a chance to see it or discuss it with us.
“Well, governor, if you take your own advice and work with us in a bipartisan fashion here at home, thousands of New Jerseyans won’t be forced to rely on emergency rooms for their health care.
“Thousands of school kids won’t be forced into overcrowded classrooms.
“Thousands of seniors won’t be forced out of their homes because they can’t pay their ever-increasing property taxes.
“But despite what he says to the national media, the governor’s rhetoric rarely matches reality.
“When it comes to the budget, he refuses to compromise – it’s his way or the highway.
“And his policies do not represent New Jersey’s working class values.
“And that’s why it’s time that Democrats stand up and take our state back for the working families and middle class who have suffered under this governor’s misguided priorities.
“The Democratic budget before you today offers fairness and relief, not just sound bytes or YouTube moments.
“It emphasizes property tax relief, because property taxes are like a cancer that malignantly spreads and seeps into the lives of virtually every resident of our state.
“It promotes job creation and economic development.
“It recognizes health care as a core value.
“It protects vital services for our most vulnerable residents.
“It is a budget that will help New Jersey’s working class residents when they need it most, a budget that will guide New Jersey through this recovery and back to prosperity.
“It is a budget proposed by Democrats with one goal in mind – helping our working class residents.
“That’s a far cry from the governor’s main goal – building his national right-wing credentials so he can be fawned over by Iowa donors and Fox News anchors.
“You’ll hear a lot of rhetoric today from my Republican friends, so let’s put an end to that silliness before it even begins.
“This budget is a fiscally responsible plan that provides meaningful property tax relief, more money for our suburban schools and protects the seniors and women whom the governor has decided to target.
“And this budget does not do what last year’s Republican budget proudly did – increase taxes on working class New Jerseyans and the services they care about by more than $1 billion.
“This Governor has talked a big game on ‘shared sacrifice,’ but to him, shared sacrifice is just another slogan.
“While the Governor talks a lot about shared sacrifice, he is content to force the entirety of that sacrifice on middle and working class families, while asking the very wealthiest among us to give up nothing more.
“This Democratic budget reflects the values of a truly shared sacrifice, asking more of those who can most afford it – the millionaires who have been enjoying their Christie tax cut since last spring.
“Asking them to pay their fair share is more than reasonable.
“After all, these 16,000 multi-millionaires have made a whopping $2 billion off these tax cuts alone.
“Just last week, we asked 500,000 public sector working families to pay more towards their benefits – an average of $900 per year for a worker earning between $40,000 and $50,000.
“And yet the Governor claims – laughably – that asking 16,000 millionaires to pay $1,700 more per year will result in their fleeing the state in a mass exodus.
“And if, as the governor keeps pointing out, these millionaires are creating all of these jobs, why haven’t these jobs shown up in New Jersey?
“These millionaires have been enjoying their Bush tax cuts for 7 years and now the Christie tax cut – but no new flood of new jobs have resulted in New Jersey on the basis of this self-serving dogma.
“And asking everyone to share in the sacrifice is fair, especially for the rural and suburban property taxpayers most stung by this governor’s budget policies.
“More than 70 percent of the education funding cut by the governor last year should have gone to rural and suburban school districts.
“That cut contributed to education cuts, teacher layoffs and last year’s 4.1 percent property tax increase, the highest taxpayers have seen in years.
“This budget plan makes right that wrong.
“And because we’re putting middle class priorities over the desires of the very wealthy, we’re also able to do more than just help the suburban and rural taxpayers most of us represent.
“Senior citizens suffering under the governor’s policies will get relief under this plan.
“This budget unfreezes the senior citizen property tax relief program suspended by the governor.
“The New Jersey After 3 afterschool programs – a key lifeline for many of our hard-working families – will be kept alive, not eliminated as our governor proposed.
“College aid will see a significant increase, reflecting our commitment to higher education for each and every one of our students looking to build a better future.
“Women’s health care has always been a Democratic priority.
“In fact, it was a priority for just about every one of us until Gov. Christie took office and decided to place right-wing ideology over smart medical policy for our mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, and daughters.
“This budget restores the commitment to health care for the women on whom Governor Christie has declared war.
“Make no mistake: the governor has declared war on our state’s women because he cares more about currying favor with narrow-minded presidential primary voters in Iowa and South Carolina than he cares about the values that have made New Jersey great.
“This budget restores our commitment to accessible health care for middle-class and poor families by restoring in-state eligibility for NJ FamilyCare parents.
“It eliminates unconscionable ideas proposed by the governor, such as increased nursing home rates, AIDS drug costs and co-payments for medical day care.
“One of the worst ideas any of us has ever heard – cutting teachers for blind children – is gone from this budget.
“Legal Services of New Jersey, a nonprofit program so vital to ensuring justice for each and every New Jerseyan, gets much needed help.
“The Urban Enterprise Zones so important to job creation and economic development in our cities – and thus our entire state – will be protected from state funding raids.
“The Christie income tax increase on the working poor is reversed thanks to this budget’s plan to eliminate last year’s cut in the Earned Income Tax Credit, which we know is one of the best tools against fighting poverty.
“The governor’s proposed tax break for dead millionaires is, well, as dead as those millionaires.
“It is NOT – thankfully – in this budget.
“Instead, this Democratic budget proposes an income tax exemption for pension, annuity and other retirement income.
“That, by the way, is a tax break for those who need it most – senior citizens.
“Now, the governor vetoed this tax break once already, so we’re going to get another chance to see who’s side he’s truly on.
“And this budget makes 2 job-creating corporate tax reforms that will benefit working class New Jerseyans and the businesses that employ them.
“Here’s the bottom line – this budget proposal provides…
“…Property tax relief for middle and working class families…
“…Senior citizen property tax relief…
“…Health care for women…
“…Adequate education funding in our cities, rural areas and suburbs…
“…Access to medical care for our middle-class and poor…
“…And economic development.
“It is a budget plan that reflects the values of working class New Jerseyans.
“It delivers help from the pain of the last year to those who need it most.
“Now, we’ve already seen the rhetoric fly from the governor’s office.
“In fact, he let it fly before he’d even studied our plan, which means, quite obviously, that he has no interest in considering its value to working class New Jersey.
“That’s unfortunate – but it’s not surprising, considering that he would rather throw out rhetorical bombs that get him noticed by Rush Limbaugh and other out of state right-wing zealots who decide his party’s presidential nominations.
“New Jersey families need results, not rhetoric. They need a Governor who is on their side, not on the side of the wealthiest few.
“But if this governor chooses to break out his red pen and line item veto initiatives that are vital to our middle-class and poor, well, that’s his authority under our constitution.
“But that won’t make it right.
“It will be a blow to working class New Jersey and a setback in our efforts to recover from the pain of the first year of Chris Christie’s New Jersey.
“We hope the governor does otherwise, but if he chooses not to, he will carry the responsibility of pushing New Jersey backwards.
“And he will be responsible for inflicting pain upon those who entrusted him with stewardship of this state – all because his desire to curry favor with Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter is more important to him than the struggling middle class in New Jersey.
“And if he decides to veto this entire budget and put our constitutional deadline at risk, well, then that’s his irresponsible decision – though I’m sure right wing pundits will applaud him for his radical views because they make for great TV ratings.
“For some of us, doing right by our state is more important than the views of talk show hosts playing to the lowest common denominator.
“This is a budget that reflects the needs of everyday New Jerseyans, the ones hit hardest by the difficult economy and the governor’s policies.
“This is a budget that delivers relief to New Jersey families crying out for it.
“This is a budget that asks for everyone to share in the sacrifice, not just everyone except millionaires.
“This is a budget that reflects New Jersey values.
“This is a budget that deserves our support.”