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Legislative Latino Caucus Announces Policy Agenda

TRENTON – The New Jersey Legislative Latino Caucus today released the “2013 Public Policy Agenda for the Latino Community,” a framework that will serve as the basis for the group’s work in the coming weeks and months as it increases its advocacy for policies that address the most critical issues facing Latinos in New Jersey.

“Latinos are an important part of the fabric of New Jersey and are represented in all walks of life. They are business owners and job-creators, they are chief executive officers, teachers and nurses and they are service workers who are struggling to get by in this economy. While we are seeing progress in Washington on issues affecting the Latino community, there are far too many that remain unaddressed here in New Jersey,” said Senator Nellie Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen), chair of the Legislative Latino Caucus. “This agenda represents the beginning of a coordinated effort to enhance our advocacy and outreach efforts in Trenton and around the state to ensure the issues that matter most to Latinos are given the attention they deserve.”

The caucus agenda focuses on issues of economic justice, economic development, education and civil rights. It aims to improve opportunities for economic independence for low-wage earners through an increase in the state minimum wage under a measure that keeps pace with the cost of living and a restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit to 2010 levels. The agenda also seeks to provide children with access to a quality education by expanding pre-kindergarten programs, protecting the fair allocation of education funding and providing DREAMers tuition equality at our colleges and universities. It seeks to expand voter participation in New Jersey and to ensure the racial and ethnic diversity of the New Jersey Supreme Court and the state Judiciary as a whole. It also makes specific recommendations to restore funding to programs of particular importance to the Latino community that have suffered devastating funding cuts over the past three years.

“With 1.5 million Hispanics in New Jersey, the Latino community plays a vital role in the overall success of the state and the nation. And while there is movement nationally toward addressing the specific issues facing our community, there is still work to do to remove the barriers that have impeded progress for Latinos in New Jersey and America,” said Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen), vice chair of the Legislative Latino Caucus. “The Latino Caucus will be working over the coming weeks and months to raise awareness and build support for these initiatives in order to address the very real problems facing the Latino community in New Jersey.”

Latinos make up nearly 18 percent of New Jersey’s population and in the period from 2000 to 2010, the number of Latinos in the state grew by nearly 40 percent. While they are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the state, Latinos living in New Jersey continue to face a growing number of challenges. They were the group hardest hit by the national economic recession, according to a study issued by the Pew Research Center, and when compared to other states in the region and across the country New Jersey has been particularly slow to recover. The public policy agenda issued today is the result of numerous discussions among members of the Latino Caucus that culminated with a caucus retreat held Monday in the Statehouse. It is intended to address the critical issues facing the residents of our state and especially the Latino community to provide a better, safer, fairer and more prosperous New Jersey in the 21st Century.

“As momentum builds nationally to advance public policy initiatives that address issues affecting Latinos, we are also taking a stand in Trenton to ensure policies are advanced in the best interest of the community,” said Senator Pou. “Over the course of the year, we will be meeting with legislative leaders, stakeholders and grassroots organizations to promote and advance these key initiatives which not only will improve the lives of Latinos, but of all New Jersey residents. The reality is the hopes and dreams of Latinos reflect those of all New Jerseyans – their dream is the American Dream.”

“Latinos want the same things for their families as everyone else. They want their children to go to high-quality schools, to have the opportunity to attend college so they can get a good-paying job to support themselves and their families,” said Prieto. “Unfortunately, far too many of our residents are unable to achieve this, as the economic recession and recent state budget cuts have hit the Latino community particularly hard. We have to address the income, education and health disparities that are making it nearly impossible for many Latinos to get ahead. As a caucus, we are committed to this work. This agenda is the start of an effort to build support from our communities to the Statehouse on the issues that are vital to improving the quality of life for Latinos and for all of the residents of our state.”

The 2013 Public Policy Agenda for the Latino Community calls for:

  • Improving New Jersey’s Economy
  • Increasing New Jersey’s Minimum Wage
  • Restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit to 25% of the federal EITC
  • Supporting Federal Immigration Reform
  • Providing Tuition Equality for ‘DREAMers’
  • Increasing Voter Participation
  • Supporting the Constitutionally Approved Education Funding Formula
  • Restarting School Construction Projects
  • Expanding Early Childhood Education
  • Alleviating Disparities in Health Care Outcomes
  • Creating a Diverse New Jersey Supreme Court
  • Restoring Funding for Legal Services of New Jersey
  • Restoring Funding for Latino and Community Programs