***MULTIMEDIA PACKAGE*** DEMOCRATIC ASSEMBLY BUDGET COMMITTEE MEMBERS DISCUSS IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC HEARING PROCESS

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(TRENTON) — Democratic members of the Assembly Budget Committee — Chairman Louis D. Greenwald, Vice Chair Gary S. Schaer, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli — issued a multimedia package Friday in which they discuss the importance of public hearings and public input to the annual state budget process.

The multimedia package consists of a video of the members discussing why the hearings are so important and audio and a transcript of same.

The video can be accessed directly via our website — www.assemblydems.com — or by clicking here.

The audio file is available upon request.

A transcript of comments from Democratic committee members follows:

Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli (D-Gloucester):
“At these meetings, we tend to hear from real people, real neighbors, and how their circumstances relate to this governor’s budget, and where his priorities fit with theirs. So, these are very long, generally speaking, but they’re very helpful to the process.”

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer):
“I think that the budget is the strongest policy statement that is… that comes out of the administration. And it is also the strongest policy statement that comes out of the Legislature. It establishes what we prioritize because of what we are spending.

“So the issue definitely is, do you believe that government has a responsibility here to lift up — and that means taking care of those in greatest need — or does government have a responsibility to press down and give those who already have abundant resources, more resources. And I think that this is what this budget does.”

Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald (D-Camden), Assembly Budget Committee Chairman:
“It’s looking creatively at government, as opposed to the 30-second sound byte, which is, you know, ‘We’re going to shrink government,’ or ‘We’re going to give you a tool-kit.’

“You know, what people want are government to step up and be leaders and find answers. And the one thing that you see here, time and time again, is that the crisis in New Jersey — and the cancer that is driving all of this — is the problem with our property taxes. And it is forcing people out of the State of New Jersey and it is shrinking other valuable programs.

“When we don’t address that problem, we’re putting Band-Aids on cancer, and what we really need to do is have major surgery to fix our broken tax structure.”

Burzichelli:
“And the budget is a living document. The governor has done his work; this budget, at this moment, reflects his priorities. Now we’re hearing from people and learning how their priorities jockey up with his, and looking for where we can be helpful to round off the edges, because this is a pretty harsh budget.”

Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer (D-Passaic), Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chair:
“This budget committee will explore; it will hear; it will investigate. We’ll take those results back to our colleagues in the Assembly; we’ll have discussions with our colleagues in the Senate; and, with all of that going on, we’ll try to craft something that meets the economic realities of New Jersey and our taxpayers and, at the same time, recognizes the historic role that we have taken to ensure that opportunity is provided to all New Jerseyans.”