Assembly Leaders Hail Budget Plan as Yet another Step Toward Rebuilding New Jersey’s Middle-Class & Combating Poverty
Includes Increased Funding for Senior & Disabled Property Tax Relief, Preschool Education Expansion, Charity Care, Lead Safety in Schools & Homes, Needy Families, Domestic Violence & Rape Victims, Abused Children, Educational Opportunity Fund, School Breakfast Program, Substance Abuse Prevention, Autism Care, Cancer Research, Zika Virus Prevention & Adult Education
(TRENTON) — Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assembly Budget Chairman Gary Schaer on Monday hailed the Democratic state budget plan as yet another key step toward rebuilding New Jersey’s middle-class, combating poverty, ensuring access to quality health care and protecting the state’s most vulnerable residents.
The sponsors issued a multimedia package Monday on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments from the sponsors is appended to the end of the release.
The plan (A-4000) includes increased funding for concerns ranging from fully funding the Senior and Disabled Citizens’ Property Tax Freeze program, expanding preschool education, lead safety in schools and homes and preventing the governor’s cut in hospital charity care.
It also provide increased funding help for domestic violence, rape victims and abused children, along with the Educational Opportunity Fund, adult education, substance abuse prevention and autism, along with increased help for community providers, home health aides, the school breakfast program for low-income children and for Zika virus prevention training.
It features $14.2 million to increase the maximum cash assistance benefit for families participating in the Work First New Jersey Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The program provides cash and other assistance to low-income families with dependent children to alleviate the negative effects of poverty.
The funding comes after a report by New Jersey Policy Perspective detailed the devastating economic and social impact of New Jersey’s decision not to increase assistance or eligibility for 29 years.
Assembly Democrats have made combating poverty a major focus of this legislative session.
“This Democratic budget represents a crucial down payment on our commitment to rebuild New Jersey’s middle-class and combat the shocking rise in poverty we’ve seen under Gov. Christie’s watch,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “A budget is a reflection of priorities, and with our focus on jobs, health care, education and fighting the scourge of poverty, Assembly Democrats are re-emphasizing our commitment to doing the right thing for New Jersey’s hard-working families. This budget makes clear that we will not waver from our support for New Jersey’s working class.”
According to a recent report by Legal Services of New Jersey, more New Jersey residents are in poverty now than in the past five decades. The agency estimates about 2.8 million adults and 800,000 children lived poverty in New Jersey 2014. That’s 40 percent higher than it was before the 2008 Great Recession.
“This Democratic budget represents an investment in New Jersey’s working class families,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “During our public budget hearings throughout the state, one thing was clear: too many in New Jersey are struggling to make ends meet. That is why this budget plan puts the focus squarely where it needs to be – on boosting our middle-class while giving our working poor and most vulnerable residents the help they need.”
Prieto and Schaer noted that Assembly Democratic priorities in the $34.8 billion Democratic budget plan — which is about $27.7 million less than the governor proposed — includes, among other things:
- $45 million to fully fund the Senior and Disabled Citizens’ Property Tax Freeze;
- $25 million more to prevent the governor’s proposed cut in funding to help hospitals provide charity care;
- $25 million in preschool education expansion aid;
- $20 million total for lead testing and remediation in schools and homes;
- $20 million cost-of-living adjustment for community providers;
- $14.2 million to increase the maximum cash assistance benefit for families participating in the Work First New Jersey Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The program provides cash and other assistance to low-income families with dependent children in order to alleviate the negative effects of poverty;
- $5.25 million to increase Medicaid rates for nursing homes, assisted living and comprehensive personal care homes;
- $5 million for the Educational Opportunity Fund for students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who attend institutions of higher education in the state;
- $5 million for Zika virus prevention training through the state for municipal health officer training;
- $4 million for adult education;
- $3 million to improve the Breakfast After the Bell program, which provides nutrition to low-income students;
- $2.8 million for sexual assault prevention services;
- $2.5 million to support uncompensated caregivers;
- $2.4 million for a child mental health care pilot program;
- $2.24 million for domestic violence and rape prevention services;
- $2 million for the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research;
- $2 million for new substance abuse disorder treatment beds;
- $2 million for Legal Services of New Jersey;
- $1 million for the Cancer Institute of New Jersey;
- $1 million for a REED Academy and Ramapo College program to help those with autism who are 18 years or age and older;
- $850,000 for court appointed special advocates for abused and neglected children;
- $250,000 to help better provide home health aides;
- Language to increase the monthly personal needs allowance for those who reside in nursing facilities, state or county psychiatric hospitals, and state developmental centers and who are eligible for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income benefits to $50; and
- Language increasing low-income home energy assistance program minimum benefit payments to quality for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“This budget is yet another step in the Assembly Democratic battle against poverty and its adverse and costly impact on our state,” Prieto said. “Gov. Christie needs to do the right thing and sign this as-is. When it comes to helping those including domestic violence victims, abused children and our most vulnerable, we must stand strong and do what’s right.”
“Increased funding for Breakfast After the Bell and Work First NJ, for examples, are fiscally sound investments that will lead to better outcomes at school and at work,” Schaer said. “The status quo is unacceptable. As this budget plan proves, we can do more, and we can do it in a fiscally responsible way.”
Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer (D-Passaic), Assembly Budget Committee Chairman:
“A budget is not simply a document, but a spending plan that reflects the priorities of those who are instrumental in its crafting and, ultimately, in its passage. Budgets are a fundamental document. They really put the flesh on the bones of what we’re all about.
“The budget this year is a reflection of hours and days and weeks and months of careful deliberation by the budget committee, in terms of making sure that the opportunities presented by a budget to ensure the growth and the stability of the middle class in New Jersey is met and I think this budget achieves just that.”
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson):
“This session we have made it about fighting poverty in the State of New Jersey. People don’t think New Jersey has a high poverty rate. In the State of New Jersey, that is a very expensive state to live in, you have about over a million residents under that classification. When we add a livable wage, to be able to live in the State of New Jersey, that swells up to 2.8 million residents, including 800,000 children. We need to do better. It’s unconscionable that that many amount of residents, out of almost nine million residents you have roughly a third that are living in poverty.
“We have to do better.
“And that’s why this budget is focused to make sure that we help the people that need it the most and help them get out of the poor side and into our middle class.”
“One area which received particular focus, really at the speaker’s initiative, was the growth of the Earned Income Tax Credit, going from 30 percent in the governor’s proposed budget to 40 percent.”
“We are investing money in WorkFirst New Jersey.”
“Hospital funding will go up.”
“We’re also putting money back for charity care.”
“Funds for cancer research will go up.”
“We actually put in some money for the Department of Health to actually educate health officers throughout the state, now that we have a Zika virus problem in our nation.”
“University spending to ensure that our children can attend colleges and universities at a rate that is affordable for them, through Tuition Assistance Grants.”
“Also, we’re putting money in for adult education, that I think this is pivotal.
“So, these are some of the highlights that we are proposing in this budget and I hope that this is something that makes its way into fruition, that we have a great budget for the residents of the State of New Jersey.”