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TRENTON — Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan today released the following statements regarding Governor Chris Christie’s announcement that he would eliminate his proposed cuts to state pharmaceutical programs for seniors and the disabled:

Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem)
“The Governor may be applauded for listening to the voices of senior citizens from across New Jersey, but this in no way ends the very important debate the Senate will still take up tomorrow.

“For someone who famously criticized Trenton for its Alice In Wonderland budgets, the Governor has apparently been staring into the same looking glass. While Democrats have identified a solid revenue source to protect our elderly and disabled, the Governor is cobbling together a mishmash of what-ifs and maybes from the federal government and the pharmaceutical industry.

“Countless seniors are still facing property tax increases that threaten to drive them from their homes while the richest New Jerseyans are still going to get a massive income tax cut. Just like the Queen of Hearts, this budget still yells ‘Off with their heads!’ to too many.

“The Governor may be trying to write a new chapter, but it still reads like the same old story.”

Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic)
“It’s about time Gov. Christie started coming around to our point of view on protecting senior citizens, and we welcome him to this discussion sparked by the Democratic Legislature.

“The governor’s plan still shoves at least a $1,295 property tax increase onto senior and disabled residents, and that’s unacceptable.

“We’ll evaluate the governor’s proposal, but our plan provides the means through true shared sacrifice to ensure senior citizens get the prescription drug help and property tax relief they need. We will move forward with it as planned to guarantee property tax and prescription drug help is on the way to our most vulnerable residents.”

Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex)
“I am pleased that Governor Christie reversed his course in response to mounting pressure from the Legislature to restore cuts to prescription drug programs for seniors. There is so much need as a result of these unprecedented economic times.

“However, I seriously question the likelihood we will achieve the savings the Governor predicts will pay for this restoration.

“The issue remains why half-a-percent, or 16,000 taxpayers, who earn over a million dollars shouldn’t be made to sacrifice a little so that others don’t have to sacrifice so much.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union)
“While I’m pleased to see the governor begin moving toward the Democratic plan to protect senior citizens, I see no reason for anyone to trust this new plan on face value. This is, after all, a governor who has so far only kept one campaign promise — protecting a tax cut for the rich.

“The governor’s latest plan still pushes a massive property tax increase onto seniors and is based on questionable assumptions.

“Our plan guarantees property tax relief and health care assistance for senior citizens while ensuring everyone joins in the shared sacrifice. I look forward to its passage and hope the governor continues to move in our direction to provide senior citizens with reliable prescription drug and property tax relief.”

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