SWEENEY & OLIVER: LEGISLATURE WILL NOT CONSIDER A BUDGET THAT DOES NOT PROTECT SENIORS

(TRENTON) – Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver today announced the Democratic Legislature’s top priority as it finalizes a state budget will be to eliminate Gov. Chris Christie’s plans to hit low-income senior citizens with new and increased prescription drug fees.

Both leaders said no budget with Christie’s senior prescription drug cuts will be approved by the Democrats.

“We simply will not ask seniors on fixed incomes to choose between buying potentially life-saving medications and putting food on their tables,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “Putting together a state budget is a process of compromise. But we will not compromise away the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents.”

“We are willing to work with the Governor to address our budget problems, but Democrats are not willing to do so at the expense of our senior citizens,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “We always must be compassionate and mindful that senior citizens living on the edge of poverty simply cannot afford these cuts. Many cuts in this budget plan are painful, but the cuts to senior citizens would be among the most merciless and we cannot let them stand.”

Under Christie’s budget plan, 105,000 low-income senior and disabled citizens in PAAD would be required to pay a new annual deductible of $310 and an increased $15 co-payment for brand name drugs – the co-pay currently is $7. The $310 deductible would also impact the 23,000 senior citizens enrolled in the Senior Gold prescription drug program.

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging estimates Christie’s proposals will increase the average senior’s cost of living by $430. When coupled with the loss of senior property tax rebates that averaged $1,295, many senior households will be hit with more than $1,700 in higher property taxes and new prescription drug costs.

“Cuts like these would force senior citizens – our parents, grandparents and neighbors – to either stop taking their medication or begin rationing pills to save money,” Oliver said. “Either outcome is unacceptable and would cost taxpayers more money when sick senior citizens go to emergency rooms for more expensive treatment. The burden of this budget will not rest on the backs of vulnerable senior citizens.”

“A lot can be said about a society by the way it treats its seniors,” said Sweeney. “The last thing we should be doing is asking our parents and grandparents to shoulder all the pain of this budget while others get off scot-free.”

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