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The General Assembly today passed legislation John Wisniewski, Thomas Giblin, Albert Coutinho and Linda Stender sponsored to increase funding for senior transportation programs.

The measure (A-2046) would increase the annual appropriation for “The Senior Citizen and Disabled Resident Transportation Program” from 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent of the revenue deposited in the Casino Revenue Fund.

“The state has thousands of senior citizens on fixed incomes and limited mobility who absolutely rely on state-funded transportation programs to survive,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “To offset the costs incurred from last summer’s record high fuel prices and to prevent curtailing of essential senior services during the ongoing recession, we must increase the amount of funding these programs receive.”

According to the lawmakers, increasing funding by one-percent would more easily allow the transportation programs currently in place to absorb the costs of 2008’s summer gas price spike and insulate programs against continually fluctuating fuel costs while neither curtailing existing service nor impacting other programs funded through the Casino Revenue Fund.

“Senior transport services are doing a lot with a little money, but cannot do more with even less,” said Giblin (D-Essex). “Last summer’s gas prices took a huge bite out of the funds currently set aside to provide essential transportation services.”

“Just because gas prices pulled-back from last year’s historic highs doesn’t mean another spike can’t happen,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “Providing this funding increase now will not only help these programs make up what they lost last summer, but provide a much-needed cushion against another hike in prices at the pump.”

The Senior Citizen and Disabled Resident Transportation Program assists counties in developing and providing access to fixed-route transportation services, where available, and creating local transit services where they are not.

“Redirecting this small percentage of funding will ensure New Jersey’s seniors can continue to access essential transportation services. It is worth doing to protect against volatility in the energy market,” said Stender (D-Union).

The Assembly passed the measure by a vote of 73 – 2 with two abstentions. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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