Tag Archive: budget

Christie faces a rocky return to NJ

Our editor Rosi Efthim said about Gov. Christie, “Despite his protestations to the contrary, he has no moral and ethical core. It makes shifts in positioning look facile.” Nonetheless, soon he will return to NJ, at least for while. A Monmouth poll found his job rating stands at 36% approve to 58% disapprove. Even Republican office holders are distancing themselves from Christie including Assemblyman Sam Fiocci (R-1), and Cumberland County Freeholder Jim Sauro who said, “Don’t start blaming us for his issues.” So Christie will come back to face a host of unresolved matters and ill-will from many quarters with baggage that contradicts what he previously said, exposes his lack of an ethical core, makes it hard for him to explain his flip-flops, and difficult to govern.

Below is a sampling on such subjects as Planned Parenthood, marijuana, immigration, common core, teacher pensions, guns, taxes & budget:

  • Planned Parenthood – Each time he vetoed their funding he said the reason was that “costs were duplicative and the State could not afford it.” A few months ago he said “I’m pro-life, – the first governor to ever speak at a pro-life rally on the steps of the Statehouse,” and boasted that he “vetoed Planned Parenthood funding five times” to much applause. In South Carolina he vowed to defund Planned Parenthood nationally if elected.

  • Common Core – Flip-flopping his way, he once was a vocal proponent of the standards but on the campaign trail has said Common Core is simply not working.” He is now hiding behind an appointed study commission.

  • Teachers’ pension – While in 2009 he claimed he would protect their pension, he has failed to contribute the agreed upon amounts. In New Hampshire he asserted the nation’s teachers unions need a “punch in the face.”

  • Guns – Moving to the right from his 2009 position, he recently affirmed his opposition of new gun control laws in an interview on CNBC. A bipartisan bill (A4218), languishing on his desk, would give NJ courts and police greater authority to enforce current state gun laws, but so far Christie has refused to say whether he will sign or veto it. In Iowa he ripped into a gun rights activist.

  • QoTD: Christie vetoes

    Hetty Rosenstein, CWA-NJQuote of the Day from CWA’s Hetty Rosenstein, who with other NJ labor leaders stood with Democratic leaders yesterday as they prepared to send a budget to Gov. Christie that raised taxes on New Jersey’s wealthiest and its corporations. Now, the governor has struck down key provisions of that budget, excising $1.6 billion from it, and keeping his promise to wealthy Republican presidential donors outside Jersey that he’ll be a 2016 candidate that hews to their worldview of a shrunken government of low expectations. The Democratic budget doubled funding to pay into the state pension system – no official word yet on Christie’s disposition there, but you already know that story. The Dems also included an increase in the earned income tax credit from 20% of the federal level to 25%; Christie says he wants to see that at 30%.

    “No one should be surprised today. Whenever given a choice, Chris Christie stands squarely with millionaires and corporations over working people every single time.

                                         – Hetty Rosenstein, CWA

    Democratic Budget Plan

    Update 3:00pm: The Star-Ledger reports, Democrats are proposing a $35.3 billion budget with $3.1 billion set aside for pensions, in contrast to Christie’s $33.8 billion spending plan which included $1.3 billion for pensions. New proposed revenue sources include a tax hike on income over $1 million and a 15 percent corporation business tax surcharge.

    ——-

    In a press release this morning Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) announced that the Democratic budget will make a FY2016 pension repayment of $300 million as an FY2015 supplemental appropriation based on stronger-than-expected June tax collections.

    The $300 million prepayment, funded out of FY15 revenue, is in addition to the $212 million that Governor Christie committed to add to the FY15 pension payment based on this year’s positive “April surprise” surge in income tax revenues.

    “Making the payment upfront, rather than next June, will generate more than $21 million in additional investment income over the course of the fiscal year, based on State Investment Council projections,” Senate President Sweeney said. “It is important that we get every dollar we can into the pension system because every $1 we put in now saves us $3 in the future.”

    “Democrats are committed to fiscal responsibility,” said Speaker Prieto. “Underfunding the pension payment has put the state deeper in debt, lowered the state’s credit rating and hurt the economy. The state should balance its budget and fully fund its pension obligation, and this prepayment is part of our efforts to fix these problems and move the state’s economy in the right direction.”

    ———-

    Blue Jersey will have more commentary on the budget which must be finalized by June 30. As of this moment Governor Christie has issued no response to the Democratic plan.

     

    Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget: Expanding Health Care Coverage in New Jersey

    Rethink the 2016 NJ BudgetAs we near the end of our 7-week budget series with the Anti-Poverty Network, you can read where we believe the state should be investing its resources at this link for the series. Maura works at New Jersey Citizen Action and the NJ for Health Care Coalition. – Rosi

    For all the debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), one thing is certain; New Jersey is seeing great benefit as a result of its implementation. Take a look at the numbers:

  • 719,000 New Jerseyans have enrolled in coverage under the ACA, cutting the rate of uninsured adults across our state in half.

  • 254,000 have selected health plans through the new health insurance Marketplace; 8 out of 10 received financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help reduce their premium contribution.

  • 465,000 individuals have been enrolled in the Medicaid expansion.

    Not only has ACA expanded coverage, but as this series has already pointed out the state has realized hundreds of millions of dollars in savings from reduced charity care and a significant increase in federal funds for the Medicaid expansion.

    So what’s the problem?  Under the Governor’s budget proposal, just a sliver of these savings would be reinvested to shore up our health care system. But, instead of diverting these state dollars away from our health care system to plug gaps elsewhere in the budget as the Governor proposes, ACA and charity care savings should be used to support initiatives that will expand access to health care coverage and services to more low and moderate income New Jerseyans.  

  • Rethink the 2016 Budget: It’s Beyond Time to Reverse the Tax Hike on Half a Million Working Families

    Rethink the 2016 NJ BudgetEvery Monday & Wednesday at Noon it’s time for the latest in our budget series with the Anti-Poverty Network on how NJ should be spending its resources – Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget. Jon is Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective. Promoted by Rosi.


    In 2010, as New Jersey was in the midst of the Great Recession, legislators and the governor cut an essential tax credit for working families who aren’t making enough to make ends meet. Five years later, these half-million New Jersey families are still living with this de facto tax hike, having lost between $250 and $300 million in crucial tax credits that help them get a leg up in high-cost New Jersey. Some of the poorest families have lost $331 a year, totaling $1,650 over five years.

    As lawmakers once again compose a spending plan for the state, it’s essential – and beyond time – to at least reverse this tax hike and restore the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to its 2009 level. This move would give a much-needed boost to the far too many families who continue to struggle in this crawling economic recovery.  

    Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget: Reinvest Health Savings to Meet NJ’s Growing Human Service Needs

    Here’s the latest in our 7-week budget series, on what NJ’s spending priorities should be – Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget, with the Anti-Poverty Network. Ray is Senior Policy Analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective – Rosi.

    Rethink the 2016 NJ BudgetThe state budget proposal for the coming year contains precious few increases to respond to the continued increases in poverty faced by New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents. One apparent exception to this trend is the 11 percent increase in funding for the Department of Human Services (DHS), the department of the executive branch that oversees most of the social service programs that funded by or through the State –

    programs for healthcare, mental health, and disability services, as well as the income assistance programs and supplemental nutrition assistance that serve the poorest of the poor.

    But don’t be fooled: This increase is not so much the result of more state investment, but the increasing reliance on federal dollars to meet New Jersey’s needs. In other words, The money that comes through DHS has increased, but the state itself has not increased its budget commitment to meet the growing need. In fact, the increased federal dollars are not even going as far as they could, because some of those resources have been diverted to plug other spending gaps.

    Here are the numbers:

    New Jersey’s Department of Exxon Protection

    On the surface, today’s New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee hearing on the Department of Environmental Protection seemed boring and unproductive, even by Trenton Standards. NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin refused to answer questions about the Exxon giveaway settlement but did spout out a lot of statistics about specific remediation projects, allocation of money, and the high-level plans for the Department.

    Questions from panel members included the status of in-district projects and where some of the funds are going, but Martin referred any questions on the Exxon deal to the Attorney General and the Treasurer.

    It’s no secret that Chris Christie has been hostile to the environment throughout his reign, so the comments from Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director, should come as no surprise.

    Funds for Homelessness Prevention Are Wise Investments: Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget

    Here is the latest in our 7-week Budget Spotlight series, Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget, with the Anti-Poverty Network. Deb is Exec. Director of NJ Coalition to End Homelessness. – Rosi


    Rethink the 2016 NJ BudgetImagine that you are a single mother working two minimum wage jobs.  Every month you have to juggle payments for rent, utilities, child care, car, insurance, gas, food, medicine, and clothing.  One emergency – sickness causing you to miss work, divorce, death of a loved one, job loss – can upend your balancing act.  It can be hard to really understand what that monthly, or even daily struggle can feel like, but a unique resource to help enter the experience of struggle is provided by the online game called “Spent,” developed by the Urban Ministries of Durham, North Carolina.

    New Jersey Needs More Investment in Prevention:  New Jersey has two programs – Homeless Prevention Program (HPP)  and Social Services for the Homeless (SSH) – that help prevent homelessness among the working poor and those not eligible for welfare. These two programs provide emergency short-term assistance for working families that might otherwise lose their homes. The economic crises that can lead to homelessness vary, so these programs offer flexibility in the kind of help they can provide, including payments for rent, security or utility deposits, utility payments, or emergency food, as well as limited case management when a working family needs help.

    Just this past Friday, Governor Christie released the Final Report of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. One of the important recommendations of that Report is to expand Social Services for the Homeless to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless.

    Why is help needed for working families? As a recent article in the New York Times highlighted, our low wage structure means that many workers – cashiers, home health care aides, food service employees – can only get through the month by relying on public assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid,.   For low wage working families like these, HPP and SSH are the only programs New Jersey offers to make sure that an emergency doesn’t lead to homelessness. The proposed state budget would provide a combined total of just over $21.4 million between the two programs, an amount that has been virtually stagnant since the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The flat funding of these programs year after year – when inflation and expenses have increased — means that there is less money to help people each year.  

    Rethink the 2016 Budget: Flat Funding is Reduced Funding

    This is the 3rd part in our series Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget (archived here) with the Anti-Poverty Network. Joyce is Associate Exec. Director at Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton. Promoted by Rosi.


    Rethink the 2016 NJ BudgetIt really is a simple economic concept. For the last ten years non-profits in the state of NJ have been trying to convince our elected officials that flat funding of services and programs serving those living in poverty or with a disability is, in reality, less funding. Inflation is a familiar concept in the US economy: costs go up year over year. The exact inflation rate varies, but the direction is consistent. Nevertheless, this reality has been ignored in the state’s budgeting for non-profit service providers. If expenses were decreasing in our economy then we’d be cheering flat funding.  However, the reality, as we all know is quite the opposite. If one were to shop with $100 a week for groceries today you could not get as much food as you did five years ago.

    Yet, vital programs that serve those barely making ends meet, those with serious mental illness, and seniors on fixed incomes, are expected to be grateful that funds have not been directly cut. The trend, known as flat funding, impacts a variety of programs, from benefits that individuals and families receive directly from government programs to services from non-profit programs that contract with the state.  One has to really pay attention to words used in the FY16 State Budget Summary to understand the semantics of how flat funding is represented as an “investment”.  Words such as reaffirms, maintains, or will continue to provide over $x billion …are smoke screens to the reality that flat funding and disinvestment is hurting effective social service programs in our state.

    Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget: The Cost of Budget Raids

    This is the 2nd post in our 7-week budget priority series with the Anti-Poverty Network, Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget, with posts every Monday & Wednesday at noon. Doug O’Malley is director of Environment New Jersey, a state-wide environmental organization representing more than 20,000 citizen members, based in Trenton & New Brunswick. Promoted by Rosi


    Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget

    It’s spring (finally). In Trenton, that can only mean the scramble for dollars to meet the budget deadline is heating up – and to make the numbers work money that isn’t constitutionally dedicated could soon be magically flowing into the General Fund.

    This budgetary funny business of raiding dedicated funds affects both parties. During the McGreevey years, the most egregious examples were the raids of historic tobacco settlements of billions of dollars. And let us not forget that the 1995 to 2005 raids of the state’s unemployment insurance funds totaling more than $4 billion were a bipartisan affair.

    The bluster from the Christie Administration would make it seem like the governor’s budgets are above these shenanigans. In fact, the first four budgets of the Christie Administration relied more heavily on one-shot revenue fixes than the four budgets under the Corzine Administration – and leaned more heavily on dedicated fund raids. This year’s proposed budget looks like more of the same – but the funding raids especially hit environmental and public health causes. Here’s a quick hit-list of the real world impact of these ongoing raids:

    Woman caulking to weatherproof

  • The Big Kahuna: More than a $1 billion ratepayer dollars, earmarked for energy efficiency and clean energy projects, has already been raided by the Christie Administration over the last five fiscal years (not including this year). It’s the repeated target for budget-filling dollars from the Front Office and legislators. The consequence? This snowballing trend has become the perfect crime of budget politics. The initial raids meant that energy efficiency companies cut way back on weatherization programs for home-owners, laying off staff who they had recently hired. Some even went out of business. Now with less of a constituency, the FY16 budget continues the trend, with $66 million of Clean Energy Funds diverted to NJ Transit. But just in case you thought one wrong makes a right…