New Jersey citizens and groups have been packing hearing rooms throughout the state as the legislature begins public hearings on Gov. Christie’s FY2011 budget proposal. The governor has repeatedly said everything but spending cuts are off the table to close the nearly $11 billion budget gap, a move that has angered advocates for children, schools and healthcare to name just a few.
In her March 23 testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, NJPP Interim President Mary Forsberg stated that the economic crisis facing New Jersey is too severe for just one approach, as the governor seems bent on doing. “You can respond to shortfalls like these in three ways,” she said. “You can raise taxes, you can reduce expenditures, or you can opt for a balanced approach that includes increased revenue and responsible savings.”
Senior Policy Analyst Raymond Castro’s testimony on March 25 before the Senate Budget Committee focused on the governor’s cuts to FamilyCare, noting that Gov. Christie had already closed enrollment to all parents above 133 percent of the federal poverty level and plans to increase premiums for many of parents remaining in the program.
“While closing enrollment to 39,000 parents in 2011 will save $25 million in state funds, it results in a loss of $45 million in federal funds-the last thing New Jersey needs in a recession,” said Castro.
The proposed budget also ends all state funding for FamilyCare outreach, making it impossible for the state to meet its goal of insuring all children by 2013. Again this results in a loss of federal funds.
As part of the Better Choices for New Jersey coalition, NJPP has identified $1.6 billion in additional revenue and savings that would allow the state to avoid the worst of these cuts:
- Restoring the marginal tax rate increase on those making over $400,000 a year would generate about $1 billion in revenue.
- Increasing the motor vehicle registration fees on gas guzzlers could bring in $140 million.
- Retaining the surcharge on corporate business tax liabilities and increasing it to eight percent instead of four percent would provide $160 million in revenue.
- Closing corporate loopholes and instituting a system of combined reporting for businesses could save New Jersey taxpayers close to $250 million.
The Senate and Assembly will continue to hold hearings over the next few months in the lead up to negotiations with the governor over a final budget, which must be signed by the end of the day on June 30, 2010. There are still opportunities to testify
about the impact of the budget on issues of concern to you. It is possible to sign-up either online or by phone.
In addition you can contact your legislator. Tell him or her that everyone should share in the sacrifice-not just students, teachers, public employees, transit riders and those who have no voice.