Daily Archives: August 16, 2010

>NJPP Monday Minute 8/16/10: MORE FEDERAL MONEY, BUT NOT ENOUGH FEDERAL MONEY

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Congress last week passed legislation that will send an additional $685 million to New Jersey – $399 million in increased Medicaid funds and $286 million to save teacher jobs. If properly implemented, these additional federal funds will save jobs; help the state’s ravaged economy and protect services to the most vulnerable.

But New Jersey’s share of the Medicaid relief was $181 million less than lawmakers expected, and that could punch a substantial hole in the state’s already anemic revenues.

JOBS FOR TEACHERS – $286 million

The new $286 million in federal funds going directly to school districts will help retain existing teachers, rehire former teachers or hire new teachers. According to the U.S. Department of Education, these funds should protect the jobs of about 3,900 teachers in New Jersey. That is about a third of the teachers expected to lose jobs as a result of cuts in state aid to education this year.

Gov. Christie initially opposed the aid for more teachers, but shifted his position after learning the federal government would distribute the funds in New Jersey if the state did not. That’s water under the bridge. It is now important that the state Department of Education work with the districts to accommodate these funds in their budgets as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary teacher layoffs.

FEDERAL MEDICAID FUNDS – $399 million

In an effort to help states weather the lingering recession, Washington has been providing extra Medicaid funds to help protect the neediest residents. New Jersey already has spent about $1.4 billion through May of this year and expects to receive about $800 million more through December. The problem is that Gov. Christie (and about 30 other governors) reasonably assumed these Medicaid funds would be extended until June 2011, to cover the second half of FY2011 and so they balanced their budgets accordingly.

New Jersey built $580 million from the relief program into its revenue estimates, but will only receive $399 million.

This money is needed to avoid further downward spiraling of the state’s economy. There is general agreement that the recovery will be slow, with the potential for a “double dip” recession. States are most at risk because traditionally state revenues don’t rebound until a year or two after national recovery sets in, largely because unemployment is the last area to improve when a recession ends.

The relief Congress approved, however, falls $181 million short of expectations. The shortfall won’t require an immediate budget adjustment, but if it isn’t made up by increases in state revenue collections, program cuts might be required.

The downsizing of Medicaid relief payments by one-third is the result of increasingly partisan political wrangling in Congress, where the legislation got bogged down in a false debate over deficit spending.

With only a few exceptions, Republicans were united in the Senate and the House against the bill. They argued the nation could not afford to provide the relief, even though the bill was fully funded by closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating the current increase in food stamps by 2014. The bill, plainly speaking, would not have increased the federal deficit by one penny.

Gov. Christie was right to join other governors in urging Congress to pass this necessary fiscal relief measure, and all of the Democratic members from New Jersey did vote in favor of the aid. Unfortunately, the governor wasn’t as persuasive with the members from his own party. New Jersey’s five Republican members joined in the partisan bloc that opposed the relief for state budgets, even after it was scaled back.

The opposition is even more surprising given the blame assigned to the state’s Congressional delegation for New Jersey’s tepid return on its citizens’ investment in federal taxes. New Jersey lags almost every other state in federal aid received as a percentage of federal income tax paid. For every dollar New Jerseyans pay in federal taxes, they get back 61 cents, according to one estimate.

Perhaps that’s due, in part, to state budget writers leaving too much federal money on the table. (see chart)

There are several instances of substantial federal dollars being lost because of minor cuts in the state budget. Take, for example, health care. For every $1 cut from the state’s successful FamilyCare health insurance program for working families, the state lost a $2 federal match. The governor’s rejection of $7.5 million in funding for family planning clinics cost the state a $9 match for each $1 spent by the state. Given the state’s diminishing revenues and the governor’s insistence on no tax increases, it seems folly to turn down money from the federal government for new teachers, social safety net programs or health care for working families and young women.

The total in lost federal funds from all state program cuts in New Jersey was about $250 million, according to NJPP estimates. That loss will multiply itself in subsequent years if the cuts are not restored.

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Filed under Congress, federal dollars, Gov. Chris Christie, Medicaid funds, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Teachers, US Department of Education

>The crisis of middle-class America

>Hat Tip to Facebook friend Rocca Mazza for pointing out this article from the Financial Times “The crisis of middle-class America”.

Rocca writes:


“Outstanding reporting published in the Financial Times on the crisis of middle class America. This is real, a must-read story. The story looks deeply into a few typical middle class families being financially suffocated by the economy with stagnated wages and increasing bills to pay. At some point, somethings got to give.

One family has an autistic son whose future they fear in such an uncertain landscape.

“….in the past few years the Freemans have been running low on optimism. ‘I guess the penny dropped in the last 18 months when we finally realised that it’s always going to be like this – we are never going to be able to retire on our savings,’ says Connie. ‘As for Andy,’ she says, referring to her painfully shy but acutely observant son, ‘the future really frightens me. If you’re young, it’s bad enough nowadays. But for a kid with autism?'”

This story also illustrates that while the wealthy become wealthier the poor are becoming poorer: “…..the annual incomes of the bottom 90…”

Here is a video link that accompanied the article, it is well worth the watch.

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Filed under Autism, great recession, Middle Class, President Obama, The Financial Times, wage stagnation

>Getting to know Freeholder Candidate Janice Venables

>The Monmouth Dems recently posted a video on Youtube introducing Freeholder Candidate Janice Venables. The Facebook announcement of the video has this to say about her:

“Councilwoman Janice Venables has a strong record as a fiscal conservative in the Borough of Spring Lake. She is ready to bring her record to Monmouth County as your next freeholder. Get to know Freeholder Candidate Janice Venables!

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Filed under campaign video, Facebook, Janice Venables, Monmouth County Freeholder Candidate, You Tube

>Fundraiser for 9/11 First Responders

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MIDDLESEX, MONMOUTH AND OCEAN COUNTIES UNITING TO SUPPORT OUR HEROES
Peter Grandich and Vin Gopal invite you to a fundraiser

in support of 9/11 first responders still suffering from health effects as a result of their heroism on September 11th of 2001.

Trinity Restaurant
84 Broad Street
Keyport, New Jersey

August 19th, 2010
7:00pm to 9:00pm

SPONSORED BY:
Market Me!
Monitor Newspapers
Trinity Financial
Dr. Steve Silberberg
Deborah Weiss, Broker Associate with Critelli & Kilbride Realtors
The Network Connection, LLC
Birdsall Services Group
Creative Approach, NJ
Keyport IHOP
Wells Fargo
Donna Rotunno – Independent Distributor
Trinity Restaurant
Tandem Radio

WE WILL BE HONORING THE FOLLOWING ELECTED OFFICIALS FOR THEIR OUTSTANDING AND ARDENT SUPPORT OF H.R. 847, 9/11 HEALTH & COMPENSATION ACTS

FEDERAL LEVEL
U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone Jr.

STATE LEVEL
State Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini

LOCAL LEVEL
Beachwood Mayor Ron Jones

TICKETS: $35

BUSINESS SPONSORSHIPS:

$100 – Recognition of business at event, ability to leave fliers and literature at table + 1 event ticket.

$250 – Receive a 45 second commercial for your business at the event, ability to leave fliers and literature at table + 3 event tickets.

For more information, please contact vin.gopal.2008@gmail.com

The primary mission of the FealGood Foundation, a non-profit organization, is to spread awareness and educate the public about the catastrophic health effects on 9/11 first responders, as well as to provide assistance to relieve these great heroes of the financial burdens placed on them over the last eight years. A secondary goal of the Foundation is to create a network of advocacy on 9/11 healthcare issues. We not only advocate for Ground Zero workers, but show others how they can advocate for themselves and help others through grassroots activism – For more information, please visit http://www.fealgoodfoundation.com/
If you cannot attend the event, but would like to send a check to the foundation,

FealGood Foundation
144 Shenandoah Blvd.
Nesconset, NY 11767

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Filed under 9/11, feelgood foundation, first responders, fundraiser, ground zero, Monitor Newspaper, Vin Gopal