Category Archives: AARP

>A special state budget update from NJPP President Deborah Howlett

In his budget address three months ago, Governor Christie outlined his view of the “new normal” in New Jersey. It went something like this:

  • Rich people get tax breaks.
  • The middle class pays more.
  • We all make do with less.

Most states, instead of relying solely on cuts to services – cuts that threaten jobs and economic recovery and hurt struggling families – have adopted a balanced approach that includes revenues. But the plan laid out by the governor was cuts-only. It would close state facilities for the profoundly disabled; continue last year’s devastating cuts to schools; and require deep reductions in health insurance coverage for people with no place else to turn.

Over the next month or so, lawmakers and the governor will work in Trenton toward agreement on a state spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

NJPP will be in the thick of things.

As we have for 14 years, NJPP is fighting for the return of fair and progressive fiscal policies that until recently provided opportunities for all New Jerseyans and prosperity that was broadly shared across the Garden State. In a series of emails over the next couple of weeks I’ll give you more details, but here are a few highlights of the work that NJPP is doing to make a difference.

  • Senior Analyst Ray Castro is a leading voice in the independent and critical analysis of how cuts to NJ Family Care, the state Earned Income Tax Credit, and Medicaid will make it harder for poor and working families to get by.
  • A study by NJPP and the national group Demos showed that a bill to deregulate telecommunications in New Jersey would cost consumers, especially the poor and the elderly. Using the findings in the report, NJ Citizen Action and AARP went to work on lawmakers and in a grassroots effort that included more than 10,000 phone calls to legislative offices they succeeded in getting the measure tabled.
  • NJPP’s report on the proliferation of corporate subsidies is the foundation for ongoing efforts by the Better Choices coalition, of which we’re a member, to restore badly needed revenue. Made up of more than 70 nonprofits — including human services, education, religious, and labor groups – Better Choices is a vocal advocate for a proposal developed by NJPP to raise taxes on the wealthiest among us, those with income (not net worth, but income) over $1 million a year.

We’re proud to be a leading voice for common sense in New Jersey, and to strongly and clearly advocate for those who have the smallest voices in the public arena – the middle class, working families, the disabled and the most vulnerable in our society.

That work was spotlighted in a story published recently by the Asbury Park Press, which caught the attention of one of its hometown readers, rock icon Bruce Springsteen. Speaking of NJPP and our partners, Springsteen wrote in a letter to the editor, “These are voices that in our current climate are having a hard time being heard, not just in New Jersey, but nationally.”

Like you, and The Boss, we refuse to accept the idea that there’s a “new normal.”

Not here in New Jersey.

Not this year.

More to come…

Deborah Howlett, President

Update: I want to clarify a point made in our earlier email “Special State Budget Update,” which may have left the impression that as a policy matter NJPP is opposed to the closing of state institutions for people with developmental disabilities. We absolutely are not. Further, we understand it is important that the effort to close these institutions be fully funded by the state so that people with disabilities can live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.


Deborah Howlett, President

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Filed under AARP, Bruce Springsteen, Debrorah Howlett, Gov. Chris Christie, health care cuts, Middle Class, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ State Budget, School cuts, service cuts, tax breaks for the rich, Trenton

NJPP Monday Minute 5/3/10: Taxing seniors with higher fees is not shared sacrifice

Thirty-six percent of the 1.5 million seniors living in New Jersey have incomes under $25,000. For them, budget cuts that raise living expenses will have the disastrous effect of pushing more seniors into poverty. Consider the following policy proposals made in Gov. Christie’s proposed FY 2011 budget.

Homestead Rebates are eliminated – for both homeowners and tenants – for calendar year 2010.

The Homestead Rebate program is the state’s most significant homeowner and tenant property tax relief program – paying over $1 billion to homeowners and $74 million to tenants in 2009. In that year, more than 500,000 senior homeowners received average rebate checks of $1,300; while more than 100,000 senior tenants were eligible for maximum rebates of $800. This year homeowners and tenants will receive nothing – no matter what their income or their property tax.

The Christie administration proposes to change this program to a credit program in 2011 – the first installment of which would be made in May 2011 more than a year from now. Only homeowners would be eligible for the credit; tenants would be excluded entirely from receiving a credit. The FY 2011 budget recommends $268 million for the first quarterly credit in May 2011 which presumably would show up as a deduction on the property tax bill – not as a check in the mail.

Since 1963 when the state enacted its income tax, payments have been made directly to homeowners and tenants. Last year, the state sent checks to senior citizen homeowners with incomes below $150,000 and tenants with income below $100,000. Eligibility has varied through the years but this is the first year in memory where no payments will be made.

Senior Property Tax Freeze Program closed to new participants

The Senior Property Tax Freeze Program reimburses eligible senior citizens and disabled people for the amount their property taxes increase since the first year they become eligible for the program. The Christie administration would save about $26 million by closing this program to new eligible seniors in FY 2011 regardless of their income. Those already in the program would continue to benefit as long as their income remains below $70,000.

In 2009, this program paid out over $191 million to 136,000 repeat participants and 47,000 new participants. People already in the program received average checks just over $1,300; new participants received approximately $265. The 47,000 newly eligible seniors in 2009 cost the state $12.5 million.

In a year when property taxes are expected to increase because of severe cuts to school and municipal aid, the administration expects to pay just over $1,000 ($300 less than in FY 2010) to the 159,000 participating seniors in FY 2011.

Seniors likely will pay more for their prescription drugs

In order to save just over $140 million in prescription drug expenses for low income senior citizens, the Christie administration proposes to increase co-pays for brand name drugs to $15 from $7; decrease co-pays for generic drugs to $5 from $6; and institute a $310 annual deductible for the first time in history for those eligible for the Pharmaceutical Assistance for Aged and Disabled and Senior Gold programs.

Over 160,000 poor elderly residents participate in the PAAD and Senior Gold programs, according to the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. Couples over age 65 are eligible for PAAD if their incomes are under $29,956 and for Senior Gold if their incomes are under $39,956. Single individuals are eligible for PAAD if their incomes are under $24,432 and for Senior Gold if their incomes are under $34,432. For all of these people, the cost of getting the medicine they need to survive will likely increase based on the provisions included in the FY 2011 budget.

While encouraging use of generic over name brand medications is sensible in terms of cost, not every drug is available in generic form. About 36 percent of PAAD recipients use brand name prescriptions because no generic equivalent exists; another four percent use the brand name because their doctors believe the brand name is medically necessary. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services estimates that on average brand name medicines cost $119 compared to $18.71 for generic. AARP notes that the average person on PAAD takes 4 to 5 drugs each month. The combination of the new $310 annual deductible and drug price changes could mean that some low-income seniors could face significant increases in their medical costs.

Cutting prescription drug assistance and property tax relief for New Jersey’s seniors, while giving the wealthy a tax break, does not represent compassion and shared sacrifice. Gov. Christie’s plan will see more seniors rationing drugs, getting sicker and ending up in emergency rooms and nursing homes that will cost taxpayers even more. New Jersey can do better than target the elderly who can barely afford to make ends meet.

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Filed under AARP, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ Foundation For Aging, prescription drugs, property tax relief, senoir citizens

AARP members, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt assess prospects of health care reform bill


PLAINSBORO — During a tightly-packed hour of polite but blunt questions and answers, Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey) and members of the formidable 50-and-over group, the AARP of New Jersey today discussed the promise and shortcomings of the newly passed health care reform law.

Holt, whose 12th congressional district stretches across central Jersey from rural Hunterdon County to the shore in Monmouth County, gave a brief introduction on the law to members gathered at the state headquarters off Route 1 and people listening in by teleconference. Then he took nearly an hour of questions.

“Now if you are an American you can expect health care coverage,” Holt said. “It can’t be taken away from you when you need it the most.”

A caller from Ridgefield asked how it’s possible such a sweeping bill would not drive up Medicare premiums, which are already too high.

Holt said the law will save money by emphasizing efficiency – by investing in the education of more nurses and primary care doctors who are then better trained to avoid unnecessarily putting patients through procedures. The law “will result in more primary care physicians and nurses. You will be able to have someone who knows you as a total patient, not as someone who needs procedures done,” Holt said.

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AARP New Jersey Applauds State for Helping Vulnerable Elderly with Their Energy

New, Innovative Auto-Enrollment Process Brings Energy Assistance to Tens of Thousands of Additional Low-Income NJ Seniors

Trenton, NJ: AARP New Jersey today applauded Governor Jon S. Corzine and his administration for their leadership in significantly expanding the distribution of energy assistance benefits to low-income elderly New Jersey households. By our State’s actions in raising the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) maximum income levels to match that of the State’s PAAD/Lifeline program, approximately 50,000 additional low-income NJ families are receiving assistance.

“Governor Corzine demonstrated his commitment to focus on the energy assistance need of New Jersey’s most vulnerable older citizens,” said AARP New Jersey Senior State Director Jim Dieterle. “Energy costs continue to pose serious affordability challenges, particularly in this difficult economic climate; AARP commends our State’s efforts to combat this growing problem.”

AARP worked closely with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to streamline the enrollment process. Residents who were enrolled in PAAD, the state’s prescription drug program, and the Lifeline Utility Assistance Program were automatically enrolled in LIHEAP. Many have also been automatically enrolled in the Universal Service Fund (USF).

“AARP worked with our state partners to make this a reality,” said Dieterle. “In the past, the vast majority of New Jerseyans 50 and older who could have received heating assistance had not even applied partly because of an arduous application process. The new system of auto-enrollment helped thousands of households across the state this past heating season. AARP thanks the Governor, DHSS, DCA, and the BPU for their collaborative efforts that have resulted in one of the best, if not the best, low-income energy assistance programs in the nation.”

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Filed under AARP, Corzine'09, Gov. Jon Corzine, low-income energy assistance program, New Jersey, senoir citizens