NEW BRUNSWICK – Senator Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement today at the opening of the annual public hearings on the State Budget in the Student Center at Rutgers University:
“Welcome everyone to the first of three public hearings on the State of New Jersey’s FY 2009 Budget, which must be balanced, passed and signed into law by June 30th of the current fiscal year.
“The reason we have public hearings is so the committee can hear from real people who are directly affected by the changes proposed in the Governor’s Budget. We hear from the lobbyist groups all the time and they, of course, are welcome to testify as well. However, I am encouraged by the large number of private individuals who are scheduled to testify today and I thank them for taking time out of their busy lives to share their perspectives on the proposed spending plan.
“The Committee is painfully aware of a recent poll suggesting that more than half of the people who were asked their opinion on the Budget put forth by the Governor have registered their dissatisfaction with his proposal at this point in time.
“Well, now is your opportunity to be heard loud and clear. I can reassure that your testimony will not fall on deaf ears.
“For those of you who have testified in the past, you will notice that few of the former members remain. Along with the new composition in membership comes a new energy and a renewed commitment to fight passionately for the needs of their districts and for the needs of all fellow New Jerseyans.
“Judging from the lively, thoughtful debate in our budget caucus, I feel more hopeful than ever before during my years of service as a member of this committee, that this committee has the heart to take on and to solve many of the intractable problems facing our State–
“–from reigning in property taxes; to finding a way to provide health insurance to all of our residents so that the notion of charity care eventually becomes an anachronism; to making sure that all of our children continue to make progress by becoming better-educated; to investing more in our public institutions of primary, secondary and higher education; to making progress on reducing our debt so our hands are no longer tied by ever-escalating debt service payments.
“We see this as our collective responsibility to you, the people of the State of New Jersey. We may not solve all the problems in one year, but we will make progress and, equally important, I can assure you that each and every member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee will exercise their best effort to move the State in a new direction for all the right reasons.”