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Senate Democrats Deliver Real State Of The State

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, stands with Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, D-Essex, Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Louis Greenwald, D-Camden and Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, to unveil a plan to eliminate Gov. Chris Christie’s proposals to hit senior and disabled citizens with increased prescription drug fees and slash their property tax relief, while allowing some of the State's highest wage earners to pay less.

Cite Governor’s Response To NJ’s Decades High Unemployment Rate, Foreclosure Crisis, Women’s Issues, & Healthcare As Sorely Lacking & Indifferent

TRENTON – In advance of the governor’s State of the State address, Senate Democrats today delivered their own assessment of how things currently stand in New Jersey. Citing the state’s decades high unemployment rate, second in the nation foreclosure rate, shrinking middle class, and the slashing of programs that directly impact women and the most vulnerable, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senate President Pro Temp Nia H. Gill noted how difficult it truly is for middle class and working people in New Jersey to get by day after day.

“The governor got elected by saying he would do something about the economy in New Jersey, but our unemployment rate is nearly identical now to what it was when he came into office,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland). “Despite these figures, at no point in the last three years has this governor presented a comprehensive plan to create jobs in this state. In the meantime, the middle class in New Jersey has shrunk and more people are living in poverty. We presented the governor with dozens of bills to create jobs and boost the economy, but he vetoed most of them because they were Democratic ideas. We aren’t going to rest though. Just because the governor doesn’t want to act does not mean we are going to sit around waiting for him.”

In August 2012, New Jersey’s unemployment rate reached 9.9%, the highest it had been since 1977. This occurred despite the national unemployment rate continuing to fall. New Jersey’s current rate of 9.6% represents the highest in the area, well above those of neighboring states New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Instead of taking action to create jobs, the governor has vetoed dozens of bills designed to spur economic growth and has slashed programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and property tax relief for working people that would have pumped money directly into New Jersey’s economy. In the meantime, the middle class in New Jersey has shrunk while more people are living in poverty.

Governor Christie’s New Jersey has been especially hard on the state’s women. He has eliminated family planning funding, forcing the shut down of women’s health centers and placing a particularly hard burden on low-income women. In addition, he has also fought against common sense measures on women’s health, such as when he refused to pursue a $9 federal match for every $1 spent on women’s health care for Medicaid-eligible residents. In September he vetoed legislation that would have established pay equity for women in New Jersey.

“The repeated assaults on the needs and priorities of women in New Jersey over the past three years has amounted to a war on women,” said Weinberg. “From health care, child care, family planning and equal pay, the governor has failed to do the right things for women. He not only refused to help women make the progress we need and deserve, he has reversed many of the gains that had been achieved in the recent past. Unfortunately, his record on women is just as bad as the national Republicans.”

New Jersey is in the midst of a foreclosure crisis, with 7% of all homeowners currently in foreclosure. The state also ranks second in the nation in terms of foreclosures, despite a national trend that has seen foreclosure rates go down for a majority of states. The administration has taken little action to combat this issue and only served to make things worse when it mismanaged $300 million in federal funding that was meant to keep people in foreclosure from losing their homes.

“We have a mortgage foreclosure crisis that is causing an increasing number of families to lose their homes,” said Sweeney. “New Jersey now has the second-highest rate of foreclosures in the country and while the rate is increasing here it is decreasing nationwide. The failure of the administration to respond in an effective or timely fashion has made the problem worse. Their mismanagement of a federal fund designed to help homeowners avert foreclosure is a terrible failure. It’s a tragedy when anyone loses their home. It’s worse than tragic when it could have been prevented.”

Governor Christie has also failed to lead on the issue of healthcare in New Jersey, shortchanging hundreds of thousands of residents, particularly the working poor. His refusal to sign health exchange legislation has now left the issue in the hands of the federal government, preventing New Jersey from enacting a program that best fits the state. He has failed to commit to an expansion of Medicaid, an action that could cost the state as much as $22 billion over eight years. He has also slashed FamilyCare eligibility. As a result of all these actions, hundreds of thousands of uninsured New Jerseyans will be left vulnerable and 39,000 low-income parents have been denied access to NJ Family Care. Again, it is middle class families and the state’s most vulnerable who are left to fend for themselves.

“New Jersey historically has been at the forefront when it comes to providing access to healthcare and ensuring coverage for our citizens. For the past three years, the governor has taken our state backward. He has failed to provide an adequate safety net for our residents even when the federal government has offered assistance programs, and implementation could be accomplished at little or no cost to the state,” said Gill. “The governor has held healthcare progress in the state hostage to politics for far too long. The fate of the state’s uninsured and underinsured residents cannot be decided based on the political whims of this administration. And we will not let it.”

(Please see attached documentation regarding action taken by the Legislature to aid middle class families in New Jersey, action taken by Governor Christie that has hurt those same people, and the results for New Jersey.)

“We all know the long road ahead for New Jersey as we look to rebuild after Sandy. That does not mean, however, that we can ignore the serious issues that were facing our state before the storm hit. Actions always speak louder than words and what people in New Jersey need right now is action on jobs, action on housing and action on those issues that impact women and the most vulnerable. In New Jersey, the real state of the state is a daily struggle for hard working people to get by. They need a governor who not only hears them loud and clear, but acts for them,” said Sweeney.

Click here to read about the challenges we face in the 2013 State of Our State.