Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney Statement On State Finances

TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s announcement on New Jersey’s finances:

“The economic downturn that continues to grip the entire country shows no signs of easing anytime soon. In fact, as the numbers Governor Corzine announced today show, it continues to worsen. State government spending levels will be more than $4 billion lower than what was projected last year when we began putting the current budget together. This is like nothing the state has ever seen.

“Extraordinary action will have to be taken to make sure the state weathers this crisis and emerges strong when the economy improves. It will require painful sacrifices in all quarters. We can’t expect the working families of New Jersey to tighten their belts unless we show them their state government is also willing to share the burden. And we must make sure we provide those families with the support and services they need most during difficult economic times.

“Last year the Legislature voted to transfer $260 million from the state’s general fund into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. This action was necessary to prevent the fund from dipping to a level that would have triggered hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes on employers. Today, Governor Corzine has called for an additional infusion of up to $270 million into the Trust Fund. This money is counted on by displaced workers who rely on unemployment to get them through a trying period in their lives, and if we don’t replenish the fund, a $370 million tax will automatically be levied on our employers, most of them small businesses. We can’t allow that to happen.

“Over the next few months, we will have to make a host of equally hard choices about cutting our spending and maintaining the level of services our people need. The Senate Majority stands ready to make those choices and to make the difficult decisions we were elected to make by the people of New Jersey.”