Sweeney Invites De Croce To South Jersey Union Hall To Meet ‘These People’

Says Assembly Republican Leader ‘Could Learn a Lot’ From Unemployed

TRENTON – Still seething over the Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce’s comments yesterday that scapegoated the unemployed as “these people” living a supposedly comfortable lifestyle on unemployment, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney today invited the legislator to join him at his ironworkers union hall to meet face-to-face with the jobless residents he insulted.

“Alex may not come across too many of ‘these people’ in his wealthy suburban district, so maybe he needs a little trip to meet with the unemployed he holds in such low regard,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “I’m at my union hall at 5:30 every morning, and I see plenty of folks who would give anything find a job and get off unemployment. I would welcome Alex to join me any day of the week to meet with ‘these people’ himself. I’m sure it would be quite an education.”

At a New Jersey Business and Industry Association-sponsored event yesterday, DeCroce said that current unemployment benefits are “too good for these people.” He went on to say that unemployment benefits – which average roughly $350 per worker – are “too generous” and that jobless residents don’t have an incentive to find work.

Sweeney noted that two weeks ago, DeCroce was quoted in the Wall Street Journal admitting his party does not even have a jobs plan, and that economic growth is “on the back burner.”

As a legislator, DeCroce earns $49,000 a year. His wife, Betty Lou, is deputy commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs at $130,168 annually.

“Things may be comfy in Alex’s dual-government-income household with its government-provided health benefits, but the men I talk to every day have no health insurance, no savings to dip into to pay their property taxes and are losing hope of finding good work,” said Sweeney, who does not take public health benefits and donates a significant part of his public salary to charity.

Sweeney said DeCroce is failing the unemployed Morris County residents he represents. According to the latest data, the county’s unemployment rate is 6.6 percent.

One of the state’s and nation’s wealthiest counties, according to 2008 tax data, Morris County has the state’s third highest average income per filer, at $114,555.

“Alex DeCroce could learn a lot if he took some time to see that ‘these people’ are hard-working residents who want nothing more than to get back to work so they can provide for their families,” said Sweeney. “His insensitive comments have shown just how out of touch he is with the real challenges facing residents. Maybe some time spent among the union members I have to meet every morning would cure him of his radical and radically wrong right-wing idea.”