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Top Democrats Unveil Plan To Save Seniors From Christie’s Rx Drug, Property Tax Relief Cuts

True ‘Millionaire’s Tax’ Would Eliminate Brutal Cuts to Elderly New Jerseyans

Top New Jersey Democrats on Monday unveiled a plan to eliminate Gov. Chris Christie’s plans to hit senior and disabled citizens with increased prescription drug fees and slash their property tax relief.

The Democratic plan to protect New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents calls for a one-year income tax surcharge on the 16,000 New Jerseyans with taxable incomes of at least $1 million per year. The surcharge would raise about $630 million and eliminate Christie’s plans to force senior citizens to pay more for prescription drugs while slashing their property tax relief.

“From day one, the Governor’s plan to protect the rich from the any of the pain being delivered by his budget has flown in the face of both common sense and common decency,” said Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “This plan recenters our priorities.”

“This is a compassionate plan that allows the shared sacrifice of our most fortunate 16,000 residents to help more than 600,000 senior and disabled citizens who struggle to pay for medication and keep their homes,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “We have made it very clear that we are willing to work with the governor to solve our budget problems, but Democrats will not do so at the expense of elderly and disabled New Jerseyans. This plan spreads the pain and protects our most vulnerable.”

Under the plan:

• The income tax rate on those earning $1 million and more per year would be restored to 10.75 percent from 8.97 percent.

• Christie’s plan to charge a new $310 deductible to 105,000 senior and disabled citizens in the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled prescription drug program and 23,000 senior citizens enrolled in the Senior Gold prescription drug program would be eliminated.

• Christie’s plan to more than double prescription drug co-payments on those senior and disabled citizens would be eliminated.

• Property tax relief for more than 600,000 senior homeowners and tenants would be restored to last year’s levels.

An analysis prepared last month by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services reported that under the Christie plan, a retired couple living on a fixed income of $40,000 would see a $1,320 increase in taxes while a family making $1.2 million would receive a tax cut of $11,598. That analysis did not include estimates for the higher prescription drug costs.

“Asking seniors and the disabled to pay thousands of dollars in higher property taxes and prescription costs while providing a huge windfall to the extremely wealthy is simply unconscionable,” said Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex). “Today we renew our promise to seniors and the disabled that their quality of life is our priority.”

“Senior citizens living on the edge of poverty simply cannot afford these unmerciful cuts,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union). “We know that many cuts in Gov. Christie’s budget plan are painful, and spending cuts are clearly needed. But Christie’s cuts to seniors stand out as among the worst and would be devastating to those on fixed incomes. This plan steers us in a more caring direction for the betterment of seniors and the disabled.”

The leaders noted that by limiting the surcharge only to taxable incomes of at least $1 million, thousands of small business owners will be shielded.

“For all his talk of ‘shared sacrifice,’ the Governor seemed to take pride in insulating the wealthiest residents from having to share in anything,” said Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen/Essex/Passaic), chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “We can protect the small business leaders we need to help rebuild our economy while also allowing our most vulnerable residents to continue to call New Jersey home.”

“Cutting property tax relief for seniors and forcing them to pay significantly more for vital prescription drugs, leading them to ration or skip their medication as they lose their home, does not equate to shared sacrifice under any measure,” said Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden). “We’ve heard a lot about how Gov. Christie is not going to approve any tax increase, yet his budget proposal is already built on tax and fee increases on the poor and middle-class, especially placing a heavy load onto the poorest seniors. This plan changes that.”

Sweeney and Oliver said they expect the legislation implementing their plan will be heard during Thursday committee hearings, then posted for floor votes on May 20.

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