Weinberg, Barnes And Johnson Fight To Expedite Compensation Awards For Victims

NEWARK – Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblymen Peter J. Barnes and Gordon M. Johnson today held a news conference at the Robert Treat Center to discuss identical bills they are sponsoring to help provide better service for victims of crime here in New Jersey, while saving nearly one million dollars per year in taxpayer dollars by fully revamping the State’s Victims of Crime Compensation Board (VCCB).

“When the board was founded it was designed to use monetary penalties that were imposed on criminals to help compensate their victims for their pain and suffering,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. ” Since then, its original mission has been clouded by a wave of patronage appointees who do not take their positions seriously. With this legislation, our goal is to tighten up the agency and make sure that the people in leadership roles are actually on the job, doing what they are paid to do, and not taking off weeks at a time, leaving victims to suffer without compensation for even longer periods of time.”

“In its current form, the Victims of Crime Compensation Board is an open invitation for abuse as a glorified patronage mill,” said Assemblyman Barnes, D-Middlesex. “Instead of protecting and advocating for crime victims, the board too often came under fire for being concerned about maintaining its status quo of bloated salaries.”

“There is no reason taxpayers should continue to shoulder the burden of a patronage-oriented body when more dedicated, deserving and responsive victims advocates are willing to serve for free,” said Assemblyman Johnson, D-Bergen. “Revamping the board would be a win for crime victims and taxpayers.”

Under the Weinberg-Barnes-Johnson bill, S-1405/A-2322, the VCCB would be streamlined to consist of an executive director and an unpaid hearing board advisory panel. The current chairman of the VCCB would serve as the executive director until a qualified replacement is found. Currently, the board’s membership is comprised of five paid full-time board members, who receive salaries of more than $100,000 a year and also gain tenure in their positions after ten years of service.

Through the VCCB, victims who qualify are can be awarded grants of up to $25,000.

“As it stands, New Jersey and New York are the only states that offer salaries to VCCB members,” said Senator Weinberg. “It’s a pretty well known fact that we have a budget deficit, and by removing the funding for board members and cutting additional staff, we would be conserving much-needed state funds while ensuring that the funding gets to the people who need it most.”

The Senate version of the bill awaits a vote by the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee. The Assembly version awaits a vote by the Assembly Appropriations panel.