TRENTON – Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver criticized Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce for comments he made yesterday at a New Jersey Business and Industry Association-sponsored event in Iselin.
DeCroce proposed reducing benefits as a way to prop up New Jersey’s unemployment fund, which is currently $1.7 billion in debt to the federal government. Business owners will face an unemployment insurance tax increase in July to start to replenish the fund.
The Morris County Republican said that unemployment benefits, which pay a maximum of $550 per week, are “too good for these people.”
“Why go to work?,” DeCroce said. “If you can go for 26 weeks collecting $550 a week, and you get an extension for another 26, that’s close to $27,000 a year or $30,000 a year, and a lot of people figure, ‘Why go to work?'”
“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 (D-Gloucester.) “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.”
“Far too often lately we’ve seen the tone of the discussion around state public policy devolve into blaming others, but out-of-work New Jerseyans are not to blame for the troubles facing our state,” said Oliver (D-Essex.) “It’s time for this blame game to end. I invite Republican Leader DeCroce to instead devote his time to helping pass our job creation and economic development package.”
DeCroce responded by saying “I would like to apologize for not more effectively expressing the remarks I made on Tuesday regarding the issue of unemployment insurance benefits. My comments were made to a gathering of business leaders and I wanted to convey the need to fix a system that is on the verge of collapse. I wanted to emphasize that there are individuals who are gaming the system contributing to its current state.”
He went on to criticize the Legislature’s Democratic leadership for failing to offer solutions to the problem and for stalling property tax reform measures.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate remains at 9.2 percent.
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