TRENTON – As part of Democrats’ effort to highlight the impact of Gov. Chris Christie’s cuts programs benefiting New Jersey’s middle-class and poor, the Assembly Budget Committee will meet next Tuesday to hear testimony how the cuts affect programs that serve children.
“Gov. Christie’s cuts hit working class New Jerseyans hard across the board, but his cuts to vital programs for children are among the harshest anyone has ever seen,” said Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden). “The impact of these cuts demand immediate attention, and we’re committed to trying to find a way to make sure these programs continue to serve children suffering through horrific cases of abuse, illness and poverty.”
“The governor’s budget was a reflection of his priorities, and I’m sorry to see New Jersey’s most vulnerable children are not on that list,” said Assembly Human Services Chairwoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), who will join the panel for the hearing. “Residents throughout our state are reeling from the governor’s cuts, but these children especially have no means to fend for themselves. Abused, sick, disabled and poor children deserve better and we’ve got to find a way to help.”
Republicans maintain that New Jersey couldn’t afford to fund the programs. “For nearly a decade [Democrats] used gimmicks and shell games to ‘balance’ the state budget,” said Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce. “When the money wasn’t there to pay for programs they inserted in their massive spending plans, they incessantly taxed middle class families and in doing so brought our state to the brink of bankruptcy.”
The governor used line-item vetoes to remove the following items from the Democrat-sponsored budget approved by the Legislature:
· $537,000 for Wynona M. Lipman Child Advocacy Center, which serves abused children.
· $5 million from child behavioral health services.
· $7.9 million from the early childhood intervention program that helps children with developmental disabilities.
· $1.5 million for teachers for children who are blind and visually impaired.
· $3 million for the NJ After 3 child care program for working parents.
· language designed to improve services for Head Start programs in suburban and rural school districts.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) and Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex) have been vocal in their concern about the Lipman Center cut.
“We’re not talking about political hacks here,” Oliver said. “We’re not talking about pork spending. We’re not talking about special interests. We’re talking about abused children. We’re talking about traumatized children. We’re talking about protecting and healing the most innocent amongst us. Many of the governor’s cuts are heartless, but this is inexplicable. This is sickening.”
“This cut by the governor shows a callous indifference to the plight of some of our most vulnerable,” said Spencer. “This center has been a beacon of hope for thousands of children who have been subjected to unimaginable horrors. I don’t blame the governor for refusing to defend his cuts because many, like this one, are indefensible.”
The Tuesday, July 19 hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in Committee Room 11 on the 4th floor of the State House Annex in Trenton. Audio from the hearing will be streamed live at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/live_audio.asp.
Democrats promise more hearings will be announced soon.