Democrats Criticize Christie’s Veto Of Back To Work NJ Program

TRENTON – Yesterday, Assembly Democrats were critical of Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of their legislation to create a Back to Work NJ, intended to create jobs and spur economic development. This is the second time the governor has vetoed the measure.

Christie explained his decision to veto the bill because it would require $3 million and no cuts in other spending were proposed to pay for it. “Rather than grapple with the difficult choices required for the balanced spending mandated by our Constitution, and demanded by our residents, this bill simply perpetuates the decades of unbridled spending that resulted in our current fiscal climate,” the governor wrote.

“Gov. Christie had the chance to do the right thing and join Democrats in helping put New Jerseyans back-to-work, but once again he has let New Jersey families down,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “The governor fails to understand that this innovative program would allow out-of-work New Jerseyans to develop the skills to stay in the workforce. It would have helped workers and businesses alike to jumpstart our economy and move our state forward, but instead the governor has once again stood in the way of job training.”

“This veto is once again a blow to New Jersey families struggling to make ends meet,” said Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “Since we know this program works, the only reason to oppose it was partisan politics, and that’s just wrong. We all need to do what’s best for our residents to create jobs and grow our economy, not play politics as the governor has chosen to do.”

The proposed legislation is based on the successful Georgia Work$ program. The bill permits an eligible laid off worker to continue receiving unemployment insurance benefits while placed in on-the-job training with an eligible employer for a maximum of 24 hours per week for up to six weeks.

According to statistics compiled by the Georgia Department of Labor, 10,589 people participated in Georgia Works from February 2003 until January 2010. Of that number, 6,105 completed training and 3,363 were hired either during or at the end of their training. An additional 1,170 people found work within 90 days of completing training.

The bill provides each trainee up to $100 per week to help defray training-related costs, including transportation, clothing and child care.

The program is voluntary for both laid off workers and employers.

The bill also requires the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development to monitor eligible participants and eligible employers who participate to ascertain whether the training provided by the program complies with the requirements. If the department determines that an employer has a repeated pattern of using eligible participants as unpaid labor without hiring them as employees, or otherwise fails to comply with the requirements, the department may impose penalties and shall disqualify the employer from further participation.

The bill appropriates $3 million from the state budget for payments to eligible participants for purposes of defraying the costs of workplace training, the compensation provided to eligible participants for purposes of workers’ compensation and oversight of the program, but the Office of Legislative Services estimates it will cost less – approximately $2.2 million a year.

The sponsors noted the program will also result in unemployment claimants securing paid employment sooner than they otherwise would have, thus reducing unemployment benefit costs.

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