For The Many Members to Testify in Support of Budget that Funds the Recovery

For The Many Members to Testify in Support of Budget that Funds the Recovery

March 10, 2021 – Advocates and community leaders from across the state will testify today in support of a budget that properly funds New Jersey’s pandemic recovery. Members of the For The Many NJ coalition will stress the need for bold investments in public health, education, housing, the environment, and more in response to the economic downturn brought on by COVID-19.

Here are members of the For The Many coalition who will be testifying and the main points they will raise before the budget committee:

“New Jersey has a decision to make and we can’t afford to make the wrong one,” said Sheila Reynertson, Senior Policy Analyst of New Jersey Policy Perspective. “We can either turn a blind eye to the looming shortfalls in future budgets that will put millions of residents at risk of falling further behind or we can recommit to creating a modernized and equitable tax code to ensure a strong state recovery for everyone, especially those hit hardest by the events of the past year.”

“We applaud Gov. Murphy’s strong, progressive budget,” said Marie Blistan, President of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). “It prioritizes support for students, helps New Jersey families, and keeps the promises the state made to the educators who make our schools the best in the nation. In a time of unprecedented challenges, this budget points to a brighter future for our children and for all New Jersey residents. This budget helps New Jersey keep building toward a stronger, fairer future for everyone.”

“As we try to turn the corner on one of the deadliest pandemics in history, we need an equitable state budget with sustainable revenue and funding sources to ignite our economic recovery,” said Debbie White, RN, President of Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE). “That is the only way that we can make the needed investment in New Jersey’s public health infrastructure. We must also heed the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic, including prioritizing commitment to oversight of NJ healthcare systems.”

“The Bible teaches us that ‘where your money is, there your heart will also be,’” said Rev. Sara Lilja, Executive Director Lutherans Engaging in Advocacy Ministry NJ. “This coming year’s proposed budget suggests that our hearts here in New Jersey will be with those who have suffered terribly through this pandemic; low-wage workers and those who are struggling. However, even while we hear words of thanks for our immigrant community’s significant economic contributions, they have been left out of receiving stimulus help during this difficult time. If we say with our lips that our state values the work of our immigrant neighbors, let us also turn our hearts to their needs and fund stimulus for immigrant workers in this upcoming budget.”

 

“The pandemic has exacerbated racial and economic inequality in New Jersey in unprecedented ways,” said Sara Cullinane, Director of Make The Road New Jersey. “As Black and Latinx New Jerseyans suffer disproportionately from the pandemic and are more likely to lose jobs and be ineligible for aid, our state’s wealthiest residents and corporations report record-breaking profits without paying their fair share in taxes. Our state can take steps to reverse the descent into the worst income inequality in a generation by raising revenue to fund the recovery through closing corporate tax loopholes and ending sales tax breaks on luxury items. Our families need expanded EITC, immigrants excluded from federal aid deserve income relief, and our tenants must have access to affordable housing and rent relief.”

 

“The pandemic exposed and exacerbated the longstanding and deep-rooted effects of structural racism,” said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. “About two-thirds of all New Jersey children in poverty are either Black or Latino. To ensure access to basic needs and an equitable recovery, a long-term view with more sustainable revenues must be a priority for New Jersey.”

“We are pleased that our state leaders are working together this year to advance a budget that helps New Jerseyans recover from the pandemic, and that is fiscally responsible,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action. “The Governor’s proposal includes many important investments in working families’ recovery, including education, health care, and the expansion of working family tax credits. By making a full pension payment and maintaining a healthy budget surplus, New Jersey can strengthen our financial stability. We are urging few but nonetheless crucial additional investments this year, including direct cash assistance for excluded immigrant families who have received no aid and additional funding for housing and utility assistance.”

 

“The proposed FY2022 budget has some significant housing investments that help address NJ’s racial and economic disparities, including increased funding for Code Blue, rental assistance for new moms, and support for LGBTQ folks experiencing housing insecurity,” said Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ. “However, we are deeply concerned that the budget proposes to divert more than $42 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, moving funds intended to create affordable homes for lower-income New Jerseyans to programs that benefit middle-income residents. The proposal to use $20 million for a down payment assistance program is especially problematic. The program would require overwriting the Fair Housing Act’s intent for the Trust Fund to serve lower-income residents and risk gentrification without building a single new affordable home. There are much better ways for these funds to be used to achieve homeownership and housing choice. We will be working through the budget process to restore these funds, so the Affordable Housing Trust Fund is used as intended for New Jersey to be a place everyone can afford to call home.”

“Governor Murphy’s budget makes record investments in public transportation without fare hikes, in critical transportation infrastructure projects, and the first full state pension payment in a quarter-century. These investments will make a stronger and fairer New Jersey and create a resilient economy that will thrive in a post-covid world,” said Barry Kushnir, President of IFPTE Local 194 / Hudson County Central Labor Council. “However, our state cannot simply rely on federal aid, borrowed funds, or one-shot revenue raisers to recover, but must make the transformative decision to invest in the long term. A strong, sustainable economic recovery will require recurring revenue over multiple years to ensure the response this crisis merits.”

“New Jersey has to shift its thinking from here and now to reimagining what a just recovery can look like,” said Sue Altman, State Director of New Jersey Working Families. We must invest in our future and raise taxes on those who are profiting from the pandemic.”

“It’s time to stop thinking about the budget one cycle at a time,” said Marcia Marley, President of BlueWaveNJ. “The governor’s budget is great; it makes real investments in health, education, transit, and a historic payment to fulfill our pension obligations.  While BWNJ would prefer to see aid to immigrants included, the budget provides NJ funding to survive and recover from this crisis. However, a significant portion (10% – 14%) of this budget relies on temporary revenues. The road to sustained, equitable growth for all NJ residents and serious property tax relief will only occur by ensuring sufficient revenue sources over several years.”

“There are some improvements with the budget, but we have a long way to go. Even though there were promises not to do this, we’re still raiding the Clean Energy Fund. They’re also still using NJ Transit capital money for operations and maintenance. This is taking funding away from energy efficiency programs, green jobs, and electric buses that would help people save money and reduce pollution. Instead of widening highways, we should take more funding from the Turnpike to invest in and electrify our transit system,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “DEP will hopefully hire more staff this year, but it is some backfilling. DEP is still at the lowest staff levels in decades, so we need to make sure there’s enough money to hire people to make sure our air is clean, our water is pure, and our toxic sites are cleaned up.”

“The time to end the raids on the Clean Energy Fund and move forward on dedicated funding for NJ Transit is now – we urge the New Jersey Legislature to pass a budget which invests in our clean energy economy and mass transit,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. “Clean Energy Fund diversions hamper the transition to clean energy, and these raids won’t solve NJ Transit’s capital budget deficit. We urge the Legislature to fix these flaws in Gov. Murphy’s budget by ending these raids and move towards dedicated funding for NJ Transit.”

“Essential workers depend on public transit, low-income New Jerseyans struggle to pay utility bills, many remain underemployed, and pollution and climate change amplify the risk of COVID-19. NJ Transit and the Clean Energy Fund are needed now more than ever, yet in a surprisingly relatively flush budget, they continue to be a piggy bank for other programs. Between the Biden federal stimulus, new toll hike revenue inappropriately currently slated for highway expansion, and $4 billion rainy-day fund, the money is there if the governor and legislature value and prioritize these programs,” stated Eric Benson, Campaign Director of Clean Water Action New Jersey, noting this year’s proposed raids to the Clean Energy Fund and NJ Transit are over 80% ($442 million) of last year’s.

“We thank the Governor for including a $624 million increase in State school aid, putting NJ back on the path to full State funding of the education funding formula,” said the Our Children/Our Schools coalition. ‘However, we continue to insist that no individual school district lose State funds for next year, given that every district is struggling to overcome the impact of the pandemic on teaching and learning. Furthermore, while not a part of the State Budget, we urge the Administration and Legislature to increase funding for school construction through the SDA, especially as the pandemic has highlighted the critical need for safe school facilities for students, teachers, and staff.”

 

For The Many is a statewide coalition of more than 34 organizations working collectively to expand funding for essential services and improve budget practices to adequately meet current and future needs, especially for communities that have been historically marginalized.  

 

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