Our Governor has demonstrated determination and a commitment to solve our fiscal dilemma. Certainly, we must recognize his perseverance. His is a public servant who does not take a backward step when faced with a challenge. Nevertheless, we must examine the inevitable consequences of his actions.
The implications of Governor Chris Christie’s public discussions about the upcoming State budget may have dire consequences for New Jerseyans with disabilities and special needs, including the elderly and poor citizens of our State. The sound bites that the Governor has been delivering at public forums in New Jersey and around the nation suggest that his proposed budget will be based on “saving money at any cost”. However, the most vulnerable members of our society may graduate from borderline poverty to homelessness as a consequence.
Simply cutting Medicaid could result in poor citizens becoming homeless, hungry, and without health care. Interestingly, we have learned over the past year that simply making budget cuts often results in a greater tax burden for New Jerseyans. For example, cuts in municipal and school aid have resulted in greater local property taxes. Similarly, Medicaid cuts will result in a greater burden on taxpayers to support increasing welfare spending.
Certainly, our Governor has inherited a financial problem of historic proportions. Perhaps radical changes are the only solution. He has served New Jersey well in trying to root out corruption and public waste. Nevertheless, casting our most vulnerable citizens aside will not serve New Jersey or any taxpayer.
Recently, State Legislators have voiced concern about the upcoming proposed budget. New Jersey State Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, Assemblyman and Majority Leader Joseph Cryan, and Assemblyman and Budget Chairman Louis D. Greenwald have voiced concerns that the Governor’s proposed budget must include access to quality health care for all New Jerseyans, in addition to tax relief. Perhaps more interesting, the Governor’s cuts over the last year have resulted in greater, not lower taxes. In fact, most pundits predict ever increasing property taxes in New Jersey, despite the mandated two per cent cap on municipal spending.
Can we afford to be a State with insufficient fire departments, inadequate police departments, understaffed school systems, and an ever decreasing quality of life? Certainly, we must begin with health care. Without access to quality health care we will be falling into an abyss in which only the wealthy can afford medical treatment and preventive medicine. Simply, we cannot afford to lose more hospitals. The cuts in police departments will lead to more crime and perhaps the need for more funding in our correctional institutions. Understaffed schools will lead to a decrease in school performance, which research has indicated will lead to more people eventually landing on welfare roles or becoming part of the criminal justice system.
Working class families are not responsible for the irresponsible State spending that occurred over the last two decades. Yet, they and the poor will be the most direct victims of the current crisis. How does one determine that a portion of our population must be expendable if we are to survive? If history has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that once we deny the rights and value of any group of citizens, we destroy the rights and value of all citizens. Can we afford to destroy a society as part of a poorly developed plan to achieve fiscal solvency?
Property taxes were not lowered during Governor Christie’s first year in office. His policies have simply shifted the burden from the State to local governments. Working class citizens can no longer afford to own their homes or even live in New Jersey. Blaming the pension system for the recent down grading of New Jersey’s credit rating was an exercise in futility. The pension system is underfunded because the State has not paid its portion for years, while public workers have continued to pay their portion, year after year.
Yes, the Governor has inherited an unprecedented burden. In addition, he is determined to not be intimidated by the challenge and deserves credit for his commitment. However, his actions will increase the financial dilemma that we face, rather than solve it.