It is once again budget season here in New Jersey. Another year has brought another round of conflict between Governor Christie and the legislature, with few long term solutions being hashed out. Budgets are all about priorities, and once more Governor Christie, aided by his Republican allies in the legislature, has set the wrong priorities for New Jersey.
I am pleased that Governor Christie has finally reversed his opposition to restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit. And I agree with him that the credit should be expanded. The EITC rewards hard-working families struggling to get by. It ensures that work pays better than welfare. I’m disappointed that Nancy Munoz and Jon Bramnick have continually voted against expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Governor Christie once again vetoed the income tax surcharge for top earners and corporations. For individuals, the governor and I can find common ground: It is wrong for the state to raise taxes on anyone before reining in unnecessary spending. But with corporate profits at an all-time high, big business can afford to pay their fair share. It is unfortunate that the governor prioritized big business over the people of the state.
On education, the governor chose to veto emergency aid for Patterson School District, which is on the verge of laying off teachers due to lack of funding. With classrooms already overcrowded, it is irresponsible to force schools to lay off teachers. The money to avoid layoffs in Patterson would have been a tiny fraction of the state’s budget. It was wrong of the governor to veto the funds. Overall, our education system remains underfunded. Rising healthcare costs and pension obligations are eating up money that would otherwise go into our classrooms.
Governor Christie was elected on a platform of making tough choices and not playing political games. Yet once more this year he refused to fully fund the state’s pension obligations. The pensions are guaranteed, at some point we are going to have to pay into the system. Declining to do it now is only going to make it more costly in the future as the state wracks up more debt and higher borrowing costs.
Finally, the governor once again chose to veto funding for women’s healthcare programs. These funds would be used for STD and cervical cancer screenings. These are critical services that all women need access to. There should be nothing controversial about providing preventive care to low-income women. And yet once more, women are a political football instead of a priority for Governor Christie. I hope that Republicans in the legislature will join Democrats in overriding the Governor’s veto.
Our elected representatives are supposed to make tough choices for the betterment of all. On that front, this budget is a failure. It is easy to cut taxes, it’s much harder to raise them to pay for essentially programs. It’s easy to punt on addressing our pension problem, it’s much harder to make tough choices to shore up our long term fiscal stability. Our current leaders have shown themselves unwilling to make the big decisions. If our current leaders won’t do that, it’s time to elect some new ones.
-Jill LaZare is a candidate for Assembly District 21.