New Jersey Newsroom

Group Addresses Budget Gap, Plan For Essential Services

Proposal would generate $500M with contribution from wealthy, corporations, and gas guzzler

New Jersey Newsroom — Thursday, May 14, 2009

By Garrett Morrison

The Better Choices Budget Campaign unveiled a new revenue plan to use a combination of tax increases on New Jersey's wealthiest residents and corporations and higher registration fees on gas guzzlers to mitigate next year's proposed budget cuts to New Jersey's essential services. Governor Corzine is expected to make an announcement on how the state will close a $1.2 billion drop in FY 09 revenue this week.

The broad coalition was formed last year by environmental, housing, labor, education and community organizations to call for an end to short-sighted budget cuts and increased investment in New Jersey's future.

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, representatives of the 38 member coalition called on legislators and Governor Corzine to consider its three-tiered revenue plan before passing a budget that cuts deeply into health care, higher education, environmental protection, social services, and many other areas crucial to New Jerseyans' quality of life.

"While we were glad to see Governor Corzine adopt some of our proposals from last year's budget fight, the economic crisis this year calls for even bolder action if we want to avoid devastating cuts that will harm our most vulnerable citizens," said Eva Bonime, Executive Director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance and coordinator of the Better Choices Budget Campaign.

The state's budget for FY 2010 attempts to close a deficit projected to exceed $7 billion using $2 billion in federal stimulus relief, $1 billion through a 3.85% income tax increase on those making above $500,000, and $4 billion in significant cuts to after-school programs, higher education, Medicaid reimbursement for nursing home residents, and severe reductions in funding to the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health and Senior Services, and New Jersey Transit.

Mary Forsberg, Interim President of New Jersey Policy Perspective, outlined a set of revenue options that could produce $517 million in funds to mitigate some of the more severe budget cuts.

The first proposal would create a new tax bracket for New Jersey residents making between $300,000 and $500,000, raising their state income tax rates from 6.37% to 8.5%. That additional two cents on the dollar would provide approximately $297 million in new revenue. Under Corzine's proposal announced in March, income over $500,000 is taxed at 10.2%, while income between $75,000 and $500,000 remains at the 6.37% rate.

The second measure would triple fees on gas guzzling cars, vans, and SUVs that weigh over 5,000 lbs. Registration for cars less than two years old would go from $84 to $252, and from $71.50 to $214.50 for vehicles over two years old. The measure would raise $140 million.

Amy Goldsmith, State Director of the New Jersey Environmental Federation said, "The socially, environmentally and fiscally responsible response to the state's budget problems in the short and long terms needs to include the wealthy and polluters paying more of their fair share than currently proposed. They can afford it while we cannot afford more closed parks, polluters in control of privatized clean-ups, closed schools for the handicap and urban after school programs, laid off state workers and unrestricted borrowing."

The third proposal would raise the current 4% surcharge on corporate business tax to 8% and net an additional $80 million in funding.

"If Trenton can talk about raising college tuition, reducing property tax relief, cutting Medicaid benefits, and weakening our environmental protections, our elected officials need to put raising revenue on the table too," said Forsberg.

Ev Liebman, Director of Organizing and Advocacy at New Jersey Citizen Action, said that the Better Choices Budget Campaign will deliver its message through door-to-door canvassing, town hall events in targeted legislative districts, letter-writing, phone calls and email drives.

"Now is exactly the time for Trenton to move past its old way of thinking so that we can weather this crisis and lay the groundwork for a shared recovery," said Liebman. "Over the next six weeks, we will make sure the elected officials of our state know that there are better choices out there."

Last year, many of the coalition's revenue proposals or versions of them appear in the state's FY10 budget, including:

Endorsing Organizations

AFSCME, NJ Council 1
Bergen Community College Environmental Club
Bergen Grassroots
Center for Women and Work at Rutgers
Communications Workers of America, District 1
Communications Workers of America, Locals 1032, 1037, 1039 and 1081
Council of New Jersey State College Locals, AFT
First AME Zion Church in Paterson
Fund for an Open Society
Grassroots Institute of New Jersey
Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast
Health Professionals and Allied Employees, AFT
Hispanic Directors Association of New Jersey
Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey
La Casa de Don Pedro
National Association of Social Workers, New Jersey Chapter
New Jersey Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
New Jersey Black Issues Convention
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Jersey Environmental Federation
New Jersey Immigration Policy Network
New Jersey Policy Perspective
New Jersey Tenants Organization
New Jersey Work Environment Council
New Jersey Working Families Alliance
NJIT Student Senate
People's Organization for Progress
Puerto Rican Family Institute
Roosevelt Institution, Rutgers-New Brunswick/Piscataway Chapter
Rutgers Labor Association
Service Employees International Union, New Jersey State Council
Sierra Club, New Jersey Chapter
Statewide Education Organizing Committee
Union of Rutgers Administrators - AFT Local 1766
United Food and Commercial Workers, Region 1
United Presbyterian Church in Paterson
William Paterson University YDS Chapter

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