NJ’s Tight Budget Means Harsh Realities [AUDIO]
Public hearings on Governor Chris Christie's Fiscal Year 2014 State Budget are underway, and organizations that rely on state aid are making their case for more money.
Assembly Budget Committee chairman Vinnie Prieto says anyone coming before his panel will have to make a very strong sales pitch because there's not much money to spread around.
"People are sort of happy that they're not getting cut, but obviously there are needs there," Prieto said. "They haven't had increases, some organizations in six years. Some of them haven't had cost of living increases for their workers. There's a lot more to be done."
Groups representing education, healthcare, the developmentally disabled, nursing homes and more have testified before budget panels making their case for more money.
"Obviously a big jump (in funding) would be very difficult," Prieto explains. "We'll have to pick and choose and obviously see what makes it on the table and what ends up on the cutting room floor."
Prieto says the theme that has emerged so far is that the needs of many vulnerable New Jerseyans are going unmet. He feels whether its mental health and addiction services, access to quality health care, cancer research, housing for our most vulnerable or adequate hospital funding, many serious concerns remain unresolved.
"We're not out of the woods yet," The Chairman says. "There was a lot of talk about a 'Jersey Comeback,' but we're still nowhere near there. We're still going into the woods. We're not coming out of the woods yet."
"The budget continues a journey you began with me three years ago; to get New Jersey's house in order; to turn Trenton upside down; to make hard but better choices so that we could put our state back on a path to growth," Christie said last month. "For the fourth year in a row, the budget maintains the fiscal discipline we need to restore New Jersey. Fiscal sanity has indeed returned to Trenton."