Community groups seek more funding from N.J. budget plan

A coalition of community groups is lining up against Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed state budget.

The budget lacks funding for an outreach program to expand participation in Medicaid, says Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective.

“Yes, it would bring in federal funds at a 100 percent rate. It will be new funds to stimulate the economy. It only works if we maximize the number of eligible recipients who sign up for the Medicaid expansion,” MacInnes said.

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Meanwhile, the Education Law Center is seeking more school aid.

“The total aid increase proposed in the budget amount to 1.2 percent, which does not even keep pace with inflation,” said Sharon Krengel of the center. “There is no aid increase at all for 202 school districts. Forty districts receive an increase of a dollar.”

Members of the Working Families Alliance are upset that there are no new job-creation initiatives in the budget, yet it does provide tax breaks for corporations.

“Those are the sorts of policies that this governor seems to think will lead to a recovery, but the live reality of everyday New Jerseyans has demonstrated that’s false,” said Bill Holland, executive director of the alliance.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel is disappointed the budget provides no funds for the buyout of homes in flood-prone areas.

“At a time when people are trying to decide whether they want to rebuild or not, there is no money for buyouts,” Tittel said. “It means a lot of people who have been forced out of their homes who do not want to go back may have to spend money to rebuild and then get flooded again or get bought out later after they get flooded again.”

Assembly Budget Committee chairman Vinnie Prieto says lawmakers still are examining the budget plan, but a big increase in funding for any particular group or program is not likely.

“Obviously, a big jump would be very difficult. We’ll have to pick and choose and see what makes it on the table and what ends up on the cutting floor,” said Prieto (D-Hudson). “So, we’ll look long and hard to make sure we do educated decisions.”

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