AARP New Jersey State President Dave Mollen told a group of 400 AARP members and supporters that property taxes and keeping seniors out of nursing homes are two of the biggest issues facing its senior citizen community.
Mollen addressed an excited crowd during the AARP’s “Day at the Capitol, 2012 — Keep the Promise” in downtown Trenton Thursday.
“We’re political, but we’re non-partisan,” he said. “We don’t contribute to any political candidates, and we don’t contribute to any PACs (Political Action Committees). Yet, you’ll read in the papers that the AARP is one of the most powerful lobbies,” Mollen said.
He paused and looked around the room at the big audience and said: “How do we get our power? The answer is: ‘you and me.'”
Proof of the AARP’s effectiveness, he said, is New Jersey’s consumer protection legislation.
“We have one of the best laws on that in the country, and a big reason why is us. The Predatory Lending Protection Act is another example, he said.
“We fought long and hard to get both those laws passed, and they’ve made a real difference to us.”
More big progress was made last year, he said, in the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He thanked the Christie administration for adding “30,000 additional people to that program last year. It costs $4 million a month to do it. It’s to make sure people don’t go hungry.”
Gov. Chris Christie, who was the keynote speaker, echoed Mollen’s comments. In addition to cutting property taxes, Gov. Christie told the crowd he backs “a 10 percent credit for seniors on their income tax for your property taxes.”
“The only way to lower the property taxes is to spend less. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling the truth.” While more property tax relief is needed, he said, substantial progress has been made. He said the state-wide property tax increase in 2011 was the lowest in 24 years. Reform of pension entitlement to public employees helped make that happen, he said.
In the audience was AARP member Marilyn Askin, a former state president of the organization.
Askin says she liked what she heard at “Keep the Promise,” in terms of both what’s been accomplished and what still needs to be done.
“As the governor said, we’d like to see the Homestead Rebate back up to full value,” she said. “It’s about $500 now. It was $1,200. It’s important. Seniors on fixed incomes who don’t have a possibility of getting a job can find it very difficult to stay in their homes. It’s less expensive for seniors to stay in their own homes than to install them in a nursing home. It’s also more humane. Home is where they want to be.”
Keeping business in New Jersey is key to an economic strength that can make property tax reform and improved services for seniors achievable, Christie said.
“We honor you and care about you as citizens of New Jersey,” he said. “Let’s continue to work together.”