The budget introduced Monday by the Democratic leadership of the Legislature would have restored funding for critical programs that support working poor families, the aged and people with disabilities. With the worst economy since the Great Depression recovering at an incremental rate, these supports are critically needed to make work pay and enable families and others to maintain their independence.
Restorations that help working families
Earlier this year, Governor Christie proposed an austere, cuts-only budget that reduced funding by a total of $54 million for two of the state’s most important programs aimed at helping working poor families – the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the NJ FamilyCare health insurance program.
The Democrats’ budget restores both of these vital programs, using a portion of the increased income tax revenues projected by the Office of Legislative Services for FY 2012 and additional federal Medicaid revenues that are expected.
About a half million families in New Jersey lost 25 percent of their EITC benefit in FY 2011. The governor’s FY 2012 budget proposal continues that cut, saving $45 million by reducing the credit received by some of the poorest working families in the state. The $300 annual reduction to those families with children earning the minimum wage for example is the equivalent of about a week’s wages at the income level that qualifies for the EITC.
Seventy thousand parents either have lost or will lose their health coverage through the NJ FamilyCare program as a result of the FY 2011 income eligibility reductions that reduced eligibility from $36,000 to $25,000 for a family of three. The governor’s FY 2012 budget proposal would further reduce income eligibility from $25,000 to $5,300. The Governor’s budget would deny coverage to an additional 23,000 parents to save about $9 million.
The Democrats’ budget also restores or continues several other equally important social service programs, including: family planning clinic grants ($7.5 million); child care ($6 million), and legal services ($5 million). Further, it assures that the NJ Affordable Housing Trust Fund dollars will be used for affordable housing and not diverted to the general fund for other purposes – an important policy in a state with one of the highest housing costs in the nation.
Restorations for seniors and for people with disabilities and other barriers
In addition, the Democratic budget plan:
• Prohibits all cuts in eligibility, provider reimbursements and services, as well as increases in
co-payments, proposed in the Comprehensive Medicaid Waiver.
• Prevents monthly General Assistance allowance reductions to able bodied but unemployed adults from $140 to $125 (or from $210 to $195 for unemployable adults).
• Eliminates the requirement for co-payments in medical day care.
• Restores funding for Medical Assistance recipients in nursing homes.
• Restores funding to implement the Involuntary Outpatient Commitment Law.
• Restores payment for prescription drugs for the aged and people with disabilities.
• Restores payments for home health care.
• Prevents the termination of medical assistance for 1,400 adults without children who have incomes below the federal poverty level.