After many debates and arguments, the Senate and Assembly passed the state budget for the Governor’s approval. Determined to reduce spending, Governor Christie scrutinized the budget and line-item vetoed close to a billion dollars in funding for programs and services. Medicaid, cities, low-income workers and college tuition grants all took a hit. The final result was bitter sweet for AARP members and supporters.
On the one hand, despite AARP’s collaboration with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to protect Medicaid funding for nursing homes, Governor Christie vetoed these budget restorations, resulting in a $75 million loss of state and federal funding. AARP strongly opposes the governor’s decision. AARP fears the loss in funding will undermine the quality of care in New Jersey’s nursing homes.
On the other hand, AARP is pleased to see the restoration of the Property Tax Reimbursement Program (PTR) and additional funding for the Homestead BenefitProgram. The PTR protects low and moderate-income seniors and disabled persons from rising property taxes by paying the difference between the current, increased property tax, and the lower tax they paid when they became eligible for the program. The Homestead Benefit provides support to low and middle-income homeowners for their property taxes.
Governor Christie’s original proposal lacked full funding for these programs. This would have barred newly eligible recipients from entering the programs and paid partial rebates to those already in the programs. However, the Governor passed the legislature's budget, which includes an additional $250 million in property tax relief over last year’s levels. The PTR, alone, helps over 150,000 residents stay in their homes each year, and the Homestead Benefit helps upwards of a million residents. AARP is happy to see that these programs got the necessary funding to remain effective and sustainable.
As you may know, AARP launched an extensive campaign to protect these programs, focusing primarily on the PTR. AARP worked to connect its members with their legislators through letter writing events and phone calls. Furthermore, AARP worked with Oceanview resident, Ruthann Wohlforth as a spokesperson on the topic. Through a video interview and extensive media coverage – including a full-page feature in The Star-Ledger, AARP told Ruthann’s story. Across New Jersey, the somber necessity for PTR funding became clear through Ruthann’s touching testimonial.
AARP members were heard loud and clear across New Jersey. More importantly, not only did Governor Christie hear their voices, he also listened. It is worth noting that his office received over 5,000 phone calls from AARP members during the five days leading up to the end of the legislative session. AARP views the legislators’ and governor’s support of property tax relief as a huge success and we are proud to have worked together with our members and volunteers to protect these vital programs.
Find more information about the Homestead Benefit or the Property Tax Reimbursement Program. The deadline for entering the PTR has been extended to October 31st, so check now to see if you are eligible.