Governor Christopher Christie’s plans to cut unemployment benefits have met more fierce resistance from legislative leaders.
Following Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s (D-West Deptford) lead, the Assembly’s two top elected officials, Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) and Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union) issued a scathing joint statement calling Christie’s plan “ill-advised” and casting doubt on whether he “understands the plight of the working-class and poor in this state.”
“It’s becoming more and more clear that under Gov. Christie, the rich will be getting richer while the working-class and the poor continue to struggle,” they wrote in a joint statement.
Christie’s plan calls for a reduction in the maximum weekly unemployment payment from $600 to $550 and requires a one week waiting period before benefits can be claimed. It imposes an average payroll tax increase of $130 per employee and phases in future increase so, according to a press release from the front office, employers have time to prepare for them in advance.
The unemployment fund went broke in March and had to borrow $1.2 billion from the federal government, and Christie said he does not want to make it solvent on the backs of businesses.
“This is the wrong time, under the wrong economic conditions, to impose such an onerous and undeserved tax hike on New Jersey businesses,” he said in a written statement. “If we want to grow payrolls and improve our economy, we cannot ask businesses to shoulder the full brunt of the irresponsible budgeting policies that bankrupted the unemployment compensation fund in the first place.”
Oliver and Cryan said they were willing to work with Christie, but indicated that they felt the plan was reckless.
“We are open to considering serious alternatives and fixes, but any plan that saddles unemployed workers with the weight of fixing the unemployment fund is immoral and sends the wrong message to hard-working New Jerseyans. Everyone has to be involved in this fix,” read the statement. “On a practical side, the plan risks our ability to receive federal unemployment benefit funding help and threatens the future solvency of the unemployment fund. It is, quite simply, an even worse fiscal disaster in the making.