Assembly Budget Committee hears stories of how cuts will hurt services for disabled, seniors

TRENTON – Assembly Democrats sought today to put a face on the state budget cuts being faced by nursing homes, homes for the disabled, and programs for seniors.

A cut of just 3 percent to Cheshire Home in Florham Park would mean $189,000 and would affect across-the-board services: therapy, transportation, education, staffing, according to Barbara Monahan, director of fund development and public relations for the 35-bed, not-for-profit facility that provides a residence for adults ages 18-65 who have suffered spinal injuries and are wheelchair bound.

Cheshire’s total budget is $6.5 million, Monahan said, but has been frozen since 2007 and they don’t yet know what the exact cut this year will be. Ninety percent of their residents are Medicaid recipients, she said.

Assemblyman Joseph Malone, (R-30), Bordentown, told Monahan that their best option for change is to approach the governor’s office directly because the probability of winning approval for a supplemental piece of legislation is not good.

“You should reach out directly to the governor’s office,’’ Malone said, “so that he can evaluate it.’’

Malone referred to “this toxic political environment we have right now,’’ and said a better opportunity is to reach out “to the good people in the governor’s office.’’

People have to step back from the politics of the last few weeks and let cooler heads prevail, he said.

But Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, (D-27), South Orange, said that while Malone’s comments were fine, she felt that this also is the job of the Budget Committee today to help these people.

Monahan pointed out – as did several residents who testified – that their goal is to help people gain their college education, attain jobs, and become more self-reliant and independent, but even a small budget cut will jeopardize transportation services greatly.

According to the Assembly Democrats, among the items for seniors and others that were vetoed or cut by Gov. Christie were $25 million from nursing homes; $4.65 million from specialty care nursing facilities; $13 million to protect Medicaid and Medicare patients from higher co-payments and to ensure they have access to drugs not included in Medicare; and $11 million to keep the aged, blind and disabled population out of managed care.

Assembly Budget Committee hears stories of how cuts will hurt services for disabled, seniors