Assembly slates hearing to examine budget cuts to nursing homes, seniors

TRENTON – The Assembly Budget Committee has scheduled a second hearing for next week in response to Gov. Chris Christie’s budget vetoes.

A hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday will focus specifically on $29.65 million in cuts to programs and services for senior citizens and nursing homes.

The committee already had scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, and that one will focus on cuts to programs for children.

Both hearings will be in Room 11 of the Statehouse Annex.

Audio of the hearing will be streamed live at www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/live_audio.asp.

The Senate failed this week to override any budget vetoes of the governor. The Assembly sessions will be held to take testimony about the effects of the vetoes if money is not restored.

Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno released a statement this afternoon following the Democrats’ announcement of a second hearing, calling their action “a waste of taxpayers’ time and money.”

“Gov. Christie signed a budget that doubles the homestead benefit and increases funding for the Senior Freeze property tax relief program with an estimated 59,000 new eligible seniors receiving critical relief,” she said in a statement.

“The governor’s budget also continues to provide much needed prescription drug assistance to nearly 164,000 low-income seniors and those New Jerseyans living with disabilities through the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD) and Senior Gold programs.

“For the Assembly Democrats to continue this series of hearings, shamefully distorting the truth as a way to play up election year politics, is a waste of New Jersey taxpayers’ time and money.”

In response, Assembly Democrats’ spokesman Tom Hester said that the governor initially proposed cutting the Senior Freeze program by $25.2 million, and that Democrats proposed the increase to the program.

“All taxpayers really need to know is that the governor’s office considers testimony on cuts to nursing homes, specialty care facilities and other senior citizen programs to be a waste of time, but such callousness is par for the course these days from the governor’s office and it’s let-them-eat-cake sentiment,” he said.

Similarly, Hester said that last year, the governor proposed forcing PAAD and Senior Gold beneficiaries to cover the annual deductible of $310 required by Medicare Part D. Additionally, he said, the governor’s proposed budget last year anticipated that the co-payment under PAAD for brand name drugs would increase from $7 to $15.

It was reversed only after Democrats proposed eliminating the fee hikes, Hester said.

Assembly slates hearing to examine budget cuts to nursing homes, seniors