PEMBERTON – Representatives from Legal Services of New Jersey testified in support of the governor’s proposal for $25 million in state funding for the FY 2013 budget at the second Senate Budget hearing on Wednesday morning at Burlington County College.
Legal Services of New Jersey is a system of six, regional non-profit corporations that offers free legal assistance to low-income people in New Jersey.
Deborah Poritz, the chairperson of Legal Services of New Jersey, said that while the organization is still not at its funding levels of 2009 and 2010 when the organization received $29.6 million from the state, the proposal would “take a critical first step in rebuilding Legal Services’ capacity to provide services.”
Of the $25 million, general revenues would support $14.9 million, and the remaining $10.1 million would come from new revenues raised by an increase in court filing fees, according to Poritz’s testimony.
Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36), Wood-Ridge, took a verbal shot at Gov. Chris Christie’s administration for a lack of funding in the past.
“This program wasn’t a priority during the last two years of the administration,” Sarlo said. “I’m glad it’s back as a priority.”
Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-11), Red Bank, disagreed with Sarlo’s sentiments.
“It was just a matter of economic circumstance that led us to the position we’re in,” Beck said.
The number of New Jerseyans in true poverty (below 200 percent of the federal poverty line) increased by 13 percent from 2005 to 2010, according to Poritz’s testimony. There are more than 2 million residents in the true poverty group, including over 600,000 children, according to the testimony.