The Latino Action Network is a grassroots organization composed of individuals and organizations that are committed to engaging in collective action at the local, state and national levels in order to advance the equitable inclusion of the diverse Latino communities in all aspects of United States society.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Latino Action Network: Governor Christie’s Budget Not Fair to Latino Families

The Op-Ed below recently appeared in the Asbury Park Press.  It was written on behalf of the Latino Action Network by LAN Policy Committee Chair, Daniel Santo Pietro.  Daniel will be speaking on this topic as a panelist at a Budget Forum on Thursday, June 14th at 6 PM at CWA Local 1032, 67 Scotch Road in Ewing, New Jersey.  The budget forum entitled “How Christie’s Budget Threatens New Jersey’s Future: And How Working Families Are Paying the Price” is being hosted by the Latino Action Network, the New Jersey Working Families Alliance and CWA Local 1032. For more information, please contact Omar Perez at 201-448-7832 or  

SANTO PIETRO: Nothing fair about state budget: Working class victimized by Christie's misguided policies

Asbury Park Press Op-Ed - 5:50 PM, Jun 7, 2012

The Latino Action Network has watched Gov. Christie’s approach to “fairness” with great concern for the last three years. We get a queasy feeling in our stomachs whenever Christie mentions fairness because we know that is bad news for the most vulnerable in our society.

His definition of fairness always hurts the working poor the most. Latinos are spread over the economic spectrum, but most are modest working families who ask nothing more than fairness from their governmental leaders.

The centerpiece of the governor’s latest “fair” budget is a 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut. Most of the benefits go to those who earn more than $400,000, the very people who most in New Jersey think need to pay more to have a better society. But Christie can never be fair enough when it comes to the wealthy.

During the budget process, we hear about a compromise with Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, another overrated friend of the poor, that leaves most of the savings for the wealthy in place and proposes to restore a state Earned Income Tax Credit and deliver some property tax relief. The compromise fell apart recently when the latest state revenue figures fell short of projections and raised questions about whether we can afford a broad tax cut.

Even before the budget projection debacle, Christie found another way to hurt the poor by cutting state aid to the poorest school districts. School funding is one of the most contentious issues because the state Supreme Court has forced successive governors to find more money for the poorer districts.

Christie thinks he has found a way around fairness in our school aid formula by changing the school funding formula through budget language. The language changes the weights that determine how much aid each district should receive. The governor wants to lower the relative weight given to children who live in poverty, and those who need help to learn English. Many school districts who have large numbers of these children will receive millions less and districts with higher enrollments will receive more no matter the needs of their children.

Since many of these children are Hispanic, the Latino Action Network demands that this language be removed from the budget and we follow the school funding formula that is already law.

Last month, in lockstep with the national Republican Party’s blind opposition to health care reforms that move us toward universal coverage — the most important pillar of social fairness — the governor vetoed the creation of a Health Care Exchange.

The legislation, in line with national health care reform, was intended to create a competitive marketplace for health insurance plans by 2014. The exchange would have channeled millions in federal subsidies to 800,000 people in New Jersey who work, own small businesses and hold down more than one job to survive, but cannot afford health care coverage.

The governor has the audacity to say we should do nothing until the U.S. Supreme Court renders its decision because it may cost the taxpayer some unnecessary expense. In fact, the federal government has funded nearly all the start-up costs of the proposed health care exchanges. Fifteen states have already put exchanges in place.

Finally, of particular importance to Hispanics is Christie’s history of cutting modest programs that focused on the needs of working-class Hispanics. Hearing him say that now that the economy is improving, we can help those who sacrificed during the bad years, again makes us queasy. His plan is to reward high-end earners with a generous tax cut while denying working families any restoration of programs intended to help them cope with the poor economy.

In the past two years, Christie has thrown 13,000 legal immigrants off FamilyCare, dismantled Hispanic Women Resource Centers, slashed Division of Youth and Family Services cooperative programs with community organizations, gutted the Center for Hispanic Policy and Research Development, which funded many useful community programs, and denied staff support to the Commission on New Americans. The total of these programs is less than 5 percent of the proposed tax cuts.

It is not too late to return New Jersey toward fairness. A few courageous politicians could turn the tide and end the unfair, unaffordable tax cuts, re-establish the school funding formula, move ahead on the health exchange and still have enough left over to restore programs to working families and pass a balanced budget. Not only would Hispanics benefit, but all of New Jersey wins when fairness rules.