Assemblyman, 15th District
Latin American Task Force
in State Budget Defended As "Best Hope" by Local Assemblyman
Colin Vonvorys is right to question state spending
(Town Topics, July 21), but as radio personality Paul Harvey likes
to say, he needs "the rest of the story."
spending increased, there was a substantial cut in federal aid
by the Bush Administration and Congress, which New Jersey had
to make up. In particular, over $455 million for nursing homes
was cut from the federal budget. In addition, community care workers
had no substantial pay increases in a number of years. In order
to keep quality health care workers, we increased their pay by
3.5 percent. Other health care cuts from the feds included $12
million for our AIDS drug program.
But most striking is
the President's proposed cuts of $800 million in homeland security
aid that will result in a substantial loss for our firefighters
and other first responders. The 911 enhancements alone constituted
a $15 million increase in our budget.
There are things
we chose to increase, which is a fair concern. First, we eliminated
a trend started by the Whitman administration to cut funding for
hospitals to administer charity care and other health programs,
by increasing hospital aid by $150 million. Second, we funded
our own stem cell research program at $9.5 million. We also increased
funding by $397 million for our prescription drug program so that
more seniors would be eligible. Other increases included $8 million
for veterans' homes, $10 million for early intervention programs
for children, and $17 million for cancer initiatives.
There were budgetary costs that could not be avoided. Specifically,
to address the failures of our Division of Youth and Family Services
and staffing levels set by the Whitman Administration, we increased
funding by $125 million. We allotted $22 million for developmentally
disabled services and $10 million for mental health programs.
To address court-mandated improvements for the state's poorest
schools, we spent $182 million for preschool programs so that
children would be better prepared for school. Funding for higher
education will increase by $164 million, which will include an
offer to top graduating high school seniors of free tuition at
our county colleges. Arts funding will increase by $27 million.
We also allotted $1.3 billion for the costs of pensions and other
benefits for teachers so that local districts would not have to
shoulder the burden.
Half of the overall budget
over $14 billion will result in direct property tax relief
and larger rebate checks for more than 3 million residents. Seniors
will qualify for rebates as high as $1,200. Middle-income homeowners
will qualify for rebates between $500 and $800. Tenant rebate
checks will increase by $50. We will restart the "senior freeze"
property tax program that began at the end of the Whitman Administration.
While these may be temporary fixes, I also cosponsored legislation
to initiate a constitutional convention whereby we can once and
for all fix our over-reliance on property taxes.
I do not
question anyone raising concerns over my budget votes. I should
have to answer for my actions in the legislature. While essential
programs could have been eliminated, this budget represented,
in my opinion, the best hope to address the burdens of property
taxes and our ability to maintain essential services.
Assemblyman, 15th District
American Task Force Supports Rights of Undocumented Immigrants
Recent arrests of immigrants in Princeton
and Trenton have drawn attention to the lack of information available
to the public about immigrants and immigration law. On behalf
of the Latin American Task Force, a volunteer network of local
organizations and individuals supporting the smooth integration
of immigrants into our community, I urge members of the community
to attend our meetings (held at Princeton Public Library) in order
to become better informed and dispel some commonly held misconceptions,
some of which have been published recently in the press.
First, undocumented immigrants are not criminals; being here illegally
is not a criminal offense. Second, it may surprise people to realize
that it can take more than ten years for individuals to receive
a green card. Third, many immigrants who try to legalize their
status are at present barred from doing so by current legislation.
Fourth, undocumented people can and many do pay
state, federal and social security taxes. Finally, undocumented
people have rights and protections under the law.
24, the New Jersey Catholic Conference, in collaboration with
the Latin American Task Force, organized a march and inter-faith
vigil in Princeton in support of immigrant rights and immigration
law reform. We stand firmly against the recent raids on the homes
of immigrant families. We urge members of the community and our
elected representatives to support the rights and protection of
all people citizens and documented or undocumented immigrants
and to promote immigration reform so that our immigration
laws reflect our economic and social policies and the international
agreements we have with our neighbors on this continent.
Latin American Task Force
"Good Neighbor" Commitment Calls For Selling Harris
To the Editor:
I would like to respond
to the letter from Barry Rabner, President and CEO of Princeton
It is interesting that he thinks his
organization has earned the title "Good Neighbor." Some
of us who live on Harris Road disagree either with his definition
or with his statement.
Last year Mr. Rabner removed office
functions that were illegally placed in houses owned by the hospital.
However, at a meeting last year he agreed to put those houses
back on the market or rent them. If you drive through our neighborhood
it seems he has fulfilled that promise. A quick look shows lawns
that are mowed, bushes that are trimmed and flowers are growing.
However, a closer look shows peeling paint, crooked and rusted
doors. The properties are used for storage and parking. The backyards
are used for storage, gas pumps, and employee picnic areas. There
is no indication that the hospital has any intention of keeping
its commitment. In fact, the hospital is allowing the houses to
all but fall down.
If Mr. Rabner wants to be a good neighbor,
let him keep his promise and allow real neighbors to buy those
houses and return Harris Road to a residential neighborhood.
Medical Center at Princeton Compete Against Big City Hospitals?
Mayor Phyllis Marchand and members of the Princeton
Health Care Task Force will hopefully ask the right questions
as they continue to review the hospital's strategic plan (see
"Task Force Reviews Hospital's Strategic Plan," Town Topics, July
The word "competitive" appeared several times in the
Town Topics article and while Barry Rabner, president and CEO
of the hospital system, maintains the hospital needs to be brought
up to date to be competitive, my questions are these:
Will a new facility restore loyalty on the part of patients and
physicians who chose to go elsewhere over recent years?
2) Can a community hospital really be expected to compete with
Sloan-Kettering or Mount Sinai in New York City, or the University
of Pennsylvania complex in Philadelphia?
3) Barry Royce,
chair of the Borough Zoning Board of Adjustment, correctly sees
"a shrewd business objective" in the strategic plan. Do we have
finances driving the hospital out of town?
4) Isn't it time
to better serve the community's needs instead of engaging in a
contest where health facilities strive to outdo each other? After
all, we do have St. Peter's and Robert Wood Johnson within easy
Mayor Marchand recognizes this hospital
issue as a "major event" in the community, but let's remember
as we "compete" that we need to be the victor, not the loser.
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