Archive for April, 2009

THE BUDGET GAME – Get it? Got it. Good!

April 16, 2009

Here’s how it works. The Governor throws out a whole bunch of budget cuts, people yell and he takes back the ones that the most people yell about because he’s up for election next year. I got it when so many folks complained about cuts in their homeowners’ rebates that he pulled back on the cuts that affected the most voters.

What a civics lesson! The question is: What are those of us with disabilities going to learn from it? Try this!

Lesson One: Corzine’s budget would cut us to pieces. People with developmental disabilities, especially the 2,400 who are locked up in institutions against the law will still be denied their freedom because of their disability label…and because Corzine doesn’t think it’s worth the money to free them.

Independent Living Centers will be cut, too, as I said in my previous post. So will other programs vital to the lives and well-being of people with disabilities. I’ll get to those in future posts but you can beat me to it by commenting about them here.

Lesson Two: (a quick one) The Governor and his campaign don’t think we count at the ballot box or they wouldn’t have hurt us so much in his budget.

Lesson Three: We do count. The percentage of registered voters with disabilities in New Jersey is the highest in the nation. NEXT STEP veterans saw to that when they registered 20,000 new voters and we’ll be registering more this year.

We’re one-fifth of the state’s population. If we vote together, if we vote our own interests like other groups do, we can decide who the next governor of New Jersey is, particularly in an election that is as close as next year’s will be. Yes, that’s really possible.

Get it? Got it. Good!

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THE BUDGET: DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS

April 16, 2009

Recently I was approached by a woman who wanted to sell the Corzine Administration on an idea that would benefit people with disabilities. She was new to advocacy and the politics game so I was patient.

I explained that we were in a life and death struggle just to prevent existing programs from being slashed so this was no time to ask for something new. “But,” she said, “I just listened to his budget speech. He promised to protect the most vulnerable. He mentioned people with disabilities specifically.”

“Yeah, I know,” I replied, my mind racing to figure out how to let her down gently.

Corzine’s budget is out and advocates are poring over its many pages of tiny numbers (in more ways than one) to figure out how bad it looks for people with disabilities. Until it is passed and signed in June, we’ll blog a lot on the bad news and what we can do to change it. I hope all of you who are fighting the good fight will join in. We need to unite as never before to avoid disaster; sharing the latest information and analysis is the first step.

Let me start off with a small cut that shows what we’re up against. Corzine proposes to help fill his seven billion dollar deficit by cutting the state’s meager contribution to Centers for Independent Living from $625,000 to $500,000, a reduction of $125,000 or 20%.

There are twelve of these centers. They’re the last hope for many of NJ’s 1.3 million citizens with the most severe disabilities. They help them find whatever they need to survive: medical care, meals, places to live, jobs, transportation to get to them. They also teach them how to maximize their own independence, everything from managing money to buying and cooking their own food to tying a shoelace with one hand.

I ran one of these centers a couple of years ago, with $265,000 of combined federal and state money to serve 1,638,200 people in three counties – that’s about seven and a half cents a person, not much to stave off desperation, much less keep someone alive.

And Corzine wants to cut this program by 20%! Come on! He made more than that in a week at Goldman-Sachs.

We have to stop this kind of outrage. Go to NEXT STEP’s Take Action page and send him a message, with copies to your State Senator and Assemblypersons. Make him keep his promise to New Jersey’s most vulnerable. Tell him you’ll be watching to make sure he does.

Guv Ignores People with Disabilities

April 16, 2009

Since one out five New Jersey’s citizens has a disability, you’d think Governor Corzine would want to hear what we have to say. Not so.

Visit his website, and you’ll find a drop-down menu that will let you express your opinion of twenty-odd topics, everything from the lottery to arts and leisure, BUT NOT ‘DISABILITY’, not even an “Other’ that would let you fill in the blank.

New York’s Governor lets you choose between Disability and Civil Rights and the other three states surrounding us offer an Other as a minimum.

And its not as it Corzine doesn’t know any better. Over the last three years NEXT STEP has brought this omission to the attention of three of his commissioners, his IT guys and, recently, to his campaign director, Maggie Moran. They all scribbled furiously on their notepads, made a lot of promises and … NOTHING.

BE HEARD! Go to NEXT STEP’s Take Action webpage and tell Corzine to listen to us. Tell his campaign that your vote and ours depends on it. Just put your name and address on an email with this message and we’ll throw in a copy to your State Senator and Assemblypersons as a bonus.

First Post

April 16, 2009
One out of five Americans has a disability, but we’re still not recognized as a political voice at the state and national level. This was clear in the recent Presidential campaign when Next Step surveyed the websites of the seven major candidates of both parties and found only one, Obama’s, listed disability as a major issue.

It’s equally true in my home state of New Jersey. Our governor, Jon Corzine, has been tone deaf to our issues as a whole, though he paid lip service to the needs of people with developmental disabilities, particularly those with autism.

His transition team on disability was dominated by them, even though they make up only 10% of the disability population. Nevertheless, he even ignored this group so Next Step had to sue to force him to appoint people with disabilities to the NJ Council on Developmental disabilities as required by state and federal law.

During the last year, his Administration has broken off negotiations with Disability Rights New Jersey in three suits involving rights and services of people with disabilities. In addition, his proposed budget would further reduce supports we desperately need.

NEXT STEP has started the CorzineWatchBlog because our troubled economy is hurting us more than others and New Jersey’s Administration doesn’t seem to care. Since state government is where most disability services come from, we must keep up the pressure if we are to survive. Please use this blog to let us know what battles we need to take on together.