THE BUDGET: DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS

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.

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