Touting “shared sacrifice,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) slashed $3 billion from the state budget in his first two years, taking out half of the legal aid for poor New Jerseyans, shutting down a hospital for the mentally ill, closing health clinics for thousands of low-income women, and putting 4,000 police officers out of a job. Now, Christie’s cuts are leaving as many as 15,000 low-income children without “a structured and supervised after school environment” supported by the non-profit agency NJ After 3. When Christie completely eliminated funding for the agency, NJ After 3 had to pull the plug:
State funding had dwindled from a high of $15 million in 2007 to $3 million last year. Christie eliminated funding for the program in the budget that took effect July 1.
Democrats tried to restore the money, but Christie vetoed the budget they sent him.Founding President Mark Valli said the organization could not raise enough private money to keep the program going once the state bowed out.
As he once told a legislative Budget committee, “if Bill Gates pulled his money out of Microsoft — if your largest investor pulls out — others will wait and see. Private investors needed to see a state commitment.”
As state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) noted, “this program has kept children safe and away from gangs and other ill-advised activities” and has “improved student achievement” while helping working families.
Christie tried to justify the elimination as a consequence of “difficult times. “We had to make a lot of very difficult decisions and I think programs like that that can be funded through private funds should be encouraged to do so during very difficult, tough economic times,” Christie said. “That may not have been a choice that I would have otherwise made if we weren’t confronted with the difficult times we’re confronted with, but we are, and so I have to make a lot of very difficult decisions.”
But Christie’s decision to protect the state’s wealthy seems to have been very easy. Last year, the state legislature passed a tax on millionaires that would help alleviate the “difficult times” Christie faces. By agreeing to a millionaire’s tax, Christie could entirely reverse his education cuts that were so severe they were ruled unconstitutional. However, Christie vetoed the tax — twice. Christie’s decision to make New Jersey’s most vulnerable face the music while protecting New Jersey’s wealthiest is not a reflection of “difficult times,” it’s a reflection of his terrible priorities.