Gov. Christie First Term Report CardEconomic JusticeF

Slashing Critical Services

Access to the basic necessities of life is essential in order to enjoy the other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the New Jersey and federal constitutions.

On this issue, perhaps more than any other, Gov. Christie has sent a consistent message: people who have fallen on hard times should not look to the state for help. Gov. Christie has slashed services for the poor:

  • Cut women’s health funding in every single budget year.69
  • Eliminated funding for an after-school program for low-income children.70
  • Slashed funding for New Jersey Legal Services’ representation of low income people in non-criminal cases in 2013, forcing it to turn away more than 90 percent of the one million requests for help it receives each year.71
  • Dismantled the Department of Public Advocate, an important watchdog for low-income New Jerseyans.72

Laurel and Abbott

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Gov. Christie has waged war on New Jersey’s long legacy of providing affordable housing, a war in which he fortunately has gained little ground. He issued an executive order in 2010 attempting to singlehandedly wipe out the Mount Laurel Doctrine, which is considered one of the more important civil rights decisions of the modern era. The Mount Laurel decision requires all New Jersey towns to provide their “fair share” of affordable housing.73

Gov. Christie slashed $820 million of education funding from the budget in 2010, which violated the New Jersey Constitution. Most of those cuts hurt poorer districts and violated requirements established under the groundbreaking case Abbott v. Burke, which has produced some of the most progressive education funding laws in the country. Fortunately, the New Jersey Supreme Court required Gov. Christie to restore those funds, although Gov. Christie said he did not believe this was money well spent.74

Bare Minimum on the Minimum Wage

Gov. Christie vetoed a bill in 2013 to increase the minimum wage (A2162), and instead called for a graduated increase. With economic inequality at the highest levels since the Great Depression, the working poor badly need an increase in wages. Fortunately, the voters of New Jersey raised the minimum wage through the ballot process in 2013, but this step should have happened through the legislative process rather than an emergency amendment to the state Constitution.75

A Notable Exception: Indigent Veterans

In January 2013, Gov. Christie signed a flurry of bills, including three designed to improve the lot of veterans in poverty. One extends burial rights to indigent veterans who did not serve in war and provides additional funding to bury indigent veterans (A1898/S1075).

Another new law establishes the Homeless Veterans Grant Program (A2011/S1560), which allows voluntary contributions on tax returns for the support of homeless veterans, and the third provides indigent veterans free access to beaches.76

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Related Content

69 Rizzo, Salvador, “Christie unveils his new $34.4B budget,” The Star-Ledger, Feb. 25, 2014, http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/02/christie_unveils_his_new_344_billion_budget.html

70 Star-Ledger Statehouse Bureau staff, “Gov. Christie signs state budget after series of deep cuts,” The Star-Ledger, July 1, 2011, http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/07/christie_signs_state_budget_af.html

71 Rizzo, Salvador, “As poverty rises, legal assistance dwindles for N.J.’s poor,” The Star-Ledger, Dec. 8, 2013, http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/12/post_47.html

72 “Public advocate, beach fees / Watchdog leaving.” Editorial. Press of Atlantic City. May 20, 2010. http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/opinion/editorials/public-advocate-beach-fees-watchdog-leaving/article_7fbcfc84-589c-55ed-93a4-8cb23fe975f3.html

73 Rizzo, Salvador, “N.J. Supreme Court blocks Christie’s plan to abolish affordable-housing agency,” The Star-Ledger, July 10, 2013, http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/07/nj_supreme_court_blocks_christies_plan_to_abolish_affordable-housing_agency.html

74 Associated Press, “Court Ruling Could Mean NJ Budget Scramble,” CBS New York, April 10, 2011, http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/04/10/court-ruling-could-mean-nj-budget-scramble/

75 Portnoy, Jenna, “Christie vetoes minimum wage bill, Democrats vow to put measure on ballot,” The Star-Ledger, Jan. 28, 2013, http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/01/christie_minimum_wage.html

76 Office of the Governor, “Governor Chris Christie takes action on pending legislation from the 215th Legislative Session,” Jan. 21, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/governor/news/news/552013/approved/20140121h.html

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