If I say the phrase Budget Crisis, what is your first thought?
My guess is that most people think of some version of a mismatch between spending and revenues, creating the crisis of what do we cut?
If that is your image, it is an accurate one. The state of New Jersey is clearly facing a fiscal imbalance with revenues falling short of the various obligations and important needs that the state budget needs to fund. This imbalance does, in fact, lead to a predictable crisis and the implications for New Jersey are frightening. What is more, our state has a long history of kicking problems down the road, elevating those problems to truly crisis proportions.
But we have more than one crisis. We are facing a crisis of community.
The seeming inevitability of not having enough to go around leaves only the crumbs for those least empowered to speak up for their needs. Over the past 6 week, this series has chronicled the ways that desperate needs are being passed over. Needs like homes people can actually afford, prevention programs to keep families out of homelessness, food for hungry families and school children, and access to health care. The series has also explored the ways that money is being misdirected out of dedicated funds and how revenues are being diminished with unprecedented tax cuts for big corporations, while the state’s poorest workers have been the only income group to see a tax hike.
But this is not how true communities function. Ghandi once said that “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats it weakest members.” This truth applies to states as well.
Budget pressures are real, there is no doubt about that, but ignoring basic needs and restricting access to opportunity cannot be the solution. We need to pull together and draw on the resources we have, including those who have benefitted the most from our state, to make sure that all members of our community have a chance.
The Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, together with our partners, is seeking to shine a light on the community crisis facing New Jersey, and on the solutions that are proven to make a difference. Our white paper on three essential elements to the effort to end poverty provides detailed information and recommendations on what New Jersey needs to do to change course.
We are facing real crises, but we do have options. Won’t you join us in the call to put the money where it should be.
By Serena Rice, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey