Three hundred advance troops, AARP volunteers, met in Trenton to hear from politicians who crave continued support from the organization’s 1.3 million New Jersey members that are aged 50 and over. They’re a formidable voting bloc. Gov. Phil Murphy told these folks, most of them on fixed incomes, his budget proposal offers relief from Jersey’s infamously high property taxes.
“We need to fully fund our public schools to not just support our kids and our terrific educators, but to also put downward pressure on property taxes,” Murphy said.
It was a big crowd pleaser. As for the Homestead Rebate which got slashed in half last year?
“We’re going to put a significant amount of money back into the Homestead Rebate program,” Murphy announced.
Except Murphy’s budget actually reduces the Homestead Rebate by more than $12 million total, compared to last year. It’s the Legislature’s budget that was passed last week that would just about double homestead rebates to $298 million.
“Which is so important to people because it’s a promise that we made, it’s something we have to keep. I’ve made that part of the things that we need to re-establish in the budget,” Assembly Speaker Craig Couglin said.
An administration source told NJTV News the governor is willing to accept the Legislature’s higher Homestead Rebate allocation if they provide sustainable revenue to support it. Meanwhile, AARP’s got other issues, and they’ll drive an agenda in the upcoming midterm elections.
“We want to keep social security strong for future generations. Anybody here worried? We’re worried,” said Evelyn Liebman, manager of advocacy for AARP New Jersey.
The group expressed concerns over cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, and complain that prescription drugs that cost too much because pharmaceutical companies overcharge or evade generics.
“Seniors just cannot afford to pay the prices that they’re asking, so generics are just so important for our seniors, absolutely,” said Pleasantville resident Sandy Thompson.
“I will be a new Medicare recipient at the end of this year, and if they were to cut it, it’s going to affect my standard and quality of living,” said Juanita Brown from Teaneck.
AARP will also focus on New Jersey’s U.S. Senate race, and on five congressional districts: the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 11th, giving special attention to candidates’ positions on critical issues.
“We have identified the five districts that we’re working in for a number of reasons, including that they are the most competitive, we can make the most difference, and we have large percentages of our members who live in these districts,” said Liebman.
AARP will be polling its New Jersey voters age 50 and over this summer. It’s an officially nonpartisan organization, but on issues like Medicare it is fiercely protective of its members.