POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Lesniak to Christie: Stop Campaigning for Romney, Listen to Needs of 47%

There is no sign of a truce in the war of words between Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-20) and Gov. Chris Christie. In response to some of Lesniak’s criticisms, the governor leveled some strong words today, describing the state senator as something of a cartoon character that he has stopped listening to.

In response to the cartoon analogy, Lesniak told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that it takes one to know one. He added that he didn’t care whether or not the governor listened to him but that he needed to start addressing the pressing needs of the people of New Jersey such as unemployment and foreclosures. Regarding the unemployed, Lesniak took issue with the administration’s response to issuing unemployment benefits, saying that it takes as long as six months for people to receive their unemployment checks. Lesniak is sponsoring a bill that requires the Department of Labor to issue unemployment checks within 60 days of an appeal.

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“So a cartoon character he certainly is one but more importantly he needs to step out of the cartoon, stop campaigning for Romney, crisscrossing the nation for Republican congressional candidates [and] pay attention to the needs of the people of New Jersey,” said Lesniak.

According to Lesniak, it’s a question of caring about the 47 percent of the people referred to in the now infamous secret video of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaking to major GOP donors.

“They’ve earned the right to get unemployment benefits and yet this administration has no plan to get them their checks … These are folks who are losing their homes, they’re losing their cars, they’re losing their health insurance, their credit rating is being destroyed.”

Asked if the slow response to those seeking unemployment benefits is more of a bureaucratic issue, Lesniak says the lack of a timely response by the state Labor Department is a reflection of the administration.

“Our Department of Labor under this governor doesn’t have the will to make sure these people are being paid,” Lesniak said.

The other major criticism Lesniak raised involved the New Jersey HomeKeeper program, a federally-funded program to assist distressed homeowners. He says $300 million of foreclosure assistance is going unused while homeowners are being forced out of their homes.

“This administration has turned its back on these folks who are getting their homes foreclosed. And guess what? It’s not just the kicked-out families that’s impacted, a foreclosed home brings down the property value of that entire neighborhood. It’s an invitation to vandalism and crime. It holds us back from an economic recovery and it keeps our unemployment rate at the highest level.”

The state’s failure to tap into those federal funds has Lesniak speculating about the reasons behind the inaction.

“I don’t know, maybe the governor just doesn’t want to use help from the federal government because it’s President Obama. Maybe he doesn’t want to make President Obama look good during this campaign when he’s campaigning so hard for Mitt Romney.”