HEALTH

Rep. Pascrell Says Christie’s Veto of State Health Exchange Bill Puts New Jersey in Jeopardy

With New Jersey’s gubernatorial race happening in 2013 and Gov. Chris Christie announcing he will run for reelection, there has been much speculation about who the Democratic challenger will be. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-8) told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he has too many other issues on his mind to run for governor, including Hurricane Sandy relief, the impending fiscal cliff and health care changes.

Pascrell said he has spoken to the Democratic chairmen in Bergen and Passaic counties and that it’s nice to be considered for the job, but he said he has more important and urgent matters at hand. “There are a lot of good people who could run for governor in this state,” he said. “I never say never, but I have other thoughts on my mind right now.”

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One of the issues is Hurricane Sandy recovery. President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $60 billion in relief money. Pascrell called that “a great beginning.” He hopes that many provisions that were utilized after Hurricane Katrina will provide relief for New Jerseyans. Pascrell said tax relief is what’s needed and that is not part of the $60 billion Obama discussed for the affected states.

Pascrell believes there will be bipartisan support for Obama’s plan. “I’ve gotten all the Republican members and Democratic members in New Jersey to sign on,” he said. “I think it’s necessary, I think it’s important.”

While Pascrell said Hurricane Sandy didn’t cause the amount of deaths that Katrina did, affected areas have seen a lot of property damage that will be very costly for individuals and small business owners. While he said “FEMA has a great plan” for individuals, small business owners need immediate help rather than low interest loans, which are being offered.

Pascrell praised FEMA’s response to the hurricane, saying the organization was in New Jersey before, during and after the storm. He also said the majority of New Jersey’s utility companies did well, especially PSE&G.

“I’m satisfied with their work. I’ve got some real questions about some other utilities, but I think all in all, they did a good job,” Pascrell said.

The so-called fiscal cliff is approaching, which will affect the majority of Americans in the beginning of 2013, according to Pascrell. “If we don’t do anything between now and Jan. 1, taxes for the middle class, or 98 percent of Americans will see an increase in their taxes. Could be as much as $2,200, $2,300 a family and the same thing with 97 percent of small businesses,” he said. “That’s not acceptable to me.”

Speaker John Boehner has met privately with Obama about a possible compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff and Pascrell said he likes that idea. He said he’s hopeful that an agreement will be reached before Jan. 1 as a short-term solution.

“Then we move into 2013 with the new Congress and reelected president to deal with tax reform, to deal with the cuts that are necessary and to get this foolish notion out of our head that Social Security is the pathway to solution of our economic problems,” Pascrell said. “Social Security is not contributing one penny to the deficit or the debt and I’m very, very reluctant to even bring this subject up before we get to that because what we should do, the immediate problem, is to deal with the continued tax cuts for the middle class.”

Pascrell said he disagrees with Christie’s decision to veto a measure that would have created a state run health insurance exchange, calling it a “bad move for New Jersey.” While he said the state will have a federally run exchange, New Jersey officials won’t have input on it and the state will miss out on the $7 million or $8 million that would have been received to start up the exchange.

“The far right would like to wash its hands of the major disaster in this nation and that is high health care costs and not being able to provide some relief to those that can’t afford it, don’t have deep pockets. I think health problems and health costs are for everybody, not just seniors and I’ve been fighting for seniors my whole life,” Pascrell said. “But the point of the matter is for the governor to say I’ll wait for the Supreme Court decision, the decision was made a month ago and the governor still backed off, is putting this state in jeopardy and there is no other excuse for it.”