Blistan urges support for budget at anti-poverty rally

Published on Thursday, June 26, 2014

Marie BlistanNJEA Vice President Marie Blistan today spoke at the War Against Poverty Coalition rally to urge bipartisan legislative support of the Democratic budget plan, which would require millionaires and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

“This plan will fix New Jersey’s recurring deficit problem and meet the state’s fiscal obligations in a number of areas, including funding our public schools and making the state’s required pension payments,” Blistan said.

The War Against Poverty Coalition was formed by local community activists and union members in 2013 to protest attacks on the working class such as cuts to the SNAP food assistance program, cuts to legal services, the foreclosure crisis, lack of jobs at a living wage, and attacks on public education.

Blistan’s full remarks are below:

Good afternoon!

My name is Marie Blistan and I am a teacher in Washington Township, Gloucester County!

And I am also the vice president of the New Jersey Education Association.

My colleagues and I have dedicated our professional lives to providing a great education for New Jersey’s children.

And we take GREAT pride in the fact that our public schools LEAD the nation in almost every academic indicator.

Education State Rankings, a publication produced by Congressional Quarterly Press, ranks New Jersey’s public schools the BEST in the country.

And New Jersey ranks among the top two states in Education Week’s “Chance for Success Index,” which measures a state’s ability to give its children the greatest chance for success and shows that it is doing more in preparing young people for the challenges they will face as adults.

But in order to be successful, we need to maintain a steady course that emphasizes meeting the needs and overcoming the challenges of our students as individuals – not as nameless, faceless number who only interest us as data points.

And not as political pawns in a budget process that too often rewards millionaires and corporations over the interests of children and middle class families.

NJEA and its members care deeply about this state – we’re public employees as well as taxpayers – and we hate to see it headed in the wrong direction.

Instead of making budget choices that benefit New Jersey’s middle class and strengthen our infrastructure, the governor has chosen to devastate the institutions that level the playing field for everyone.

In defiance of the law the he championed, a law which he said would restore fiscal sanity to the state, the governor is refusing to fund the state’s fair share of the pension obligation. And yet, our members are still making their contributions.

That’s why we applaud the efforts of Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, and Democrats in both houses to develop a budget that puts New Jersey’s families first.

Their plan will fix New Jersey’s recurring deficit problem and meet the state’s fiscal obligations in a number of areas, including funding our public schools and making the state’s required pension payments.

And it will ensure that millionaires and corporations pay their fair share of the tax burden.

Now there are opponents to the millionaires’ tax who say it will force millionaires to leave the state and take up residence in their second, THIRD, or FOURTH homes in Florida, South Carolina, or North Carolina. But we need to ensure that our members and everyone in the middle class is able to afford the mortgage on their ONE house here in New Jersey! 

These millionaire-protectors say that if millionaires leave they will also take the jobs they created and the income they generate in our communities! But research shows that when we have a strong, vibrant middle class we have a stronger economy!

What we NEED TO DO is to support our hard working middle class because the simple truth is that  with our excellent public schools, high-quality workforce, and proximity to business and economic hubs, New Jersey will always be an attractive option for businesses.

NJEA and its members stand with our partners here today to urge other legislators to step forward and support this plan, which will end the cycle of structural deficits, broken promises, and annual budgetary crises.

Thank you.

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