Menendez Hails Passage Of Budget That Will Support The Economy, Invest In Families, And Ease Middle Class Taxes

Menendez Hails Passage Of Budget That Will Support The Economy, Invest In Families, And Ease Middle Class Taxes

Menendez helped lead successful efforts to support law enforcement, health care, the environment, security and veterans programs

Washington - Early this morning, the U.S. Senate passed a Democratic-driven budget resolution that focuses on stimulating the economy, investing in families, creating a half million jobs and lowering taxes for middle income Americans. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Budget Committee, helped craft this blueprint for the nation's spending and also was successful in championing a number of provisions beneficial to New Jersey and the nation.

"This budget is part of a fight for the direction of our economy," said Senator Menendez. "The budget is more than just a balance sheet of revenues and expenditures: it's a balance sheet of priorities and values. Our budget puts the family budget first with middle class tax relief, with tuition tax credits to help make college affordable, and with job training programs that will prepare the workforce for the 21st Century. These are tough times for New Jerseyans struggling to pay the bills, so we have brought forth a budget that focuses on helping stimulate the economy and creating jobs not in China, but right here at home."

BELOW:
OVERVIEW OF THE ENTIRE BUDGET
PROGRAMS CHAMPIONED BY SENATOR MENENDEZ IN THE AREAS OF:
o Law enforcement
o New Jersey Environment and Economy
o Energy and the Environment
o Health care
o Homeland security
o Support for new mothers
o Veterans support
o Immigration backlogs


Highlights of overall Budget Resolution:

• Responds to Economic Slowdown - up to $35 billion for additional stimulus.
• Invests for Future Economic Growth - investments in energy, education, infrastructure and health care
• Defense - matches the President's core defense budget and provides $3.2 billion more than the President's budget for veterans programs.
• Provides Middle Class Tax Relief - additional year of tax relief for more than 20 million who would otherwise be subjected to the higher Alternative Minimum Tax. Also, tax relief to make college more affordable and a big enough surplus in the outyears to extend the marriage penalty relief, the child tax credit and the 10 percent bracket, as well as provide for estate tax relief.
• Returns to Sound Fiscal Course - balances the budget in 2012 and 2013, holding the line on overall spending.


Programs championed by Senator Menendez

LAW ENFORCEMENT - Menendez amendment increases major program

Senator Menendez successfully attached an amendment in the Budget Committee to increase the funding for the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants ("Byrne-JAG") by $180 million. The Byrne-JAG Program allows states, local governments and American Indian nations to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and improve the criminal justice system based on local needs and conditions.

"This increase in funding comes at a critical time when crime is on the rise in our nation, when our state's law enforcement is combating gangs and when we have terrorist groups reconstituting themselves," said Senator Menendez. "This is a time in which we must do everything we can to strengthen our local law enforcement and better protect our communities."


NEW JERSEY ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMY - Defeat of plan for drilling near shore

New Jersey Senators Menendez and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) helped lead the effort to defeat an amendment offered by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would have paved the way for drilling off the coast of Virginia, which includes areas less than 100 miles from the Jersey Shore - close enough for spills to affect New Jersey beaches.

"The environment and economy of the Jersey Shore would have been directly threatened by this plan, so we stood up against it," said Senator Menendez. "It was a reckless plan to feed our nation's addiction to oil that posed not only short-term threats but also could have led us down a slippery slope that ends in drilling up and down the east coast. This problem arises because we are relying exclusively on oil. Instead, we need to become a more energy efficient nation and we need to develop alternative fuels."


ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT - Energy efficiency for cities

Senator Menendez helped secure an agreement to include $1.2 billion for energy efficiency block grants for cities - a program he successfully attached to last year's Energy bill. The block grants help communities implement energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies at a local level.

"Cities have taken the lead in combating climate change and Congress should help support and foster their movement toward energy efficiency," said Senator Menendez. "This program has never been more important than now, with oil and natural gas prices sky high, with sea levels rising and weather becoming more extreme."


HEALTH CARE - Patient Navigator funding

Senator Menendez helped include $19 million to support demonstration programs for patient navigator services, as authorized in the Menendez Patient Navigator, Outreach, and Chronic Disease Prevention Act. Patient navigators guide individuals through today's complex health care system and help them overcome barriers to care, increase prevention and early detection, and improve health outcomes of patients, especially in underserved communities.

"The health care system today can be a confusing maze that stops patients from getting the help they need and getting preventive care," said Senator Menendez. "This is a program I have championed for years to help Americans get better access to the health care they need."


HOMELAND SECURITY - More support for first responders

Senator Menendez worked closely with Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) to turn back the president's proposals to cut key first responder programs and port security programs (http://menendez.senate.gov/pdf/022908LettertoBudgetcommittee.pdf). As a result, the budget restores the $2 billion in cuts the President proposed for state homeland security funding and first responder grants, it doubles funding for port and transit security grants from the President's budget, and it restores more than $750 million in cuts to firefighter grants.

"With al Qaeda allowed to reconstitute itself in a safe zone along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, going along with the president's cuts to anti-terrorism grants would have represented a pre-9/11 mentality," said Senator Menendez. "The people of our state know how essential it is to be well prepared to defend against and respond to attacks, and this budget helps our responders do just that."


SUPPORT FOR NEW MOTHERS - Postpartum depression funding:

Senator Menendez, the author of the MOTHERS Act to combat post-partum depression, included language in support of funding within the Department of Health and Human Services to support research into the causes, diagnoses and treatments for postpartum depression and to help raise awareness and deliver services for individuals with postpartum depression.

"New mothers and prospective mothers too often are hit by the debilitating effects of postpartum depression without knowing about the condition or how to get help," said Senator Menendez. "Our budget makes educating and supporting new mother's a priority. It will begin to help many new mothers feel safe and supported rather than afraid and alone."


VETERANS SUPPORT - Grants to state veterans cemeteries

With the aging of the WWII generation, we have moved into the beginning of the period of greatest need for funding of the Grants for State Veteran Cemeteries, but funding levels have not kept up with need. Senator Menendez helped ensure adequate funding to help address the costs of constructing new cemeteries as well as the needs of existing State Veteran Cemeteries.

"Veterans of WWII are the Greatest Generation, and we must honor them as such," said Senator Menendez. "The care we put into Veterans cemeteries should appropriately reflect our gratitude for the tremendous service and sacrifice they have made for our nation."

IMMIGRATION BACKLOGS - A more efficient application process:

Senator Menendez helped include language in the bill to encourage the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make the current application process for naturalizing prospective citizens as efficient as possible, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the existing backlog of applications.

"The current situation discourages legal immigration," said Senator Menendez. "Increasing efficiency will drive more prospective immigrants to enter by legal means and will help reunite families."

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