WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Banking and Finance Committees, released the following statement in reaction to the national budget proposal introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) today.

"House Republicans appear to be harboring a misguided hope that the more they repeat a bad idea, the better it will become," said Senator Menendez. "No matter how you slice it, the Ryan budget sacrifices benefits and programs that help middle class families access health care, education, food and housing while providing more tax breaks for America's wealthiest people and most profitable corporations - including big oil companies. There's nothing balanced about the Ryan proposal. It places most of the nation's fiscal burden on seniors, students, the poor and the middle class. If a budget is a statement about a nation's priorities, I wholly reject the Ryan plan that puts the American people at the bottom of the list."

Senator Menendez, sponsor of legislation to end taxpayer-funded subsidies for the "Big Five" oil companies, added that Democrats in Congress have always recognized the importance of addressing our deficit, which is perhaps why the nation will reduce its deficit by $155 billion this year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Annual budget deficits are projected to continue to shrink to $430 billion by fiscal 2015, down from $1 trillion in previous years, according to the CBO.

"As a nation, we've seen how we can close our deficit in a fair and balanced way," said Senator Menendez. "We still have tough challenges ahead of us, but I am committed to working toward the more balanced solution to be proposed by Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray that puts the American people first and provide a solid fiscal future for our entire nation."

Facts about the Ryan Proposal:

It drastically lowers the wealthiest Americans' income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, which is a greater tax break than last year's Ryan proposal. That plan would have given millionaires an additional $285,000 in tax breaks while hitting the average middle-class family with a $1,300 tax hike, according to the Joint Economic Committee.

It ends the guaranteed benefits of Medicare and replaces it with a voucher program. When this proposed last year, it was estimated that out-of-pocket Medicare costs could rise by $5,900 per senior. Under the Ryan plan, 1,379,196 New Jersey seniors would be forced out of traditional Medicare and into a voucher program.

It repeals the Affordable Care Act, ending preventive health care services for 34 million seniors and 47 million women, raising prescription drug costs on seniors who would be subjected to the gap in coverage known as the "donut hole." Here at home, 1,056,243 New Jersey seniors would be forced to pay for preventive health services, and 169,373 New Jersey seniors would pay more for prescription drugs, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Also, repealing the Affordable Care Act would allow insurance companies to cancel coverage when people get seriously ill or denying coverage to people who have "pre-existing conditions."