OPINION: ‘Our Turn NJ’ is Misleading Voters Ahead of Casino Referendum

Save Jerseyans: a few weeks ago, I was one of the many New Jerseyans who received a mailer from Our Turn NJ, an organization that is urging voters in the Garden State to support a state constitutional change that would allow for two casinos more than 72 miles outside of Atlantic City.

As I pointed out in a previous post, this amendment would require that nearly half of all revenues our state receives from these two new casinos would go right back to Atlantic City. Taxpayers across our state have subsidized poor decisions by the city for decades with nothing to show for it other than massive unemployment, high levels of crime, failing schools, and fiscal crisis.

In the mailer New Jerseyians received, Our Turn NJ states that $1.8 billion in funding for property tax relief, meals-on-wheels, transportation, and services for alzheimer’s patients has been lost because of a lack of casino gaming northern New Jersey. The mailer doesn’t cite any sources for the claims it makes.

casino blackjack poker chipsThe tactics employed by Our Turn New Jersey are intended to scare people into the voting booth. Obviously, Our Turn NJ is not concerned with facts.

I am, so here are the facts:

According to The 2016 New Jersey State Budget, our state has allocated $1.1 billion in programs intended to cut property taxes. Two of these programs, the Homestead Benefit Program and a Senior Property Tax Freeze program, are intended to help senior citizens and the disabled remain in their homes. The number of recipients of the senior property tax freeze program is set to increase by over 27,000 when compared to last year. Additionally, funding for both of these programs has increased over the last year.

Secondly, the claim that New Jersey has lost funding for adult day care services for those with alzheimer’s is also misleading. According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013, New Jersey leads the nation in enrollment of adult day care services. According to Paying for Senior Care, an online resource for discovering the cost of senior services, New Jersey subsidizes up to 75% of the cost of adult day care for eligible individuals. This doesn’t include federal medicaid benefits.

With regards to Meals-On-Wheels, every county in New Jersey has a home delivery meal service for the elderly. 54,000 New Jersey seniors receive meals from Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels receives funding from a combination of federal, state, and local taxpayer dollars, in addition to donations from individuals and businesses. Make no mistake about it, no resident in New Jersey should go hungry. Countless volunteers, social service agencies, and generous individuals are ensuring that we feed those senior citizens who can’t leave their homes.

As it relates to transportation funding, the reason our Transportation Trust Fund is broke is because some in the Legislature and Governors of both political parties have failed to exercise fiscal restraint and they’ve failed to find ways to fund transportation, other than increasing taxes which hurts economic growth and reduces revenue long-term. It’s a big stretch to suggest that because we don’t have two casinos north of Atlantic City, our roads are falling apart.

Our Turn NJ is doing a disservice to our state by mailing out misleading information. They’d have you believe that building two new casinos will solve every problem we have.

Before you vote on the casino amendment this fall, I encourage you to read two articles.

One is my article opposing casino expansion, which can be found here: https://savejersey.com/2016/08/north-jersey-casino-expansion-ballot/ . The other is an article that ran in The Atlantic documenting how casinos ruin economies. That article can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/08/a-good-way-to-wreck-a-local-economy-build-casinos/375691/