Yet, there are good reasons he should instead sign it to enact these funding provisions.
The funds would support a county-based transportation network, which bring seniors and disabled residents to essential medical services, including dialysis, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, developmental workshops, food shopping, nutrition sites, employment opportunities for low income individuals, veteran services and more.
Apart from the basic merits of providing this access, there are at least three other reasons why the provisions should be enacted:
Across NJ in every county needs assessment, "transportation for seniors and the disabled" is reported to be the highest priority. It is also crucial to recognize that as NJ State aging and fiscal policy encourages seniors to use home and community services rather than costly nursing homes, community transportation is the appropriate linkage for seniors, disabled persons and at-risk drivers to access these community services. It is all too clear that if you cannot get to these services, then they are not really available. Sound, reliable and sustainable transportation options need to be coupled with the current State aging and fiscal policy. Naturally, the rural, suburban and urban communities have different needs, but demand for supportive transportation for seniors and other mobility-impaired residents of our state, is growing in all of them.
A significant part of the funding – at least state funding -- to support the transportation needs of seniors and people with disabilities is tied to the apportionment of casino revenue which is shrinking substantially due to the various woes of Atlantic City and changes in the gaming industry. Transportation services receive 8.5 percent of the casino funds, which has translated into a cut, roughly by half between 2008 to 2014, when it was down to $18.2 million from its height at over $36 million. Further structural cuts are predicted. The lapsing of a deadline to get a constitutional question on the ballot in 2015 to expand casino to other parts of the state means revenue from other casinos is also off the table for now.
From there, the math is simple. The demand greatly outstrips the supply for this basic service need. But there is another dimension, as well. The result of eight straight years of funding decreases is that county governments, which have kept the senior transit systems going with subsidies, have had to cut services and lay-off drivers. Since 2008, there has been a demand of 2.7 million trips that hasn't been met, according to our well-respected colleague, Michael Vieira President, NJ Council on Special Transportation.
SAFETY & WELL-BEING
As paratransit riders may be left stranded for rides they deem essential, they may be forced into difficult choices. Without other transportation options, many senior citizens who have given up driving for medical or other issues, will find themselves back behind the wheel, potentially putting their own safety, as well as that of others in peril. For many it is no real choice in that not going to dialysis or for chemo treatments is also an assault on health and well-being.
We thank the legislators - themselves from urban, suburban and more rural parts of New Jersey - who have sponsored this legislation, as a means to address a pressing societal need: Assembly members Eliana Pintor Marin, Gary Schaer, Sheila Oliver, Joseph Lagana, Gordon Johnson, Troy Singleton, and Senators Teresa Ruiz, Sandra Cunningham, and Steven Oroho.
We urge Governor Christie to sign A4607 and provide a lifeline for the senior citizens and disabled residents who rely on state-supported transportation programs.