Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) was among Democratic lawmakers who failed to gain support from Assembly Republicans last Thursday to override Governor Chris Christie’s veto of a bill to help low-income New Jersey residents gain proper heating assistance and healthy meals throughout the winter season.
By Katherine Guest/Hudson County View
Prieto explained his disappointment of what was initially bipartisan support in both the Senate and House to override the veto when speaking to Hudson County View in West New York following the swearing in of new commissioner Cosmo Cirillo.
“Democratic lawmakers tried to override the bill because we thought it was a good bill we had passed. There was a misconception,” Prieto said.
“Senator [Robert] Menendez actually wrote a letter in response to when Governor Christie vetoed it since it was not accurate. We have not been successful in overriding one bill so I did not know if we would finally override a bill.”
After the enactment of Farm Bill reforms (The Agriculture Act of 2014), which narrowed the eligibility for “Heat and Eat” applicants, thousands of low-income residents suffered from losing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) heat and food benefits.
“I think this bill was good for the residents of New Jersey. It’s a great program. We’ll reintroduce the bill again and try to shepherd it along,” Prieto continued.
“Obviously, our main goals are for the working families and the working poor in the state of New Jersey to be able to gain relief and I think this was the right way of doing it.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimated a savings of $8.55 billion nationwide by setting the federal monthly household threshold funding to $20 per month. .
“I was the former Budget Chairman so [I’m used to] bills that cost money: I’m very, very stingy only when it doesn’t make a difference. A lot of the time we’ll have to invest in our community,” said Prieto, referencing the governor’s lack of spending.
Ten States and the District of Columbia have dedicated time and energy to increase Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) payments to more than $20 per year in compliance to the new federal law.
“With this investment we actually get reimbursement from the federal government. We can’t leave dollars on the table so anything we do has to be thoughtful. So we’re going to try again.”
“I think the art of compromise is important. It’s not about the glass of water being half empty or full. Even if you have less you could quench your thirst if you take a sip. If you can come away with something, you’re a winner,” Prieto concluded.
Emails to a spokesman from Christie’s Office were not immediately returned.