Chiusano Says Corzine Holding Taxpayers Hostage With Threat To Shut State Parks

Assemblyman Gary Chiusano called Governor Jon Corzine’s threat to shutting at least nine state parks this summer another strong arm tactic employed by the Administration that he said is “reprehensible, childish and a betrayal of the public’s trust.

“Once again, this governor is holding hostage the taxpayers of this state by threatening to close down one of the Garden State’s richest natural resources – our state parks,” said Chiusano. “We understand the concept of cutting spending. If fact, Assembly Republicans have led that charge for the past six years and have been ignored. But there’s a difference between responsible cuts aimed at waste and abuse and strong arm tactics whose purpose is to intimidate in order to protect one’s political base.”

Chiusano, noting that most of the parks are located in Republican territory, said his district office has been inundated with phone calls and emails from a public who is outraged with the governor’s latest antics. He noted that Corzine’s plan to close nine parks, cut services to three others and reduce offseason hours at 42 other sites is counter-productive.

“Our beautiful parks are a major tourist attraction bringing in two million visitors a year to enjoy a variety of activities from camping to hiking, swimming, fishing, picnicking, and bike riding,” stated Chiusano, R-Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon. “They generate income for the state and local communities in which they are located. To shut them down to save $4.5 million is ‘voodoo economics’ at the very least. It’s absolutely absurd.”

The freshman Assemblyman added that in a state in which many of its residents are struggling to make ends meet, the parks are an affordable source of recreation for many middle class families.

In an effort to cut the budget, Chiusano said the governor should target areas of waste, fraud and abuse instead of eliminating cost-efficient and vital departments such as the state Department of Agriculture and cutting aid to certain efficient municipalities, which he is proposing to do.

He cited the findings of a recent state audit that revealed the state spent three years and nearly $650,000 on a faulty computer system that fails to track liquor licenses and manage cases. According to an article in Wednesday’s Star Ledger, “Problems with the computer software occurred despite the state Attorney General’s Office having paid a private consulting firm $148,000 to help it choose an appropriate software manufacturer…” The AG’s Office also appointed a committee to review bids before it awarded the $1 million contract.

Chiusano also said The Record reported today that Governor Corzine has failed to name a Medicaid inspector to oversee health programs for the poor despite two recent state audits that have found numerous examples of Medicaid fraud. On Monday, another state audit revealed shocking displays of waste and abuse in another state-run health care program for working poor families. The audits showed that people earning six figure salaries are enrolled in the program. “This kind of wasteful spending is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Chiusano, who noted that Assembly Republicans have identified more than $4 billion in waste, fraud and abuse. “These are the areas the governor should be targeting to save money, not by cutting vital services and shutting our state parks. The parks belong to the people, not to our multimillionaire governor.”