MORRIS COUNTY — Assemblyman Brian Bergen was irate after discovering veterans in state-run facilities are begging for soap and other basic necessities while lawmakers spent lavishly on last-minute pork projects in the state budget passed in June.
“This is a stark and shameful reflection of skewed priorities and neglect,” said Bergen (R-Morris). “When the state is spending at historic levels, veterans in its care shouldn’t have to resort to panhandling to meet their basic needs.”
Bergen, a U.S. Army combat veteran, took issue with three wish lists posted on the state-run websites of the state veteran homes in Menlo Park, Vineland, and Paramus, which currently house 574 veterans. Donations of soap, deodorant, bed linens, denture care supplies, t-shirts, and tissues, among other basic care items, are being sought.
In September, The U.S Department of Justice and State Commission of Investigation issued reports documenting insufficient controls and medical care at the Menlo Park and Paramus facilities during the pandemic, which killed at least 200 residents.
“You’d think that after back-to-back scathing reports, there would be a better effort by the Murphy administration,” he continued. “None of this would break the bank for the state to provide.”
Bergen emphasized that the disparity between the lavish state spending and the distressing plea for donations at the state homes was not just a failure but an outrage.
“Democrats hailed the state budget as a ‘statement of their values,’” said Bergen. “But in a state where historic expenditure seems to be the norm, the neglect and dire situation faced by those who have bravely served their country is an unconscionable travesty.”
Bergen emphasized that more than $1.5 billion was directed to Democrat legislative pet projects in the final weeks before the $54.3 billion state budget was adopted. The list includes $12 million for a French museum in Jersey City, $4 million for the Sewaren marina in Woodbridge, and a $500,000 dog park in Rahway.
Shortly after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the budget, Woodbridge officials announced that a 215-seat tiki bar would be part of the Sewaren marina project, which would largely be funded with state grants.
“All you have to do is look at the Democrats’ checkbook to figure out their priorities,” continued Bergen. “While our soldiers beg for sweatpants, the state is constructing a tiki bar catering exclusively to yacht owners. That certainly doesn’t make New Jersey stronger or fairer.”
For now, Bergen is urging immediate intervention.
“It’s high time we honor our commitment to those who have selflessly served our nation,” Bergen concluded. “I implore the state to swiftly reevaluate its priorities and ensure our veterans receive the dignity and care they have rightfully earned.”