New Jersey's State Budget must be signed and balanced by midnight on June 30. That doesn't leave much time to find ways to fund many initiatives and the state is dealing with yet another revenue shortfall so there is not a lot of money to go around. Despite that, the top lawmaker in the State Senate promised the new spending plan will help New Jersey's poor.

"Poverty is throughout the state and New Jersey is such a wealthy state and to have this amount of poverty is very sad," State Senate Pres. Steve Sweeney, (D-West Deptford). "People just see a budget with a bunch of numbers. Those numbers have lives attached to them."

The issues Sweeney promised to address in the budget included:

  • Fully restoring a tax credit for the working poor (Earned Income Tax Credit);
  • Using more state dollars to bolster federal money to fund the food stamp program;
  • Using enough funds to keep food pantries stocked;
  • Helping renters.

According to the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services, restoring the full EITC would cost about $60 million annually. Sweeney introduced a bill that to restore the tax credit to 25 percent of the federal credit. In 2010, Christie administration cut it to 20 percent.

"These are people who are looking for a hand up not a hand out and they're very proud people so government does have a role in helping them. You're talking about people who go to work every single day and try to make ends meet and it seems like it's almost impossible," Sweeney said.

The Senate president was joined by others Wednesday at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen to talk about ways to defeat poverty. One of roundtable participants was a working parent who spoke of her struggles. Sweeney's office sent out a press release that included a quote.

"As a single parent, it's a daily struggle trying to make ends meet for my family," said Jersey City resident Devika Smith, who works as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home. "I recently gave my son my last ten dollars so he could get to school, but had no money left for my own bus fare to get to work. Luckily, a co-worker spotted me on the street and gave me a lift. Sometimes it feels like I'm living on the very edge. All I want is to go to bed at night knowing that I can feed my children and pay my rent."