SGA braves North Jersey to restore state funding

While most students were enjoying a break from classes, Michael Strom and Dan Beckelman met with New Jersey legislators to lobby for the restoration of state funding to the College.

Strom, vice president of Legal and Governmental Affairs for the Student Government Association (SGA), and Beckelman, SGA senator at-Large, met with five legislators, located in North Jersey.

Their work during winter break is part of an SGA project to lobby to state legislators for higher education funding

Strom and Beckelman called the meetings successful.

“Our lobbying was immensely successful, with almost all legislators being on board or at least desiring a second meeting,” Beckelman said.

Beckelman described his meetings with two legislators. Assemblyman Louis Manzo, though a Democrat, “is almost totally opposed to (Gov. Jon S. Corzine) and was passionate about restoring aid,” Beckelman said. Assemblyman Vincent Prieto said he could sympathize because he had a daughter in college.

“If we had met with one legislator, or a handful, our efforts would have been completely in vain,” Strom said. “As we stand right now, however, we have reached a significant percentage of legislators, we have established our voice and we have created a foundation for eliciting change.”

However, Strom said, “For this upcoming year, unfortunately, I feel that another cut is inevitable, as this seems to be the mood Corzine is projecting.”

Last year, Corzine’s budget cuts cost the College over $8 million. This year, Strom and Beckelman are putting a face to the students affected by the cuts to sway legislators.

“Regardless of what they say . the legislators are given faces behind the numbers they decide upon, and they will remember that when voting comes,” Strom said.

“(Corzine) probably will start worrying more about re-election in 2007 . and therefore will likely not make unpopular cuts,” Beckelman said.

Strom called for students to get active and participate in lobbying efforts.

“There simply hasn’t been enough noise to change the mood that cutting higher education allocation is easy and fine,” he said. “Crucial to the success (of the lobbying), especially in the short term, is that students . start speaking out more to legislators and joining us in our endeavors.”

Strom and his Legal and Governmental Affairs committee have scheduled additional meetings with legislators, one of which took place on Jan. 29. Students interested in joining him should e-mail for more information.