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Truth-O-Meter rates claims from both political parties Mostly False

By Caryn Shinske
Published on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 at 7:30 a.m.

Democrat and Republican attack claims on the opposing party didn’t do well this weekend on the Truth-O-Meter.

In case you missed it, claims by state Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) on Sunday and Anthony Bucco (R-Morris) on Monday each landed on Mostly False, meaning that their statements contained just a shred of accuracy.

Weinberg claim

In an April 30 opinion column on NorthJersey.com, Weinberg claimed that a budget proposal put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and recently approved in the House of Representatives along party lines would curtail Pell grants for New Jersey students and "effectively double the interest paid out on existing and future student loans."

Back in 2007, Congress passed a law that gradually reduced interest rates for federally subsidized Stafford loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. The original rate will resume on July 1 if the law, which had an expiration date, isn’t renewed.

Although Ryan’s budget proposal doesn’t include language to maintain the lower interest rate, an expert with the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation told PolitiFact New Jersey that House Republicans passed a bill to prevent the rate increase from happening.

So, Weinberg, the Senate majority leader, erred in two areas: the possible doubling of the interest rate has to do with the law written in 2007 – not Ryan’s budget proposal and new loans wouldn’t be impacted by a rate change.

Bucco claim

Since 1992, about $4.6 billion has been diverted from the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund – an amount that Bucco blamed on the "unchecked Democratic majority in Trenton," according to a May 1 news release. The fund is used to pay unemployment benefits to people who worked in New Jersey.

A report from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services shows that slightly more than two thirds of that money – 67 percent or $3.141 billion -- was diverted by the Republican-controlled Legislature from 1992 to 1997.

But Democrats aren’t blameless.

Democrats diverted 23 percent or $1.1 billion in 2002 and 2003, while the remaining 10 percent or $450 million, was diverted after Democrats took full control of the Legislature in 2004. Combined, Republicans diverted more from the fund from Democrats.

The fund was depleted by March 2009 because of the diversions as well as increased demand for benefits. New Jersey began borrowing from the federal government to cover benefit payments and state officials expect to pay off the loan in two years.

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