Fairness for women in New Jersey is still a serious battle in the 21st century and having a woman's voice in the governor's seat would be an important victory, Democratic gubernatorial challenger Barbara Buono said Friday in Atlantic City.

Women are still making 78 cents to every dollar made by men, the state senator from Middlesex County told more than 150 people during the annual Democratic State Committee Conference at Bally's Casino.

"Today in Trenton, we have a governor who's said that he doesn't see why women need a message specific to them," Buono said about Republican incumbent Chris Christie.

Buono said the loss of about $7.5 million in funding for women's health centers under Christie's administration, along with the veto of a bill that would close the wage gap, negatively affect working women and their families.

"As a working mother of six, as a woman who's used Planned Parenthood as a primary care provider, as someone who believes wholeheartedly that the state of New Jersey cannot move forward if we continue to leave our women behind, I will, as your governor, do everything in my power to lift up New Jersey's women and ensure that all of our residents can compete in the 21st century global economy," Buono said.

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, Passaic, another speaker at the conference, said working families and low-income families are suffering under Christie. As an example, she cited the fight over the Christie administration's efforts to seize for the state $140 million set aside for municipalities to use on affordable housing.

Oliver said the attempts by the governor, who is "comfortably sitting in a statehouse," to "grab millions and millions of dollars" when families are struggling to pay rent is an obvious reason not to re-elect him.

"Women from every sphere can mobilize and get Barbara elected in November," Oliver said.

Buono said that during her time in the Legislature, she has made the rights of our women a "top priority - because we know that what benefits New Jersey's women isn't just good for us - it's good for our families, for our communities and for the state of New Jersey."

In a phone interview later Friday, Buono said the state's high unemployment rate and high number of residents migrating out-of-sate is a trend that needs to be reversed.

"New Jersey doesn't invest in higher education" and as a result students want to leave the state, she said, adding that public education overall needs more funding.

The Democrat said higher property taxes under Christie also contribute to a higher move-out rate. Buono recalled her own childhood, growing up through the recession of 1975. She said she couldn't find a job and was on food stamps, but eventually was able to find work.

"What we had back then was hope and if you worked hard enough life could be better," Buono said.

Regarding the casino industry, Buono said waiting to see the effects of Internet gambling and trying to find innovative ways to increase the revenue stream from Atlantic City's casinos are important for the state.

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