Lawmakers sent a $34.8 billion budget to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk late Monday night. It included $275 million in spending beyond what was proposed in February. The budget, often one of the more contentious issues in Trenton, advanced with little fanfare as lawmakers spent hours negotiating details of the Transportation Trust Fund behind closed doors. An updated version of the Legislature’s proposal shows a $553 million surplus – which is about $60 million lower than the governor’s plan. The proposal also includes a $1.86 billion payment into the state’s pension system. The payment would be lower than Christie agreed to under reforms he signed in 2011, but the highest ever made by the state.
Both the Assembly (49-27-0) and Senate (28-11) released the budget bill (S-17 / A-4000) July 27 . The $34.8 billion budget plan, about 1 percent more than the proposed budget, prioritized several spending initiatives including $25 million in pre-school aid and $20 million total for lead testing. The plan is a mere several hundred million dollars more than Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal. However, the governor is expected to reject the programs via a line-item veto.
In total, under the proposed budget bill, the education sector will receive an additional almost $50 million in aid. Of course, under New Jersey’s Constitutional framework the Governor, upon receipt of the budget bill, will have an opportunity to line item veto the budget prior to adoption by the July 1 due date.
Among the highlighted changes between the originally proposed budget and the introduced Appropriations Act as it relates to education:
- The elimination of the Opportunity Scholarship Act $1 million proposed appropriation included within the Governor’s proposed budget;
- Inclusion of almost a $1 million for Advanced Placement fee reimbursement;
- Additional aid for Adult Education programs and County Vocational School Districts;
- A significant increase in non-public security, technology and nursing aid;
- The inclusion of additional funds for breakfast ‘After the Bell’ to fund an incentive program to provide a 10-cent per breakfast supplement to the existing federal reimbursement;
- The addition of Programmatic Stabilization Aid for Patterson and Egg Harbor Township for increased enrollment with simultaneous decrease in property tax value to the tune of $20 million;
- The inclusion of $25 million for pre-school expansion;
- $20 million for lead testing in schools;
- An increase in aid to charter schools; and
- A decrease in monies related to school construction
Moving the Bill
Shortly after noon, the Senate advanced the budget, 28 to 11, after discussing it for fewer than 10 minutes. Senate president Stephen Sweeney called it the fastest-ever vote on the budget. Five Republican senators voted in favor of the budget, including Anthony Bucco, Kevin O’Toole and Samuel Thompson, all of whom sit on the Senate budget and appropriations committee.
More than 11 hours later, the Assembly swiftly voted out the plan, 50 to 27. Assemblyman Gary Schaer, the budget chair, acknowledged that the budget is usually accompanied by long speeches from both sides of the aisle, but that “the Republican budget officer and I have agreed amongst each other that we would speak very briefly as the hour is late,” he said, as the Assembly broke out into applause.
Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, who sits on the budget committee, said the proposal is “dramatically better” than in the past two years although his members would still be voting against it.
But, he said, “the minority party feels respected and in the loop.”
NJPSA will keep you posted as the budget bill is reviewed by the Administration. Stay tuned as we move closer to the July 1 due date when New Jersey’s budget must be in place.
- S-17/A-4000 Score Sheet(Pending Technical Review)
- S-17/A-4000 Language Changes(Pending Technical Review)
- S-17/A-4000(Pending Technical Review)