What’s happened since the last update on May 15 in New Jersey?
Later that day, Governor Murphy signed A3969/S2392, which allows municipalities to push back the deadline for paying property taxes. (This bill, opposed by NJEA, was explained in the May 15 update, here https://actioncenter.njea.org/legislative-update-may-15-2020/, if you have questions!) While the furlough bill passed in both houses at the same time, the governor has not signed it. Instead, he announced policy changes that would allow public employees to voluntarily take furloughs. https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/05/murphy-oks-furloughs-for-public-employees-to-avert-layoffs.html
On Tuesday, May 19, Burlington County College Faculty member Bill Whitfield gave testimony to the Senate Higher Education Committee on issues facing our county colleges. The financial issues worsened with the announcement from the treasurer (more below) that operating aid to community colleges would be cut for July, August, and September
As you may recall, the legislature approved extending the 2020 fiscal year (FY 20) for three months, with a deadline for the FY 21 budget completed by September 30. On Friday, May 22, State Treasurer Liz Muoio released an updated revenue forecast and details about the administration’s budget plan for the three-month extension. You can read about it here https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/05/murphy-announces-13b-in-spending-cuts-to-fix-budget-ravaged-by-coronavirus-crisis.html.
Part of the cuts involve school funding. The total amount of school aid for the three-month extension will be held to FY 20 amounts, although district allocations may be different as the state is running the funding formula with changes resulting from S-2. The Department of Education finally released new aid numbers. https://www.njspotlight.com/2020/05/school-aid-figures-revised-pandemic-hit-on-state-budget/ As for FY 21, we have to wait and see.
Since then, the treasurer has testified to budget committees in both houses about the state’s finances. https://www.njspotlight.com/2020/06/committees-grill-treasurer-muoio-on-administrations-health-crisis-spending-plan/. New Jersey, the administration predicts, will be approximately $10 billion short in revenue between fiscal years 2020 and 2021. New Jersey needs to have a balanced budget, which is why the administration is pushing for the ability to issue bonds. To use these federal funds, NJ needs authorization from the legislature, which is in a bill, A4175.
NJEA supported A4175, which would also authorize the state to issue bonds to borrow money. Want more details on how this works? https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/06/nj-is-one-step-closer-to-borrowing-billions-of-dollars-to-make-up-for-stunning-loss-in-tax-revenues.html This bill will be voted on in the full Assembly on Thursday. It has yet to be heard in the Senate.
It’s been a busy two weeks budget-wise, with more to come.
** Please note that yes, the legislature is meeting on days other than Monday and Thursday. Due to the health emergency and remote meetings via zoom, only one committee from either house can meet in the morning and one in the afternoon.