Monday was committees in the Senate and a voting session in the Assembly. Tuesday was Governor Murphy’s budget address, a day of pomp and circumstance, but also the day when the governor proposes his version of what the state budget should be, a statement of his priorities. Here’s what happens next. “Budget break” begins. The budget committees in both houses will meet to hear from members of the public, then will hear from executive agencies as to their budget needs. Eventually the governor and the legislature will come to an agreement of sorts, and the budget will (hopefully) pass by June 30.
We call it “budget break” because the legislature usually suspends its routine business during budget hearings. Currently, there are four session days scheduled in March, and the legislature has not yet released its calendar beyond that. Perhaps budget break will have a later start this year, or maybe the legislature will continue routine business and not have a real “budget break.” Regardless, the legislature and the executive branch negotiate the budget until the constitutional deadline of midnight June 30, and sometimes beyond into July. Everyone who works around politics in New Jersey hopes there’s a budget agreement well in advance of June 30. July 4 weekend is much better spent anywhere other than the statehouse, unless you’re Chris Christie at the beach house. (Does this sound familiar? Some of this explanation did appear a few weeks ago.)
Governor Murphy called for Chapter 78 relief in his budget address and talked about his administration’s efforts to lower health care costs. His budget:
- Makes a $4.6 billion pension payment, 80% of the actuarial required payment, an additional $1.1 billion over last year, as well as putting an additional $279 million in this year’s budget.
- Budgets an additional $336.5 million for K-12 school aid and $83 million for pre-K aid over last year, and an additional $50 million of stabilization aid for districts facing losses as a result of changes to the school funding act in 2018.
- Increases surplus to a projected $1.6 billion, with another $300 million in the rainy-day fund
- Invests money in NJ Transit, as well as preventing fare hikes. (When I put this in a prior update, thinking it didn’t affect our schools but you might be interested in it, a few of you told me that you have students who take public transportation to school.)
- Continues to fund the Community College Opportunity Grant program to provide tuition-free community college, as well as creating a similar program for four-year institutions, the Garden State Guarantee. (But keeps funding flat for community colleges.)
- Provides funds to remediate lead in preschool facilities.
- Invests in programs and services so youth don’t get caught up in the juvenile justice system.
- Fully funds women’s health care and family planning.
How is the governor going to pay for this? He is calling, once again, for a millionaires tax to raise funds. As you may recall, the legislature, when Christie was governor, passed this tax several times, only to see Christie veto it. Now that NJ has a governor who supports the millionaires tax? For the past two years, the legislature lost its interest in passing this tax. This year, however, Senate President Sweeney has announced he will support the millionaires tax, if it is used to put an additional billion into the pension fund. Murphy has other plans for this tax. Remember I said that the governor proposes and eventually comes to an agreement with the legislature. (Tom Moran of the Star Ledger thinks it will happen this year.)
- You can read the governor’s budget address as prepared here.
- If you want to watch the budget address (and commentary), it is available here:
Here are some articles on the budget:
Results from Monday, Feb. 4
- A1104 – “Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act”; requires certain school meal information be provided to students’ parents; establishes protocols for identifying eligible students for meal programs; prohibits stigmatizing student with bill in arrears. (Support) (Passed in Assembly)
- A1630 – Requires school districts to take certain actions in circumstances when school meal bill is in arrears; prohibits shaming students with school meal bills in arrears; prohibits certain district actions in collecting unpaid school meal fees. (Support) (Passed in Assembly)
- A1631 – Requires school districts take certain actions to increase participation in free or reduced priced meal programs; prohibits shaming students with school meal bills in arrears; prohibits certain district actions in collecting unpaid school meal fees. (Support) (Combined with A1630)
- A1632 – Requires school district to establish “School Meal Fund” to assist students with school meal bill in arrears. (Support) (Amended on Assembly floor, 2nd reading in Assembly)
When is the Legislature meeting again?
- Tuesday, March 5 Assembly Committees and Senate Voting Session
- Monday, March 16 Assembly and Senate Committees
- Thursday, March 19 Assembly and Senate Committees
- Thursday, March 26 Assembly and Senate Voting Session