Senator Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement on the Senate’s party-line approval of the New Jersey State Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (S-2022):
“This is a smart and responsible budget. In many respects, it’s a COVID-recovery budget that makes the best use of public resources to address the needs of New Jersey as we emerge from the most severe public health crisis of a lifetime.
“We have the advantage of state revenues significantly higher than anticipated, and a substantial amount of federal aid. But, we are being cautious and thoughtful in how these funds are used.
“It spends on COVID-related needs that protect the health and safety of our residents, and it spends on the services and programs that are always important for maintaining our quality of life.
“It’s really more than a “spending plan.” It is also a plan for savings, for debt reduction, for tax relief, for investing in our future, and for avoiding a fiscal cliff.
“It pays down debt, makes strategic investments in long-term priorities, and covers multi-year needs, including an increase of $505 million in the pension payment and a surplus of $6.4 billion.
“It sets aside $1.3 billion for a Rainy Day Fund, and creates a debt defeasance fund of $3.7 billion that will produce savings by paying down existing debt and avoiding future debt.
“We are ensuring that the Legislature has a shared responsibility in the use of the $6.5 billion in federal funds New Jersey received from the American Rescue Plan. Unlike the post-Sandy era with former Governor Christie, the Legislature will work in partnership with the Governor to make use of these resources.
“We are making use of available resources to deliver tax relief to middle class families and working people. We are expanding the tax credits for families, rebates for homeowners, deductions for veterans, and increased savings for the working poor. It also will make college and retirement more affordable for low- and middle-income residents.
“The budget includes $500 million for rental assistance, $250 million for utility relief, $100 million to help students with disabilities, $180 million for HVAC improvements to schools, and $100 million to expand childcare so people can get back to work.
“And, it delivers $450 million to trauma centers and increases Charity Care by $40 million.
“I believe that this is a budget that will effectively address the needs of the people of New Jersey and will help guide us through the state’s recovery and resurgence.”
For her part, Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz today highlighted the significant investments in education, childcare and public assistance programs included in the FY2022 Budget.
“The budget we passed represents the culmination of months of long meetings and thoughtful deliberations which resulted in over $468 million of state and federal money being invested in our children’s future,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex), chair of the Senate Education Committee and a member of the Senate Budget Committee.
“Throughout our budget process, I fought hard to ensure we included meaningful investments in the education of our children. The increase in extraordinary special education and early intervention funding will reduce the financial burden placed on local districts and ensure our students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are receiving the support that they need,” said Senator Ruiz. “We also included funding for innovative programs to ensure our schools are not only providing extraordinary academic instruction but are also taking care of our students as a whole.”
Senator Ruiz, who has been adamant about the need to study and address the impact of the pandemic on students, highlighted the language she included requiring the Department of Education to analyze the effectiveness of federal stimulus dollars on closing academic learning gaps, accelerating learning, closing the digital divide and improving the social and emotional well-being of students.
“As we look to address the learning loss and close the achievement gap, it’s crucial we have a thorough understanding of what has worked thus far to ensure we are spending our money on effective programming.”
Working to further address challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, Senator Ruiz advocated for the inclusion of $100 million for childcare revitalization, “It is critical we have the infrastructure in place to support the anticipated move back to in-person work. The $100 million committed for childcare revitalization will ensure providers around the state are able to keep their doors open and meet the growing demand expected in the months ahead. We cannot afford to allow this industry to collapse; this much needed investment will ensure they are able to continue to serve their communities and care for our children.”
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