NJ Assembly, Senate OK cost-cutting budget

The Assembly and Senate on Monday approved a cost-slashing $32.8 billion state budget and borrowing $3.9 billion for school construction. Meanwhile, the Senate approved cutting taxpayer-paid benefits

News 12 Staff

Jun 24, 2008, 2:47 AM

Updated 5,872 days ago

Share:

The Assembly and Senate on Monday approved a cost-slashing $32.8 billion state budget and borrowing $3.9 billion for school construction. Meanwhile, the Senate approved cutting taxpayer-paid benefits for government workers and teachers.
The Assembly voted 45-34 and the Senate 23-17 to pass a budget that would cut funding for, among others, hospitals, municipalities, colleges, property tax rebates and nursing homes, deny a funding boost for nonprofits that care for the disabled and extend a utility tax.
It then voted 42-36 to borrow - without voter approval - $3.9 billion for school construction, mainly in poor cities. The Senate followed suit, voting 21-18 to approve the borrowing that would mainly build schools in the state's poorest school districts.
The Senate also voted 31-8 to cut benefits, mainly for new government workers and teachers. The Assembly began debating the measure around 7:15 p.m. Monday.
The votes were intertwined as some lawmakers tied support for the budget to whether the borrowing and benefit cuts passed.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine and his fellow Democrats who control the Legislature conceded budget cuts would be painful but needed.
"New Jersey is facing an economic emergency that if left alone would very likely bankrupt this state," said Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald, D-Camden.
The state Constitution requires a budget be signed by July 1.
Republicans charged the budget hits residents battling the nation's highest property taxes.
"When every New Jerseyan is under assault from rising taxes and soaring prices for food and fuel, this budget does nothing to make our state more affordable," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union.
The budget includes $8 million to begin providing health insurance to more low-income parents and require every child have health insurance. It also abolishes the state commerce andpersonnel departments.
It also calls for offering retirement incentives to 2,000 state workers to save $91 million. That would bring salary savings but increase taxpayer-paid retirement benefits.
So legislators also propose increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62, requiring government workers and teachers earn $7,500 per year to receive a pension, eliminating Lincoln's Birthday as a holiday, allowing the state to offer incentives not to take health insurance and requiring a municipal employee work 20 hours per week to get health benefits. The changes would mainly affect new government workers and teachers.
"We know that if we continue along this path, and do nothing to compensate for past mistakes, that we will just further destabilize and ultimately jeopardize the solvency of the pension for current employees," said Senate Budget Chairwoman Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex. Government workers and teachers lined Statehouse hallways and lobbied New Jersey lawmakers to oppose the legislation, noting they agreed to a new contract last year that brought increased pension and health insurance contributions.
Corzine hasn't committed to the bill, and unions called for him to veto it should it also pass the Assembly.
"If the governor believes in collective bargaining, he should honor the good faith agreement he made and veto the legislation," said Carla Katz, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1034, the largest state workers union chapter.
The plan to borrow $3.9 billion for school construction stems from a 1998 Supreme Court order directing the state to build schools in the poorest school districts. The state initially borrowed $8.6 billion, but spent the money without completing the work.
"It is impossible to provide a 21st century education in 19th century facilities," said Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, D-Essex, a bill sponsor.
The bill would allocate $2.9 billion to the poor districts and $1 billion to all other districts, but Republicans want to ask voters to approve the borrowing, noting Corzine has also backed requiring voters approve borrowing. They also emphasized how the state has $32 billion in debt, making New Jersey the nation's fourth-most indebted state.
"Kids are important, but so are the rest of us," said Assemblyman Michael Doherty, R-Warren. "What about retirees? What about taxpayers?"
Corzine, in backing the borrowing without voter approval, cited the court order.
"It's the right decision constitutionally, it's the right decision morally to protect our children and it's most emphatically the right decision in trying to provide real stimulus for the economy," Corzine said Friday.
Still, legislators were expected to consider a proposal to ask voters in November to amend the state Constitution to require public approval for state borrowing.


More from News 12
1:33
President Biden announces end of 2024 bid for presidency; endorses VP Kamala Harris for pick

President Biden announces end of 2024 bid for presidency; endorses VP Kamala Harris for pick

1:31
Sun, clouds and a possible stray shower in New Jersey

Sun, clouds and a possible stray shower in New Jersey

4:22
How VP Kamela Harris could get presidential nomination after the end of Biden's reelection bid

How VP Kamela Harris could get presidential nomination after the end of Biden's reelection bid

1:00
NJ Democratic lawmakers thank President Biden for his service in wake decision to step down

NJ Democratic lawmakers thank President Biden for his service in wake decision to step down

2:08
National and local lawmakers stunned by Biden's decision not to seek reelection

National and local lawmakers stunned by Biden's decision not to seek reelection

Officials release statements following President Biden's decision to end reelection bid

Officials release statements following President Biden's decision to end reelection bid

1:41
Some NJ voters weren't surprised Biden chose to end reelection bid

Some NJ voters weren't surprised Biden chose to end reelection bid

0:56
Belleville church hosts blood drive to combat shortage over summer

Belleville church hosts blood drive to combat shortage over summer

1:01
Edison High School assistant principal accused of making threats to Muslim students

Edison High School assistant principal accused of making threats to Muslim students

0:17
Police: Stratford man killed in motorcycle crash near Tinton Falls

Police: Stratford man killed in motorcycle crash near Tinton Falls

0:27
Delta: Unaccompanied minor travel paused following global technology outage

Delta: Unaccompanied minor travel paused following global technology outage

0:34
Over 1,600 U.S. flights canceled Saturday due to global technology outage

Over 1,600 U.S. flights canceled Saturday due to global technology outage

0:19
Police: 4 people injured in East Windsor crash

Police: 4 people injured in East Windsor crash

1:30
Officials: Calls to 988 have increased since its creation 2 years ago

Officials: Calls to 988 have increased since its creation 2 years ago

1:59
Flight disruptions persist at Newark Liberty Int’l Airport due to global technology outage

Flight disruptions persist at Newark Liberty Int’l Airport due to global technology outage

1:49
Toms River firefighters headed to national competition

Toms River firefighters headed to national competition

0:17
Police: Man fatally shot inside car in Clifton

Police: Man fatally shot inside car in Clifton

0:29
Fire leaves several residents in Lakewood displaced

Fire leaves several residents in Lakewood displaced

0:26
Police: Egg Harbor Township man accused of fatally striking bicyclist while driving drunk

Police: Egg Harbor Township man accused of fatally striking bicyclist while driving drunk

1:41
 Officials: COVID-19 has hit high levels in several states, including Connecticut

Officials: COVID-19 has hit high levels in several states, including Connecticut