Murphy proposes $53.1B budget for ‘Next New Jersey’

Governor feels budget will bring assistance to residents — but does it in financially responsible way

Saying essentially that he feels your pain — whether it be from the pandemic or inflation — Gov. Phil Murphy delivered a proposed $53.1 million budget Tuesday afternoon, one that he said is geared toward affordability and helping residents find their footing.

“This entire budget is purpose-built to help you find your place in the ‘Next New Jersey’ by securing your place in the New Jersey of right now,” he said.

“Indeed, this is a budget focused on the pocketbooks of our families.”

Whether or not it meets that ideal remains to be seen. The governor, working with a Legislature that generally acquiesces to his wishes, will have until June 30 to come to an agreement.

Of course, if you ask the governor, the budget he presented Tuesday fits the bill for what he called the Next New Jersey.

“A New Jersey that leads with compassion and understanding,” he said. “A New Jersey that invests in the futures of all of our people, not just some. A New Jersey that lives up to its responsibilities and doesn’t push them off onto the shoulders of the next generation.

“But, here’s the thing — the Next New Jersey isn’t some far-off vision. The Next New Jersey is here and happening right now.”

ROI-NJ broke down how the budget plays for the business community (read it here), leading with the governor’s promise to let the 2.5% Corporate Business Tax surcharge sunset at the end of the year.

He also proposed bringing back the ANCHOR property tax relief program, doubling the Child Tax Credit and freezing property taxes for seniors while bringing them prescription relief (read it here).

Here’s a look at some other items in the budget, as noted in the governor’s media release:

  • New Jersey Transit: No fare increases for sixth straight year;
  • Public education: Increasing $832 million in direct K-12 aid for public schools, for a total of almost $11 billion;
  • Universal pre-K: Adding an additional $109 million for preschool education aid is being proposed, $40 million of which will go toward expanding programs in new districts as well as other critical needs for further expansion;
  • Teacher training: Allocating $20 million in new investments, including $10 million for student teacher stipends, $5 million to waive teacher certification fees, $2 million for Culture and Climate Innovation Grants to help improve educator quality of life, $1 million to develop local partnerships for paraprofessional training, $800,000 for a teacher apprenticeship program and $500,000 to expand the Teacher Leader Network;
  • College promise: Increasing eligibility threshold to up to $100,000 for Community College Opportunity Grant and the Garden State Guarantee;
  • Surplus: Elevating the surplus to over $10 billion — or 25 times what it was when he entered office;
  • Pension payment: Making a full payment ($7.1 billion) for third straight year;
  • Debt Defeasance Fund: Adding a $2.35 billion payment that will retire existing debt, while setting aside money to pay for upcoming projects that might otherwise be bonded;
  • Health benefits: Allocating $200 million in federal funds for Plan Year 2024 to be enacted alongside long-term savings reforms;
  • Workforce training: Increasing by $5 million, to $27.5 million, the allocation from the Workforce Development Partnership Fund, which invests in apprenticeships, preapprenticeships, on-the-job training and other programs that develop skills, while focusing on bringing more women and minorities into job training opportunities;
  • Behavioral health training: Adding $86 million for a one-time program at the Department of Human Services to subsidize training and recruitment for mental health, substance use and developmental disabilities service providers;
  • Tutoring: Adding nearly $30 million in federal funds for high-impact tutoring and other recovery programs. The budget proposal will also allow for the expansion of community schools, which are created through partnerships between school districts and local providers to deliver critical non-academic services to students;
  • System upgrades: Dedicating more than $40 million to continue improving the Unemployment Insurance system, digitizing more services at the Motor Vehicle Commission and expanding the ANCHOR property tax relief call center;
  • Urban Investment Fund: Using an undisclosed amount of funding will work alongside current and proposed business incentive programs to aid in the revitalization of urban areas where shifting patterns of work and commuting since the pandemic have reduced foot traffic and created ongoing challenges to community vitality;
  • Boardwalk Fund: Creating a $100 million Boardwalk Fund that would help repair and renovate the seaside attractions that are so emblematic of the Jersey Shore;
  • Green economy: Allocating $50 million in new resources to grow the green economy, including $12 million more for the Clean Energy Program that previously went to NJ Transit and a $40 million Green Fund that can leverage both private capital and federal funds;
  • First-generation homeowners: Adding an additional $15 million for enhanced benefits for first-generation homebuyers, to help families who have been excluded from homeownership for generations;
  • Affordability: Adding an additional $100 million in federal ARP funds for the preservation of affordable units and development of new workforce housing units;
  • Main Street Recovery Program: Allocating $50 million in continued support for the Main Street Recovery Program, a small business support program that funds multiple financial assistance products aimed at supporting the growth and success of small businesses in New Jersey;
  • Police training: Allocating $120 million to begin building a new training center for the next generation of New Jersey State Police and proposing an additional $5 million for the 166th State Trooper recruit class;
  • Firefighters: Doubling the successful Firefighters Grant Program, bringing the total to $20 million;
  • Deescalation training: Recommending over $8 million in increased state funds for the first-in-the-nation statewide expansion of the Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence and Escalation — the ARRIVE Together program — which pairs police officers and state troopers with mental health professionals when responding to a person who is experiencing a mental health crisis.

Murphy obviously feels the budget works — rattling off a few talking points.

“This is a budget focused on the pocketbooks of our families,” he said. “For the third year in a row, it has no new taxes and more middle-class tax relief. It will help hardworking families by expanding free pre-K. It will lower prescription-drug costs for seniors. And, with this budget, we will have cut taxes for our working and middle-class families, and our seniors, a total of 18 times since we began working together in 2018.

“This budget is purpose-built to help our residents find their place in the Next New Jersey by securing their place in the New Jersey of right now. This budget is also designed to build even greater confidence in our financial direction and in our ability to honestly meet our obligations.”