It’s the largest budget in state history ($54.5B); here’s a bit of what’s in it

It’s the Fiscal Year 2024 state budget, so let’s start with the numbers:

  • $54.5 billion: The largest in state history and 7% higher than last year;
  • $8.3 billion: The surplus — or rainy-day fund;
  • $7.1 billion: The amount paid to the pension fund, the third consecutive year it was fully funded;
  • $2 billion: The funding for the ANCHOR rebate program;
  • 60%: The increase since Murphy’s first budget in 2018;
  • 51-27: Assembly vote, six Republicans voted for it;
  • 25-12: Senate vote, three Republicans voted for it;
  • Endless: The number of last-minute add-ons — so much so that it would be fair to suggest no one really knows what’s in this budget.

That being said, the governor and his team were quick to tout many items that are in it, saying it provides record levels of direct property tax relief, additional aid for seniors and renters, the highest level of school funding in history — and significant investments in the economy, workforce development and affordable housing.

“When I first proposed this budget, I said it was a budget designed with a singular purpose — to continue building an economy where every family can afford to make their American dream come true. Today, we are delivering on that promise,” Murphy said.

“Over the last two years, we have committed over $6 billion in direct property tax relief, tackling one of the single greatest and longest-standing affordability challenges our state faces. This budget will also lower prescription drug costs for seniors, help hardworking families by expanding free pre-K for kids, create good-paying jobs and fight climate change by building a green economy, expand mental health services for our kids, build and preserve affordable housing so everyone has a place they can call home, help first-generation homebuyers achieve the safety and security of owning a home.

“We are accomplishing all of this in a fiscally responsible way. This budget continues to fully deliver on our commitments to our pension payments and school funding, while also maintaining a healthy surplus.”

Like any $54.5 billion document that is signed without being fully read by many, the true impact of the funding will not be known for some time.

And on a day/night when everyone has an opinion on the document (all skewed toward their personal beliefs/political needs), we’ll give the Governor’s Office the first crack at describing what’s in it.

So, here goes, from the administration’s perspective:

Increasing affordability

  • ANCHOR: The administration says 20 tax cuts for working and middle-class families and seniors have been enacted during Murphy’s administration, including more than $2 billion in direct property tax relief for the second year of the ANCHOR property tax relief program. ANCHOR will provide a $250 boost in relief for senior homeowners and renters this year. Eligible senior tenants will now see their relief boosted by more than 55%, to $700 in the coming year, and homeowners will receive $1,250 or $1,750, depending on their income.
  • StayNJ: The much-debated StayNJ senior property tax credit affordability program expands income limits and modifies ownership requirements with the aim of cutting property taxes in half for many eligible New Jersey seniors by providing a direct credit of up to $6,500 on property tax bills when fully implemented. The relief, however, is years away — and it has so many contingencies tied to it that some feel it will never happen.
  • Seniors: The budget will expand eligibility for the Senior Freeze property tax relief program next year for those with incomes up to $150,000, up from roughly $100,000. There also are moves to make prescription drugs more affordable — but anyone who actually picks up a prescription would debate that ever happens.
  • Child tax credit: The program will now provide up to $1,000 per child under age 6 for families earning under $30,000.

Expanding educational opportunities

  • School funding: There is a record total $11 billion in direct K-12 aid for public schools, including an increase of $832 million, as well as $103 million in supplemental stabilization aid enacted in April for school districts adjusting to changes in aid based on enrollment.
  • Universal pre-K: The budget includes an additional $116 million for preschool education aid, $40 million of which will go toward expanding programs in new districts as well as other critical needs for further expansion.
  • College promise: The budget increases the eligibility threshold for both the Community College Opportunity Grant and the Garden State Guarantee so that students with family incomes up to $100,000 can benefit. Additionally, the budget increases the value of Tuition Aid Grants for over 20,000 students and expands the Some College, No Degree program, so that former students with some credit receive the support they need to complete school.

Promoting economic growth

  • Urban Investment Fund: Combined with the Atlantic City Economic Foundations Fund, the funds will aid in the revitalization of urban areas and catalyze new economic and community activity where shifting patterns of work and commuting since the pandemic have reduced foot traffic and created ongoing challenges to community vitality.
  • Main Street Recovery Program: The budget allocates $50 million in continued support for the Main Street Recovery Program, which funds multiple financial assistance products aimed at supporting the growth and success of small businesses in New Jersey.
  • Workforce Development Partnership Fund: This was increased by $5 million, to $27.5 million, to invest in apprenticeships, preapprenticeships, on-the-job training and other programs that develop skills while bringing more women and minorities into job training opportunities.
  • Green energy/climate change: The budget includes $12 million more for the Clean Energy Program, which previously went to New Jersey Transit, a $40 million Green Fund to leverage both private capital and federal funds, $20 million for the Resilience and Stormwater Planning and Infrastructure program and an additional $10 million to support the continued installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the state.
  • Boardwalk Fund: The budget agreement includes the $100 million Boardwalk Fund, which aims to support repairs and renovations to boardwalks up and down the Jersey shore that support the state’s tourism industry and provide a crucial economic engine.
  • Greenway: The budget includes an additional $20 million for continued development of the ambitious, new, nine-mile Greenway that will convert a former rail line into a new state park connecting eight Essex and Hudson County communities.

Public health and racial disparities

  • Affordable housing: The budget includes nearly $300 million for a host of housing affordability initiatives. A new Urban Preservation Fund will provide $80 million to maintain affordability of existing units in New Jersey cities, and additional funds will be used to develop new workforce housing units to improve affordability in transit-served areas, enhance urban vitality and launch a Resilient Homes Construction Pilot program to expand building stock and affordable homeownership across the state.
  • Down payment assistance program: There is an additional $15 million to enhance the existing program that provides game-changing assistance for first-generation homebuyers and help families who have been excluded from homeownership for generations.
  • Hospital upgrades: The budget includes over $300 million more than last year in ARP and state funding to support hospital capital investments to bolster New Jersey’s public health infrastructure, including $30 million to create the City of Newark Access to Health Care Partnership and $60 million in additional funding for University Hospital to expand and improve its emergency and maternity departments.
  • Youth mental health: The budget includes $43 million to launch the New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services network, which will deliver wellness and prevention support from regional hubs. An additional $40 million will support providers across multiple divisions in the Department of Children and Families, including the Children’s System of Care.
  • Maternal/infant health: As part of first lady Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ initiative, the proposed budget includes new funds for a maternal health data center and to train community health workers and doulas. Additionally, $15.6 million in state funding will support the continued expansion of the landmark, statewide Universal Newborn Home Nurse Visitation Program.