Murphy: Budget will make N.J. ‘best place to raise a family’

Saying it will ensure that the state remains the best place to raise a family, Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday outlined his pending priorities for Fiscal Year 2025.

The $55.9 billion spending plan includes a proposed surplus of $6.1 billion, while redirecting nearly 74% of the total budget back out into our communities in the form of grants-in-aid for property tax relief, social services and higher education, as well as state aid to schools, community colleges, municipalities and counties.

The administration said the proposed budget investments are targeted at expanding affordability, continuing fiscal responsibility, creating economic opportunities and ensuring every New Jerseyan has a fair shot at a better future.

The governor’s proposed budget increases direct property tax relief to record levels, provides the highest level of school funding in history — fully funding the school aid formula for the first time — delivers a fourth consecutive full pension payment and proposes significant investments into the health, safety and economic well-being of New Jersey’s residents.

“Simply put: This budget will ensure that New Jersey retains its proud reputation as the best place, anywhere, to raise a family,” Murphy said. “It will make life more affordable for more of our neighbors by delivering record-high tax relief, lowering the costs of necessities like health care and housing, and creating new opportunities in the industries of tomorrow.

“Just as importantly, with this budget, we are maintaining fiscal responsibility while also remaining true to our values — from fully funding our public education system to proposing a new, dedicated funding stream to support NJ Transit. Together, we are building a New Jersey that is stronger and fairer than ever before.”

The proposed budget is now in the hands of the Legislature, which will work with the administration to create a budget deal by June 30.

Here are highlights of the budget, as provided by the administration:

Increasing affordability

  • Tax relief: The proposed budget includes more than $3.5 billion in direct property tax relief. The budget proposal once again funds the successful ANCHOR Property Tax Relief Program, which provided $2.2 billion to more than 1.9 million residents in the most recent filing season.  This will be the third season of the ANCHOR program, which has provided more than $4 billion in direct tax relief in the past two years.
  • Child credit: Continuing the focus on providing relief for working and middle-class families, this budget maintains recent expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which was doubled last year to enable families with young children to receive up to $1,000 per child.
  • Seniors: The governor’s proposal also maintains a strong commitment to making life more affordable for seniors, with $82.5 million to maintain expanded eligibility for the popular Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled and Senior Gold programs to further cut costs for life-enhancing — and life-saving — prescription drugs.
  • RetireReady: The proposed budget provides new funding for the RetireReady NJ program (formerly known as the Secure Choice Savings Program). The program is expected to launch in 2024 and provide a new option for retirement savings for private-sector employees.
  • Homeownership: Fulfilling his promise to increase homeownership opportunities, this budget includes more than $50 million for a multifaceted investment to boost New Jersey’s housing supply and make homeownership more affordable. The investment includes $10 million to incentivize the creation of new accessory dwelling units, $15 million to help rental assistance recipients find pathways to homeownership and nonprofits rehabilitating homes in need of repair, and $32 million for down payment assistance. Over the last four years, the administration has invested almost $120 million into down payment assistance for thousands of families.

Improving education

  • K-12 school aid: The proposed budget completes the seven-year phase-in of the school aid formula by providing an increase of $908 million in direct K-12 aid for public schools, for a total of almost $12 billion. With this latest proposal, the state will have increased overall K-12 support to New Jersey’s public schools by more than $3.5 billion over seven years, a more than 40% increase, all of which helps offset local property taxes.
  • Pre-K: Further advancing the goal of universal pre-K, Murphy has proposed an additional $124 million for pre-K education, of which $20 million will be used to expand into new districts, creating over 1,000 new seats. Since Fiscal Year 2018, pre-K funding has already increased by over $427 million and the state has already added over 14,600 seats, pushing New Jersey ever closer to the goal of universal pre-K.
  • Teachers: The budget has more than $15 million in investments to ensure New Jersey is able to attract, train and retain the workforce necessary to provide a top-quality education for public school students now and in future years. This includes $10 million for student-teacher stipends to help future educators meet the costs of living while working and studying for their credentials and $5 million to fund the Teacher Loan Redemption Program.
  • Free meals: The budget also proposes an additional $30 million to provide free school meals. In addition, New Jersey will join 34 other states to take part in the Summer EBT program, which will combat child hunger during the summer and bring in over $60 million in federal funds.
  • Student literacy: As one way to improve student literacy, the governor is proposing a $2.5 million screening grant program to help school districts acquire tools to target resources to children who need additional help.

Economic development

  • AI initiative: In an effort to further the administration’s goal of positioning New Jersey atop the innovation economy, the budget proposes a suite of initiatives to advance the governor’s AI Moonshot and augment the AI Hub being created at Princeton University — including $4.5 million to establish an innovation challenge to reward innovators for solving public-facing problems with state data; $500,000 to fund the artificial intelligence-focused Global Entrepreneurs-in-Residence pilot program to help international students at New Jersey universities launch cutting-edge businesses; $2 million to fund AI education in K-12 classrooms and develop new career and technical education programs targeted to AI; and $2.5 million to help budding entrepreneurs build out startups related to general AI and connect with the AI Hub.
  • Clean energy jobs: As New Jersey continues to be a leader in enacting climate change reforms, this budget proposes $15 million in state funds and $25 million from the Clean Energy Fund to provide the state match for a federal electric grid modernization program to upgrade our infrastructure to meet our climate goals.
  • Main Street and manufacturing: The budget continues funding for the Main Street Recovery Program, a successful program providing multiple financial assistance products targeted to the growth and success of small businesses in New Jersey. Additionally, the budget also continues support for manufacturing initiatives and strategic innovation centers, bringing the total investment in all three to over half a billion dollars over the past five years.
  • Ownership and more: The budget also includes continued funding for initiatives like the employee stock ownership plan to help reduce wealth disparities, along with initial funding to begin addressing the findings from the recently published study on disparities in state procurement.
  • Public services: The budget provides several programs to expand workforce development, including $5 million to launch a Nursing Workforce Initiative, a suite of workforce programs designed to ensure future nurses have experienced faculty and the resources they need to complete their training; increasing the Behavioral Healthcare Loan Redemption Program by $2 million; and providing an additional $10 million for the Firefighter Grant program.