TRENTON – Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, a leading advocate in the State Legislature for greater ethics reform and government transparency, issued the following statement regarding the approval today of the FY 2008 Budget, which passed the Senate by a vote of 22-15. Senator Karcher fought for and secured $2.9 million for underperforming, underfunded schools, including nearly half a million dollars for Freehold Borough in her legislative district:
“This year’s budget proves that we can adopt compassionate, honest funding priorities while shunning the backroom deals and last-minute add-ons which have hurt legislators’ credibility with the people we represent.
“We were able to provide more than a billion dollars in direct property tax relief to New Jersey’s beleaguered taxpayers, while stepping up to help specific school districts in need, such as Freehold Borough, realize the promise of quality education.
“I am proud to have supported this year’s budget, because I believe it makes a statement not only in the record-level of property tax relief appropriated to the people of New Jersey, but also in the open and transparent process in which it was crafted.
“This budget was subjected to the most intense public scrutiny that I’ve seen since being elected to the State Senate.
“For the first time in many years, lawmakers were forced to stand by funding suggestions and budget language changes, to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions.
“Rather than last-minute deliberations and eleventh-hour negotiations, the public and lawmakers were given more than enough time to review the documents and form their opinions.
“I want to commend the Administration and the Legislative leadership for their work in ensuring an open, transparent process.
“I would also like to praise our leaders for working with me and my colleague, Assemblyman Mike Panter, to ensure that Freehold Borough School District receives the funding needed to come closer to the thorough and efficient education benchmark, set forth by our State Department of Education.
“Freehold Borough, and the eight other underfunded, underperforming school districts in New Jersey, needed State intervention to fulfill our collective obligation to high-quality education for the students living in the district.
“Without a needed injection of funds, the kids attending schools in those districts would have been abandoned by the educational system.
“Thankfully, Assemblyman Panter and I were able to convince the Governor and Legislative leaders to step in, and we’ve provided $2.9 million in stop-gap aid. I look forward to working with these leaders to craft a school funding formula next year which more adequately addresses the needs of middle-income, suburban school districts, not just in Freehold, but throughout the State.
“And I would like to thank the parents, the superintendent and the school board for all their hard work in making this funding a reality. They lobbied hard, and in the end, the students of the district will benefit for their efforts.
“I am proud to have stood up, through my ‘yes’ vote on this budget, for Freehold Borough, and all of the property taxpayers I represent.”