TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Bernard F. Kenny Jr., D-Hudson, the Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, made the following comments about S-3000, the record-setting property tax relief budget bill which passed the Senate by a 22-15 vote.
“Today, we are presenting a budget plan for the coming year that contains record amounts of property tax relief and compassion for those in need.
“It reflects a philosophy that State government can guard taxpayers without abandoning those who depend on vital services.
“I’ll start with the tax relief.
“This budget will fully fund 20 percent property tax cuts for the majority of households in New Jersey and will double the amount of tenant rebates.
“In a $33.4 billion spending plan, $16.7 billion – 50 percent of the entire State Budget – will go to property tax relief. That represents an increase in property tax relief of nearly $2 billion over the current budget.
“With Governor Corzine, Senate President Codey and Assembly Speaker Roberts leading the way, we took a good initial budget offering and made it even better.
“Yes, our budget process made a net increase of $189 million in spending. But we also made $250 million in spending cuts.
“And, most importantly, 88 percent of the spending added to the Governor’s original proposal is targeted for property tax relief and state aid, health care and social service programs.
“And, there are no new taxes.
“Not only are there no new taxes, this budget also will deliver a $275 million business tax cut through the sunset on the alternative minimum assessment, the complete restoration of the net operating loss deduction, and the elimination of the S-Corporation surcharge.
“This budget contains nearly $11 billion in support for local school districts – an increase of $582 million from the current funding level and the largest increase in school aid since the year 2000.
“This increased school aid will include $105.5 million for non-Abbott districts and $93 million in additional aid to more than 200 non-Abbott districts with high percentages of low-income students and schools with full-day kindergarten.
“And, we restored $10 million for adult education.
“Higher education funding will increase by nearly $50 million with senior public colleges and universities receiving an additional $35.7 million and county colleges receiving an added $7.6 million. Tuition aid grants will increase by $15.5 million.
“To the front lines of the property tax battles – municipal governments – we will be sending an across-the-board two percent increase in aid – the first increase since 2005.
“And, $7 million will go to local governments to relieve expenses related to the switch to a February presidential primary while another $10 million will assist counties in meeting the cost of voter-verified paper trail requirements.
“For the environment, this budget will add $25 million to continue the good work of the Garden State Preservation Trust while voters decide whether they want to put an additional $200 million into the program for next year.
“There’s also continued funding of $25 million for Shore Protection, and the first full year of a stable source of funding for capital and maintenance needs at State parks, forests, wildlife management and historic sites. Thanks to a constitutional amendment approved by voters last fall, this budget will include over $19 million for the ongoing maintenance requirements of these vital natural resources.
“Supporters of this budget document can be proud of its cornerstone components that provide direct property tax relief of nearly $3 billion:
* The $2 billion in homestead property tax credits, up $1.1 billion.
* The $456 million property tax deduction program for seniors and veterans, up $24 million.
* The $251 million in homestead rebates for tenants, up $125 million.
* The $153 million for the Senior Property Tax Freeze Program, up $26.5 million.
* And the $97 million in additional tax deductions for veterans, seniors and the disabled.
“This budget is also built on compassion. Supporters of this document can be proud that while we fought for tax relief, we didn’t do it by ripping out the heart of State Government.
“The budget reflects our commitment to do what we can to help those whose very lives depend on critical State services and support.
“Because we believe it’s the role of State government to help provide health care to the poor, we will provide $756 million in charity care-related assistance to hospitals – an increase of $173 million in State and federal funds to help families without health insurance.
“And, the funding formula for distributing charity care will reflect the reforms recommended by the State Commission of Investigation and be based on the most recently available data – to ensure the money helps those who truly need it.
“To offset a loss of federal support, we will add $40 million to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
“We understand the financial hardships of those on Medicaid so we eliminated the proposed co-payments for prescription drugs, outpatient hospital visits and medical day care for eligible senior citizens.
“We believe it is right to expand eligibility for the families of working poor to get health insurance – so we added over $21 million to the Family Care program.
“It’s right – that under this budget 300,000 working families will benefit from the $36 million tax cut through the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
“We also show support for community care providers by providing them with a three percent cost of living adjustment – an extra one percent increase from the initial budget proposal.
“Nursing homes will receive the full inflation increase to which they are entitled – a restoration of $26 million in state and federal dollars. And high occupancy nursing homes will continue to receive full reimbursements for holding bed spaces for residents who are temporarily hospitalized.
“We also reflect our concern for those with cancer by adding $24 million to the fight against this pernicious disease and restoring total cancer research funding to last year’s level of $60 million.
“And, for our disabled, the Personal Assistance Services Program will receive a $3.5 million increase to help up to 150 potential beneficiaries work and go to school in community settings.
“I have chosen to mention these highlights of a budget built on property tax relief and compassion. There are many more examples that will become better known under our new and transparent budget process.
“This is why I am proud of the work we have done so far on this my final budget season in the Senate. I thank all of my colleagues for their help and I request your support for this bill. Thank You.”