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Senate Approves State Budget

Trenton – The Senate today voted to approve a $32.7 billion spending plan for the COVID-shortened fiscal year scheduled to start on October 1. The Fiscal Year 20-21 budget is constructed to enable New Jersey to address the state’s needs and priorities over the next nine months in the wake of the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation, S-2021, sponsored by Senator Paul Sarlo and Senator Sandra Cunningham, is the product of an agreement among the leaders of the Senate, the Assembly, and the Governor. It was approved with a vote of 25–14.

“This is a COVID budget that we have to do to contend with the crisis conditions created by the pandemic’s impact on the state’s economy and public finances,” said Senator Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “I look at it with a two-year perspective, aware of the fact the economic consequences are likely to extend beyond this fiscal year. It is a spending plan that will help address problems created directly or indirectly by the coronavirus shutdown and allow us to be prepared for a potential second wave. This crisis should be taken as a tipping point that will spur action on cost-cutting reforms.”

“While we had to make some tough decisions in this year’s budget, I am grateful we were able to restore funding to many important public services,” said Senator Cunningham, vice chair of the Budget Committee. “Funding for school-based mental health, reentry services and higher education will ensure we continue to invest in our future, despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.”

It includes a new rebate program for middle class families as well as maintaining the restoration of funding for two property tax relief programs, Homestead Rebates and the Senior Freeze. In addition, the budget continues the tax exemption for retirement income under $100,000.

The plan restores funding for school-based mental health services, subsidies to New Jersey’s hospitals for providing care to the uninsured, and for Graduate Medical Education. It also restores support for state and county colleges, care for vulnerable children, sheltered workshops, reentry services, and anti-hunger programs, among other legislative priorities.

The budget also ends the diversion of money from the trust funds for Affordable Housing, State Recycling and Clean Communities.

New revenue would be generated by the millionaire’s tax ($390 million), an increased HMO assessment ($103 million), and a short-term freeze of the corporate business tax rate ($210 million). The budget would produce an estimated surplus of $2.5 billion.