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Senate Budget Panel Approves Budget Bill

TRENTON – The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today approved S-3000, the $33.48 billion budget bill for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

By a vote of 9-5 with 1 abstention, the Senate panel approved the measure and sent it to the full Senate for consideration.

Below is the opening statement by Senate Majority Leader Bernard F. Kenny Jr, the sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the Senate Budget panel:

“We’re here today to consider a document that will help meet the needs of our residents for the fiscal year beginning July 1st.

The budget bill before us today reflects our best effort to provide property tax relief, to keep State spending down and to continue to meet the needs of our residents whose lives depend on critical state services.

“I want to thank all the members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee who spent many long hours making this budget proposal better than it was initially.

“I commend Senators (Sharpe) James, (Barbara) Buono, (Joseph) Coniglio, (Joseph) Doria, (Paul) Sarlo, (Stephen) Sweeney, (Shirley) Turner, (Joseph) Vitale, (Robert) Littell, (Walter) Kavanaugh, (Anthony) Bucco, (Martha) Bark and (Leonard) Lance. Thank you, Senators, for your work on behalf of New Jersey taxpayers.

“I also want to thank the Democratic and Republican partisan staffs and the Office of Legislative Services for their contributions to this annual process, especially, George LeBlanc of the Senate Democrats, Rosemary Pramuk of the Senate Republicans and OLS Budget Director David Rosen.

“I also want to thank Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, the Assembly Budget Committee, the Assembly staff, and Treasurer Bradley Abelow and his staff for all their important contributions.

“But I especially want to commend the leadership of Senate President Richard Codey as well as the perseverance of Governor Corzine in working out this Budget agreement.

“Senator Codey is a gifted problem solver and mediator and the Governor stayed remarkably focused while recovering from his accident-related injuries.

“This is the final budget process for me as a State Senator. I have enjoyed the process through the years, especially serving this year as Chairman.

“I’m not alone in bidding this panel farewell. Some key members won’t be here next year – Senators Littell, Doria, James, Bark and Kavanaugh. Thank you for your services and best wishes in the future.

“I must offer a special word of gratitude to Bob Littell, whose leadership of this Committee over the years was marked by fairness, bipartisanship and total respect for the process and for the institution of the Senate. On behalf of all the people of New Jersey, thank you, Bob.

“And finally, Leonard Lance. Leonard, you’ll probably be one of the people I will miss the most when I leave here. You are an example of integrity, courage and consistency. We’ve disagreed many times, but we’ve always managed to continue the conversation – and that has always led us to a greater good for the people we both serve. Thank you, Leonard.

“Now, to the reason we’re here this morning….

“In my work on the Budget – both in the Assembly and in the Senate – I have always believed that it is our job as Legislators to take the Governor’s spending plan and try our best to make it better.

“The reality of the budget process is that there is no real closure, no point where all sides are satisfied, or where all needs are met. Every year, we are faced with a huge challenge of balancing a budget with a limited amount of resources.

“Still, I believe it is our job as Legislators to support good projects that help people both in our districts and Statewide.

“As Legislators, we help the Executive Branch become more aware of the needs of the people we represent. That’s why I am proud of the legislative initiatives that made it into this budget proposal.

“The more people learn about the budget process, the more they come to understand how much input this Committee – and its Assembly counterpart – have in the final product that gets signed into law.

“After listening to people testify, asking cabinet officers to justify their spending plans and hearing the voices of our residents, we make, literally, hundreds of millions of dollars in both spending increases and cuts in spending.

“This year, of our overall changes, 88 percent of our own spending initiatives went to property tax relief and State aid, health care and social service programs.

“I support the budget proposal before us today because it contains record amounts of direct property tax relief.

“It strives to help meet the health care needs of all of our residents while also helping our most dependent and vulnerable residents.

“And, it contains no new taxes. Like I said at the beginning, it doesn’t satisfy me completely. But no Budget ever does satisfy everyone.

“Still, I believe this proposal deserves support – hopefully bipartisan – because it responds to the needs of all New Jerseyans, and especially, our property taxpayers.

“Thank you and let’s begin.”

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