TRENTON – A $29 billion state budget that dramatically cuts spending, preserves funding for health and education programs and restores substantial property tax relief was approved in the state Senate today by a 22-17 vote.
“This has clearly been one of the most difficult budgets the Legislature and administration have ever had to deal with,” said Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “Months of unrelentingly bad economic news on a global scale have informed our work as we have struggled to come up with a budget that is balanced and fairly shares the pain of drastically shrinking revenues. Every page of this budget reflects our efforts to make sure the necessary cuts we made were done with an eye treating the many competing interests with fairness and sensitivity while also recognizing the money to fund some very worthwhile programs simply isn’t available.”
Sen. Buono noted an unanticipated windfall from the recently concluded Tax Amnesty program has enabled us to restore a substantial amount of direct property tax relief over and above the relief provided through state aid for schools and municipalities.
“The money is being targeted to the people who are most in need,” Sen. Buono said. “People have come to rely on these rebate checks, and we’re fortunate to be able to make sure thousands of people will be receiving them again this year.”
The appropriations bill (A4100/S-2010), sponsored by Sen. Buono, includes $404 million in property tax rebates for families earning up to $75,000 a year, paid with the revenue brought in through the Tax Amnesty windfall.
Another bill (A4102/S-2015) provides an additional $60 million in relief by allowing taxpayers from households earning up to $150,000 to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes from their income taxes; households earning over $150,000 and up to $250,000 would be allowed up to a $5,000 deduction. Under these terms, the property tax deduction would be available to 94 percent of households. It was approved 21-18.
Sen. Buono noted the budget incorporates more than $4.5 billion of cuts, an unprecedented level of cutting that reflects the sharp reduction in revenues the state is experiencing, saying this budget has been balanced primarily by spending cuts and reductions in baseline growth.
“The budget represents our state’s commitment to maintaining quality education for our children, increased health care options for all of our citizens and needed property tax relief for our most vulnerable senior citizens. A look at what is happening in other states across the country – massive cuts in education, the closing of prisons, huge tuition increases for college students – shows we can take pride in a budget that has made difficult choices under difficult circumstances.”
The Senate also approved a bill (A-4108/S-2016), sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, which increases increase taxes on various lines of insurance. It was approved 22-17.
No Republicans supported the bills.