NEW BRUNSWICK – State Senator Paul A. Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, the Vice Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the first public hearing on Governor Corzine’s proposed FY 2009 Budget, which was held today in the Student Center at Rutgers University:
“Today’s hearing offered a very productive dialogue with members of the public and local public officials, who are on the frontlines regarding the tough budget decisions we need to make on a Statewide level to put New Jersey on the right fiscal track.
“While the FY 2009 Budget demands that we make some serious and painful cuts to valuable programs in order to fix years of living beyond our means, I do not believe it’s appropriate to balance the budget on the backs of local officials, who for the past few years have continually been asked to do more with less. Specifically, I think we must restore proposed cuts to the CMPTRA (Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief AID) program for municipalities seeking to hold the line on property taxes for their residents.
“CMPTRA is the collective name for the various forms of municipal aid funding designed to cover a portion of municipalities’ operating costs and offset property tax increases on local residents. Ensuring strong levels of State CMPTRA aid is the single best thing that State government can do to control soaring property taxes and provide relief for hard-hit taxpayers, but in the proposed budget, aid has been severely reduced if not completely cut for smaller municipalities.
“It is absolutely hypocritical for the State to offer historic levels of education funding on the one hand, while cutting CMPTRA aid on the other. Any benefit that middle-class municipalities would see from the new school funding formula would be erased, if not reversed, without at least maintaining CMPTRA.
“As we move forward with the budget process, I will push for restorations in CMPTRA funding for all municipalities, no matter what size, and at least at the level of last year’s budget. If that means that we need to provide additional cuts in the operating costs of State government, including additional layoffs, or tap property tax rebates for higher-income families, I’m willing to take those painful steps to restore aid to municipalities.”