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6-25-12 Statehouse News Monday afternoon
GSCS Note: At this point in the afternoon (3:30) it appears that the budget bill will not be finalized until Thursday. While the Senate has passed the FY'13 State Budget bill, the Assembly has yet to do so. It is likely that the Assembly make some changes to the budget bill when it votes. This means that revised bill then has to come back to the Senate for another vote, since the legislation that goes to the Governor's desk has to be identical from both houses...then what the Governor does with that bill remains to be seen - he can sign it, he can veto it outright, or he can choose to line item veto it as he did last year. Stay tuned ...

6-25-12 afternoon - Star Ledger - N.J. Senate passes $31.7B budget plan

6-25-12 WNYC - NJ Assembly to Weigh Dramatic Teacher Tenure Reforms

Star Ledger - N.J. Senate passes $31.7B budget plan

Published: Monday, June 25, 2012, 2:27 PM Updated: Monday, June 25, 2012, 2:27 PM

By Statehouse Bureau StaffThe Star-Ledger

By Jarrett Renshaw and Salvador Rizzo/The Star-Ledger

TRENTON — The state Senate passed a $31.7 billion budget plan today that lays the groundwork for a tax cut but forces Gov. Chris Christie to earn it first by hitting his ambitious revenue targets through December.

The Democratic-backed budget passed without Republican support in a 24-16 vote.

The Assembly is expected to take up the budget later today, but first members are trying to strike a final deal on a historic proposal to reshuffle the state’s colleges and medical schools.

A group of nine dissident Assembly Democrats last week sought to delay a vote on the college mergers until the fall, citing a lack of cost estimates. They threatened to withhold key votes for the budget, but the resistance was subdued quickly and the Assembly is now expected to pass the budget bill also along party lines.

The Democrats’ tax relief plan comes in response to Christie’s proposal for an across-the-board, 10 percent income tax cut, which the governor unveiled in January as a top priority designed to reinvigorate the state’s business climate.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) immediately panned it as a gift to the rich and offered their own proposals for a new 10 percent to 20 percent property tax credit instead, capping income eligibility at $250,000.

Today, Senate Democrats approved a set-aside of $183 million to create a new credit based on the amount of a resident’s property tax bill. But they won’t pass the tax-cut legislation until — or unless — the governor hits his revenue targets through December, a tall order for Christie, who expects the most ambitious revenue growth of all 50 states.

Democratic lawmakers said they would like to cut taxes, but the state may not be able to afford it if revenue continues to slump.

Rattling off a series of disappointing economic figures, state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), the sponsor of the budget bill, said "the responsible thing to do with the tax cut is be patient."

"It's not an economic comeback, it's an economic setback," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr. (R-Union) called Democrats hypocritical for questioning the governor's revenue estimates when it comes to cutting taxes while also approving spending for all the money Christie forecasts will arrive.

"The only money that is being sequestered is the money that belongs to taxpayers," Kean said.

The budget also provides $133 million in additional funds for the working poor, nursing homes and other priorities. To help pay for those, Democrats said last week that they found additional savings of $140 million in the budget beyond what Christie and his number-crunchers have found after years of putting the state’s finances under the microscope.

It is unclear if Christie will accept their math or their spending increases, which he could cut out using line-item vetoes.

"Take out your red pen governor and put taxpayers first," state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris) urged Christie from the Senate floor today.

Democrats would also grant more powers to the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, a legislative panel. The changes would pose a series of obstacles for Christie as he seeks to shift money around among different funds.

They are also calling for tougher controls on the state’s system of halfway houses, which were the subject of a series of articles last week in the New York Times that found lax oversight.

The state's Earned Income Tax Credit program would get a $50 million infusion, which would restore those benefits to working-poor families to levels not seen since 2009.

They would also give nursing home operators $25 million, in addition to the $5 million increase Christie has proposed. With the federal government matching state spending dollar for dollar, the industry would receive $60 million.

The spending plan otherwise mirrors the blueprint laid out by Christie in February.

6-25-12 WNYC - NJ Assembly to Weigh Dramatic Teacher Tenure Reforms

Monday, June 25, 2012  By Bob Hennelly

The Assembly is expected to take up deliberations Monday on the most dramatic reforms of New Jersey’s teacher tenure law since the state became the first in the nation to put K-12 tenure on the books in 1909.

The bill passed the Senate, 39-0, last week in a rare display of bi-partisan unanimity.

Governor Chris Christie is expected to sign off on the reforms – which include an end to life-time tenure – as soon as this week if they pass the Assembly.

Under the reforms — championed in the upper house by Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex County) — teachers would have to demonstrate their effectiveness through annual reviews that will factor in the academic progress made by their students. Back-to-back ratings of “ineffective” would be enough for a district superintendent to take action. Teachers could appeal their rating to an arbitrator.

The proposed new system would also apply to principals and vice principals.

Tenure would also take longer to achieve. New hires would have to wait four years before qualifying and earn “effective “ or “highly effective “ rankings in the process. Tenure is currently awarded to teachers in the state after three years.

Political scientist Ingrid Reed said the proposed reforms are a political win for both Christie and the state's teachers’ union, which helped draft the reforms and in the process preserved seniority protection for teachers when it comes to layoffs that are caused by budget cuts.

"There really was a compromise and the NJEA worked very constructively with people. Nobody called each other names for what the last six months," Reed said.

John Bulina, a longtime local school board member and president of the New Jersey School Board Association, said he backs the idea of teacher accountability, but he believes work still needs to be done on developing the criteria for the evaluations.

“It’s a major issue even with the proposed standards coming forward about teacher evaluations,” he said, “There are several models out there, and there is no uniformity about how people feel about this.”

During his last State of the State address, Governor Chris Chrsitie said it was not enough for New Jersey to spend money on its chronically failing urban public schools.

A turnaround, he argued could only come with increased teacher accountability and meaningful tenure reform.

“Today, in Newark, we spend $23,000 per student for instruction and services. But only 23 percent of ninth graders who enter high school this year will receive high school diplomas in four years,” he said.


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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