|2-22-07 GSCS EMAILNET re Gov's Budget Message|
2-22-07 Governor Corzine's Budget Message today GSCS PRESS RELEASE: Overall, GSCS welcomes the direction the Governor is taking by adding direct school aid for all schools to the FY07-08 Budget. While this budget indicates a positive beginning, it will be the follow through that counts...."
From Phila Inquirer today: "...Lynne Strickland, an advocate for middle-class districts, said the increase was "a step in the right direction" but not quite enough.
"We're still feeling like we're still taking a big part of the brunt of the budget deficit," said Strickland, head of the Garden State Coalition of Schools..."
GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS/GSCS
GOVERNOR CORZINE’S BUDGET MESSAGE
For FY 07-08
GSCS QUICK FACT: GSCS appreciates the continued invitation to participate with the Governor’s office in the school funding conversation, including a ‘heads up’ conference call yesterday with Commissioner Lucille Davy on the Governor’s Budget Message for today.
On the Homepage Today at www.gscschools.org
2-22-07 Governor Corzine's Budget Message today
2-22-07 News articles re Governor's Budget Message this morning
NY Times: Corzine to Propose a New Jersey Budget With No Tax Increase and More School Aid
Star Ledger - $33 billion budget rules out tax hikes Big capital projects are left in the lurch
"...It's a small move in the right direction," said Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools. "The question is, will it stop, or go for ward?..."
Contributed by Joe Donohue and Dunstan McNichol
2-21-07 Associated Press 'Codey Affirms More State Aid'
Yesterday, it announced it was joining forces with the Association of Middle Income Districts, which represents about 40 low- and middle-income schools..."
(Contact: Lynne Strickland, Executive Director, 732 618 5755, 732 996 9016)
GOVERNOR CORZINE BUDGET MESSAGE 2-22-07
Overall, GSCS welcomes the direction the Governor is taking by adding direct school aid for all schools to the FY07-08 Budget.
While this budget indicates a positive beginning, it will be the follow through that counts. We believe the intent demonstrated today can only be affirmed by state leadership providing our schools with a new funding formula; an actual formula plan should be released within this calendar year so that a fair and open debate on the formula is enabled. It is only a formula that can provide stability and predictability for schools and communities statewide, and it is only the state that can make the choice to support that formula with the funding it requires.
The Garden State Coalition of Schools reaction to school aid aspects in the Governor’s budget message follow:
With the addition of 300M direct state aid in the budget for schools, the Governor’s proposed budget acknowledges that
Regular operating school districts (Non Abbotts) and their taxpayers have been shortchanged in recent years.
The state has a role and a responsibility to support lower to middle to higher wealth school communities; the aid directed to our schools is a nod in the right direction and tells us that
The funding of full day kindergarten programs already in existence demonstrates the state’s commitment to the import of earlier childhood education.
In funding concentrations of at risk children, the state recognizes the changing demographics in New Jersey and the needs of children are not restricted by zip codes.
What about the cost of special education? The budget does not address the rising general costs of special education for the 6th year in a row; it does not address the moving target “extraordinary” costs of individually disable children, our most vulnerable, that are in excess of $40K per pupil. By its own legislated promise, the state has abandoned picking up its share of those costs for several years in a row now. Last year that difference in the excess costs over the $40K level, amounted to approximately $120 that fell to local taxpayers to support.
School construction needs are not addressed.
Corzine budget: Aid up, not taxes
TRENTON - No tax hikes or new taxes. Increased aid to public school districts. And money for property-tax relief for most households.
Gov. Corzine today will propose a legislative-election-year budget that his administration says is full of good news, a spending plan "not designed to please any constituency... other than the taxpayers of the state," state Treasurer Bradley Abelow said at a news conference yesterday.
All school districts - poor and wealthy - would get at least 3 percent more in aid; for most, the increase would be the first in three years. Municipalities would receive a 2 percent aid boost - also their first in several years.
The budget also includes the property-tax credit program, approved by the Legislature, that gives most households a 20 percent credit or rebate.
It also would expand a tax break to 200,000 low-income working families. And it includes $50 million more for higher education.
While some Republicans and school advocates complained that it would not boost aid to suburban districts enough, the budget was largely praised by Corzine's fellow Democrats, who control the Legislature.
Revenue growth and spending restraint helped allow the breaks, Abelow said. Corzine's proposal also includes no funding for capital improvements for higher education, open space or state buildings.
The fiscal 2008 budget would contribute only half the recommended amount to the state's pension system, and it would set New Jersey up for a $2.5 billion budget shortfall next year, Abelow said.
Last year, Corzine proposed a budget that hiked the sales tax, cut higher education funding, and resulted in a stalemate with legislators that forced a weeklong government shutdown.
This year, Senate President Richard J. Codey (D., Essex) said Corzine had told him that his budget was "pretty boring."
"I said, 'That's good, Jon. When it comes to a budget, boring is good. It means we're not storming the Bastille,' " Codey said.
The $33.29 billion budget is about 7 percent bigger than last year's, but Codey said critics should note that most of the extra money would not go to operate the state.
"Almost all of it," he said, "is going back [to taxpayers] in the form of property-tax relief."
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D., Camden) was also enthusiastic: "In these tough fiscal times, to have a budget with no new taxes and no new fees is an extraordinary achievement." He said his major area of concern was that charity care - state aid to hospitals to care for the uninsured - was kept flat.
He did praise the increase in school aid. Suburban districts, he said, "have been strangling, and this is a lifeline for them."
Total school aid would increase $580 million under Corzine's plan. Of that, $270 million would be indirect relief for items such as debt service and retiree benefits.
The remaining $310 million in additional funding would go toward direct aid. About a third would go to the so-called Abbotts - 31 needy, mostly urban districts. Another third would go to all other schools. And the last third would be additional aid for low-income or high-needs children in non-Abbott districts.
Lynne Strickland, an advocate for middle-class districts, said the increase was "a step in the right direction" but not quite enough.
"We're still feeling like we're still taking a big part of the brunt of the budget deficit," said Strickland, head of the Garden State Coalition of Schools.
Corzine and lawmakers had pledged the boost in school aid because they were unable to work out a new formula for distributing aid to schools during their property-tax overhaul, which Strickland said was still desperately needed.
Assemblyman Joseph Malone (R., Burlington), who sits on the Budget Committee, said the increased aid to suburban middle-class districts was not enough, especially for those whose enrollment has surged.
"In some regards, I respect the governor for what he's trying to do, but I don't think it goes far enough to relieve the inequities," Malone said.
William Dressel, director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, said he was pleasantly surprised by the small boost Corzine wanted to give towns. "I'd like to have more, but given the fiscal realities of the state, I can handle that," he said.
The plan includes $40 million in savings from the state labor agreement announced yesterday, Abelow said. But the state would increase spending on retiree benefits, debt service, and contractual salary and benefits increases for state workers.
In his speech to the Legislature this morning, Corzine is expected to address late-night, last-minute legislative additions to the budget, also known as "pork" or "Christmas tree grants." The U.S. Attorney's Office last week issued a flurry of subpoenas targeting such spending, and lawmakers are pushing ways to make that process more transparent.
Though Abelow praised the budget as fair and frugal, he also said it was "starving" government by not improving the state's outdated technology and infrastructure.
"That's what's really hidden in this - how much we're not able to do," he said.
Budget Proposal Highlights
The $33.29 billion total is about a 7 percent increase from last year's budget.
It includes the first sizable school and municipal aid increases in years.
Nearly half the budget - $16.6 billion - is some form of property-tax relief.
The budget proposal is the first since 2001 with no tax increases.
Included is $2.3 billion for a plan to cut property taxes by 20 percent for most homeowners.
School aid would rise 3 percent and municipal aid 2 percent. Those increases, too, are intended to control property taxes.
Two business taxes, including a tax on a type of corporation often used by small businesses, would be eliminated.
Education and families
Aid to higher education would rise $50 million; it was cut by about $170 million last year.
A tax credit for working families who earn less than $20,000 a year would be expanded to those earning up to $38,000 a year.
Other spending and savings
The budget relies on savings from a new state-worker contract that would raise salaries for next four years but force employees to contribute to their health care for the first time and contribute more toward their pensions.
It includes $9 million for a new state comptroller's office to oversee government spending.
No extra money is included for open-space preservation or construction for state colleges and public schools.
The governor wants three days to review the final budget and identify who requested specific changes.
SOURCE: Associated Press
Contact staff writer Elisa Ung at 609-989-9016 or email@example.com.
$33 billion budget rules out tax hikes
Big capital projects are left in the lurch
Thursday, February 22, 2007
BY JOE DONOHUE AND DUNSTAN McNICHOL
Gov. Jon Corzine today will propose a $33.3billion state budget that would spare residents any tax or fee increases, beef up state aid to public schools by nearly $600million and provide more property tax relief.
But the spending plan does not include one red cent for some of the state's most sorely needed capital projects -- an indication that Corzine will urge lawmakers to consider cashing in state assets like the New Jersey Turnpike.
There's no money for the state's school construction program, which will stop designing new schools this summer without an in fusion of cash. There's nothing for an open space and farmland preservation program that will run out of money soon. There are no dollars for capital construction for colleges and group homes for the disabled.
During a briefing for reporters yesterday, Treasurer Bradley Abe low and other administration officials refused to elaborate on the governor's speech, but the treasurer acknowledged it will contain a "few surprises."
"I think the governor will express his views on that," Abelow said. "There are a number of areas where we believe there are unmet needs."
Since last fall, the treasurer has been studying how to convert state property into extra cash. He is ex pected to soon give detailed op tions to Corzine, and several lawmakers and lobbyists have said the governor is leaning toward a multibillion-dollar deal that involves the Turnpike. Abelow said the budget, as currently proposed, does not anticipate any dollars from cashing in state assets.
The treasurer said the budget has no money for major new capital outlays because the state can't afford to take on new debt. He said some projects might become feasible if the state is able to sell, lease or borrow against assets such as toll roads or the lottery.
"It's a kind of a trap for people to fall into that if we finance something through debt, somehow it has no cost," Abelow said. "We're not going to be able to afford it unless we can find ways to pay down debt."
Scott Weiner, chief executive officer of the Schools Construction Corp., which wants $3.2 billion for new school construction, said the blank spaces next to big capital needs in the budget don't distress him.
"I take all this to be the administration saying, 'I recognize there's a need for school construction, open space and all these other good things, so we'd better find a way to pay for them,'" said Weiner.
Abelow said that, unlike the past five spending plans, Corzine's budget won't ask for extra cash from taxpayers.
"There will be no tax increases in the budget," Abelow said. "This budget is not designed to please any constituency other than the taxpayers of the state."
He said there will be tax de creases as two business taxes ex pire, saving businesses about $275 million. Corzine also wants to earmark $64 million to give tax credits to 200,000 low- and middle-income working parents to help lift them out of poverty.
The budget would increase spending by $2.2 billion, about 7.2 percent. The budget anticipates $742 million in revenue growth and has another $700 million left over from last year's sales tax increase dedicated to a property tax relief program that will give many homeowners a credit of up to 20 percent. Abelow said there will be another $300 million in unspecified "spend ing restraints" and $300 million in miscellaneous revenues. The rest will come from drawing down part of a huge surplus left over from last year.
The administration hopes to end the next budget year with a $600 million surplus. The treasurer said there will be no "forced layoffs" but that the payroll will be down because of hiring restraints.
Corzine rejected reviving an unpopular hospital bed tax that the Legislature killed last year. Instead he allotted $583 million to pay for "charity care" provided by hospitals -- the same amount as in the current budget.
With federal prosecutors investigating legislative grants known as "Christmas tree" projects, Cor zine's budget will include no money for such handouts, which totaled about $350 million last year. Abe low said Corzine supports reforming the system of doling out grants, saying a bill offered by Senate President Richard Codey "is a good starting point."
But with an election year loom ing, Abelow didn't rule out putting some money back if lawmakers adopt a more open process.
The administration will no longer allow lawmakers to add tens of millions of dollars in hospital grants to the budget. It will develop a new formula for handing out assistance.
The budget would increase aid to local schools by $580 million. That includes an across-the-board 3 percent hike in state aid for hundreds of suburban school districts that have seen their aid frozen for years.
"It's a small move in the right direction," said Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools. "The question is, will it stop, or go for ward?"
The budget also calls for about $100 million in additional aid to the 31 urban communities covered in the state Supreme Court's Abbott vs. Burke school funding decisions. It proposes $60 million to help communities that offer full-day kindergarten and districts with high percentages of poor students.
Colleges and universities, which suffered a loss of about $80 million last year, will receive a $50 million increase, Abelow said.
Municipal aid also will be increased by 2 percent for every town, at a cost of about $32.6 million.
"This could not have come at a better time for local government," said Bill Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. "Would we have liked more? Yes. But this will help."
Staff writer Robert Schwaneberg contributed to this report. Joe Dono hue may be contacted at jdono firstname.lastname@example.org or (609) 989-0208.
Corzine presents budget to Legislature today
Posted by The Star-Ledger February 22, 2007 6:12AM
In a speech to the Legislature beginning at 11 this morning, Gov. Jon Corzine will propose a $33.3 billion state budget that includes no tax or fee increases, boosts state aid to public schools and provides money for a new property tax relief program.
But it also leaves some major projects unfunded - school construction and open space preservation, for example.
Treasurer Bradley Abelow said yesterday the governor will have something to say in his address about those "unmet needs." Abelow wouldn't say whether Corzine will propose cashing in state assets like the New Jersey Turnpike, and said there's nothing like that in today's budget proposal. But several lawmakers and lobbyists have said the governor is leaning toward a multibillion-dollar deal involving the toll road.
Since last fall, the treasurer has been studying how to convert state property into extra cash, through sales, leases or borrowing against future revenues. Abelow is expected to present detailed options to Corzine soon.
The budget includes measures aimed at helping hold down local property taxes: A property tax relief program that will give many homeowners a credit of up to 20 percent; and a boost in state aid to local schools of $580 million. Municipal aid also will be increased by 2 percent for every town, at a cost of about $32.6 million.
Corzine will deliver his speech to a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly Chamber of the Statehouse. Here's where you can find it:
Garden State Coalition of Schools