Credit: New Jersey Legislature
This is what the hearings of the Assembly’s Budget Committee looked like last year, and today is March 10, 2021. Expect similar virtual hearings again this year.

Lawmakers plan to use the remote format again when two public hearings are held next week to formally begin legislative review of the nearly $ 49 billion budget, which Gov. Phil Murphy released last week.

The remote format was first used for budget hearings last year as a health measure in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. The Assembly’s Budget Committee will continue to use it this year to increase turnout, said Kevin McDowell, a spokesman for the majority of Democrats in the Assembly.

“We realized when we held them remotely last year that a remote meeting allowed more people to attend more easily, and the goal is to allow as much participation as possible,” McArdle said.

Remote hearings of the Assembly Budget Committee are scheduled for March 21 and 23 at 9.30. according to the report published on the website of the legislature.

Senate Public Hearings

Information on such public hearings, traditionally held by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, has not yet been published, and it remains to be seen whether the Senate will also use the remote format.

Public hearings in the legislature begin a lengthy budget review process run by lawmakers for several months before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st.

In previous years, testimony from public hearings has sometimes had an impact on lawmakers, who are ultimately responsible for drafting the state’s annual appropriations bill before sending it to the governor for final adoption by July 1.

Lawmakers have added funding to articles for things like the K-12 school grant, the New Jersey Transit operating grant, and programs to combat the opioid epidemic after compelling public testimony. The proposed tax increases were also amended and even repealed after criticism from residents during public hearings.

This year, Murphy is calling for an increase in spending over the same period last year of more than 5% without tax increases, within a budget of $ 48.9 billion, which he detailed to lawmakers during a public speech in Trenton last week.

Where costs will increase

Among the areas where total spending will be increased under Murphy’s proposed budget is a direct aid point for public K-12 schools, which will be increased by $ 650 million to nearly $ 10 billion.

Expenditures on direct property tax benefits will also rise to nearly $ 900 million under Murphy’s budget. He also asks lawmakers to approve an increase in the income limit for homeowners and allow tenants to receive checks for assistance for the first time in about ten years.

Murphy, a second-term Democrat, also plans to keep what actuaries consider full funding for the state employer’s pension contribution, which will cost nearly $ 7 billion, given special funding coming directly to the pension fund from the New Jersey lottery. .

State budget reserves will also be increased according to Murphy’s proposal, with an undescribed surplus rising to more than $ 4 billion. But, according to budget documents, the fund on a rainy day will be exhausted, despite the steady increase in income.

Special fund to repay debt

And while it’s not included in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2023, Murphy also urges lawmakers to put some of the state’s growing tax revenue into a special fund that was set up last year. in order to repay the debt.

While the state constitution gives the governor a role to start the budget season by proposing a spending plan, lawmakers are now deciding what they want to do with it.

Lawmakers must determine by July 1 whether they will convert Murphy’s budget plan into an appropriations bill or develop their own bill that includes some or many of the governor’s recommendations as well as their own priorities.

Over the next few months, they plan to hold a series of public hearings as part of this review process, including with a view to receiving public comments. Hearings will also be scheduled with key executive officials, including the Treasurer, to consider some of the Governor’s specific recommendations on the budget.

The law on appropriations must be passed before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, otherwise the state government will stop.

Anyone wishing to pre-register for next week’s Committee on Budgets of the Assembly can do so at legislature website.

More information on the public hearings to be held by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee is expected to be published on the website as soon as it becomes available.

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