$31.7 billion budget, higher-ed reorganization, tenure makeover, much more on legislative to-do list today

TRENTON – The Legislature gets down to expensive, far-reaching business today, holding votes on numerous bills with implications for fiscal year 2013 and well beyond.

On the dockets for the Senate and Assembly are bills that will remake the state’s higher education landscape, drastically alter how public school teachers attain tenure, and set out spending and taxing priorities for the coming fiscal year.

The main event will be the $31.7 billion budget, but there are numerous other bills, for example, in the Senate:

*A proposal to OK $750 million worth of bonds so higher-education facilities can build new classrooms and laboratories to stem the outward migration of the state’s top students and professors;

*A bid to add $789 million to the Homestead Benefit property tax relief program;

*A bill to authorize $3.4 billion in bonds through fiscal year 2016 for the Transportation Trust Fund to upgrade roads and bridges throughout the state;

*A bill to return $331 million over five years to municipalities in energy receipts taxes that the towns say the state has been unfairly taking for years;

*A proposal to increase the allowable tax credits under the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit from $1.5 to $2.5 billion.

In addition, there is the higher education reorganization legislation involving Rutgers and Rowan universities and the breakup of the University of Medicine and Dentistry, a project whose true cost may not be known for many years to come.

The Assembly also will deal with the Urban Transit Hub Tax credit bill, the Homestead Benefit, and many of the same bills on the Senate ledger, but also has originated the millionaire’s tax bill, a bill Gov. Chris Christie vowed will not become law.

The extensive makeover of how teachers attain tenure also will be dealt with.

The bill essentially extends the period of time from three years to four to achieve tenure and shortens the sometimes quite lengthy period of time it takes to remove an ineffective teacher.