Dems release budget details

The budget plan set to be debated by the senate and assembly budget committees this morning will reflect an additional $1.18 billion in spending over the proposal laid out by the governor in March, a detailed outline of the budget released late last night shows.

The Democratic plan uses an additional $724 million left over from the current fiscal year appropriation as well as nearly $500 million in additional revenue collected this year.  The total appropriation is $30.6 billion.

The spending plan promises to be controversial as it incorporates revenue of $29.87 billion and a surplus of $724 million for a total available appropriation of $30.94 billion.  That’s about $600 million over the total certified by the governor on Friday.

As required by the constitution, the governor certified $29.64 million in revenue available for the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget, and $696 million in undesignated surplus, for a combined total of $30.33 billion.

The governor has called the Democrats’ budget unconstitutional because of the inflated revenue and said he will not sign an unconstitutional budget.

Democrats say the revenue total is accurate and even conservative.  It is based on a projection from officials at the Office of Legislative Services, who told legislators during earlier budget hearings that the state will collect as much as $900 million more in revenue than anticipated in the governor’s budget.

Legislative Dmeocrats also have promised to pass a bill imposing a tax on incomes over $1 million.  The money will be used for tax relief, they promise as well as addiitonal school funding.  But the governor has said repeatedly that such a tax would be dead on arrival, making its passage a symbolic gesture.

Highlights of the Democrats’ budget plan include an $819 million bump in appropriations for education and a $16 million reduction in spending for the Department of Environmental Protection.

The bulk of the additional education dollars are slated for state aid.  In addition to providing the court-ordered funding for the so-called Abbott Districts, the budget appropriates another $574 million to nearly 200 districts considered “below adequacy” and $85.7 million to “above adequacy districts.

In May, the Supreme Court ordered the state to fully fund the urban Abbott Districts, requiring an extra $446.8 million in aid.  Democrats have said simply funding the lowest performing districts is not enough and chose to appropriate additional money to all districts.

The Democrats’ budget also reverses an administration decision to close Vineland Psychiatric Center, restores $7.5 million in funding for Planned Parenthood and adds $50 million in aid for police officers in townships where the crime rate is on the rise.  The budget restores $2 million to continue operations at New Jersey Network.  The governor has propsed transferring operation of the state-owned network to WNET in NEw York, but Democrats have opposed the deal and have already voted to block it in the assembly.  The senate will take up the vote tonight.

The plan also would restore funding to the NJ After 3 program afterschool program and adds$4 million to restore eligibility for childless adults to the NJFamilyCare low cost health insurance program.

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to take up discussion of the bill this morning, while the Assembly committee will begin hearings at noon.  The Constitution requires a balanced budget by June 30.

For a breakdown of how the budget compares to the governor’s, see the attached scoresheet.

Dems release budget details