TRENTON – A $32.9 billion negotiated budget cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Thursday.
Committee chairman Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) rolled out what he called “good faith negotiations” between lawmakers and the Gov. Chris Christie administration as the state moved forward with passing a budget ahead of the July 1 deadline. The budget bill cleared the panel following nearly unanimous support from budget committee lawmakers.
The bill cleared the committee following an 11-2 vote.
“I will say this, I am pleased that we are meeting almost 10 days prior to the constitutional deadline to avoid some of the drama,” Sarlo said.
The negotiation lacks additional money for women’s health care, an income tax credit and a homestead rebate payment, he said.
“I don’t believe anybody should be overly excited,” Sarlo said. “But it is a balanced budget.”
However, GOP lawmakers were quick to come to the budget proposal’s defense, referring to the compromise as a “fiscally sound” negotiation, said Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-40).
“I want to congratulate the governor for working with both sides,” he said.
Other Republican lawmakers echoed O’Toole’s comments, however their Democratic counterparts were quick to point out that the proposal falls short of the mark.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) voted against moving the budget out of committee, arguing all of the priorities for New Jersey residents are not being met. She was one of only two lawmakers to vote against the budget out of the committee’s 13 members.
“I realize that our leadership has negotiated this budget within the parameters of the money that was available, but I am going to vote no,” Weinberg said.
Sen. Nellie Pou (D-35) also voted against releasing the proposal from committee.
The negotiated plan projects a $300 million surplus and reallocates $97.2 million in spending that is offset by $97.2 million in revised spending projections for Medicaid and state health benefits by the administration.
According to the proposal, the reallocated spending includes: $35 million for higher education reorganization; $20 million for cancer research grants; $13.2 million for a cost of living adjustment for community providers who care for vulnerable residents and the mentally disabled; $10.3 million for nursing home and specialized care facilities; $7.4 million in school aid and $6 million for tax relief for the Meadowlands communities.
The full Senate is slated to vote on the budget bill on Monday.
The same bill is slated to go through an Assembly budget panel later today and hit the General Assembly floor Monday for a vote.