Budget bill passes Assembly budget panel

TRENTON – The Assembly Budget Committee followed on the heels of this morning’s Senate Budget Committee vote and advanced the fiscal year 2014 budget package.

With little discussion, the bill passed with bipartisan support but Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber and Democratic Assembly members Bonnie Watson Coleman and Gary Schaer abstained and Benjie Wimberley voted no.

A4200: Appropriates state and federal funds for the state budget for fiscal year 2013-2014.

The budget is comprised of $32.9 billion in state funds and $13 billion in federal funds.

Chair Vincent Prieto said it has bipartisan support reached by negotiation.  “It may not be a perfect bill,’’ he said, but it moves in the right direction.

The Health Care Association of New Jersey thanked the lawmakers for the $10 million for specialized care nursing facilities, cautioning that it was inadequate for the purpose.

Republican Declan O’Scanlon said that after months of work, this budget is close to what was proposed in February, with about $100 million in changes, “a few things we may disagree on,’’ but done within the confines of what the state has available to spend.

Other bills passed:

A4201: Makes FY 2013 State and federal supplemental appropriations, reduces FY 2013 appropriations and supplements various language provisions affecting appropriations in FY 2013. Passed unanimously.

A4194: Makes changes to the “Urban Hope Act” including the financing and locations of renaissance school projects. It passed along party lines.

It allows Trenton, Newark and Camden schools to work with non-profits on educational opportunities.

The organization Save Our Schools opposes the bill, especially regarding the ability to issue bonds without sufficient public input.

But new amendments indicate that bonds in some projects would be subject to voter approval, the committee was told by the Office of Legislative Services.

For so-called Type I districts, the board of governors would have authority over the bonds.

Regarding their dissenting votes, Coleman and Wimberley both referenced what they see as the underfunding of public education.  Coleman said 82 percent of districts are only going to see a $1 increase, and Coleman maintained that funding is less than when Gov. Christie took office.  Wimberley cited a lack of funding for prekindergarten and preschool.

As one example of what he saw as an imbalance, he said the Department of Community Affairs is penciled in for a $14 million surplus, but the state can’t find $10 million for the preschool needs.

“I’m not comfortable at all,” he said of the budget.

And Coleman said the governor can spend $12 million on a special election but can’t find $10 million for preschool.

Coleman and Schaer both cited health issues, such as underfunding of women’s health care needs and nursing services.

Earlier story:

Senate Budget Comm. OKs $32.9B budget package

Budget bill passes Assembly budget panel