Senate passes FY14 budget bill

TRENTON – The Senate passed the budget for next fiscal year, a $32.9 billion package that has no tax increases. The vote was 29-11. Ten Democrats voted no.

The Assembly was to take action today as well.

S3000 appropriates $32.9 billion in state and $13.4 billion in federal funds for the fiscal year 2014 budget.

Senators on both sides of the aisle lauded or lambasted the budget, including Sen. Barbara Buono, who issued a lengthy tirade against the budget that served as a campaign speech as well.

Budget Chairman Democrat Sen. Paul Sarlo said the budget is similar to what the governor proposed in February.

He said it was accomplished about 10 days before deadline with cooperation from both sides of the aisle.

“There was not a whole lot of changes to be made because there was not a whole lot of room to do so,’’ he said.  He said they managed to protect some of the state’s most vulnerable constituents.

“I am not overly thrilled about this budget,’’ he said.  “There are priorities that are missing, including women’s health, fully funding the school funding formula.’’

He also mentioned nursing homes, higher-education schools that are not part of the reorganization and merger, and other programs.

Republican Sen. Anthony Bucco said commended both parties working together in an election year. “It is a good sign that everyone is on board’’ regarding the state’s rebounding economy.

“We are holding the line on taxes once again, spending less than the state did five years ago, all with a $300 million surplus.’’

He said there are $540 million in different kinds of tax cuts.

Buono statement

Gubernatorial candidate Buono said, however, she can’t figure out whose priorities this budget supports.  

She said preschool funding is just one issue her constituents care about and which is underfunded, and added regarding health care that “Single uninsured women, working poor can’t afford to have a mammogram. There is no money in this budget for that.”

She said “We should be ashamed’’ of how this budget treats preschool funding.

She also criticized the $24 million involved in holding the special election for U.S. Senate. 

She said this budget robs the most vulnerable of the property tax relief they deserve and later said in response to GOP comments that it is $108 million less than the 2009 budget.

Uninsured women need cancer screenings that this budget leaves unfunded, she said, adding that it is not a case of the budget not being able to afford it but rather a case of the governor’s priorities.

Eventually Republican Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. called out for her to stay on the bill and was gaveled down as she continued her speech.

Sen. Dick Codey criticized the lack of funding for the women’s health centers, the closing of Hagedorn developmental center, as well as the earned income tax credit for those earning less than $35,000 that is again left out, while the governor intends to spend tens of millions on the special election.

“This budget needs a heart transplant,’’ he said.

Democratic Sen. Loretta Weinberg said the budget does articulate a philosophy.  She said that failing school districts will be helped not necessarily by vouchers or charter schools, but rather by a strong preschool program. She also emphasized the women’s and family health care programs this budget leaves underfunded.

But Republican Sen. Kevin O’Toole said this is the fourth year the governor has introduced a budget relying on stable revenue sources. “I am not disappointed that we have fewer one-shots (revenue sources) now than ever before.’’

He called it an extraordinary day of bipartisanship and complimented Sarlo for putting together a responsible budget.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Van Drew acknowledged that the budget requires tough decisions and not all sectors will be happy but constituents want lawmakers to work across the aisle and accomplish a budget that holds the line on taxes.

And Republican Sen. Steve Oroho referenced the $1.76 billion pension payment included in the budget. “We are rectifying past mistakes,’’ he said.

Kean said there is a third year of business tax cuts, the largest pension payment, a reduction in one-time revenues and strong education funding.

He did express disappointment that the Opportunity Scholarship Act school vouchers program was dropped from the budget, but praised the bipartisanship that led to the document.

Higher education issues

Democratic Sen. Bob Smith said “I wish we would stop raiding the clean energy fund’’ to bolster the general fund, and he said the lack of proper funding for women’s health is a “travesty,’’  but overall the budget has another problem regarding the  higher-education reorganization going into effect July 1.

He said a resolution states that if not enough tuition comes in as a result of the merger, then Rutgers-New Brunswick becomes the guarantor of those funds, Smith said. The Newark and Camden campuses would be held harmless, he said, and so Rutgers is seeking elimination of that language that would have New Brunswick campus take care of the shortfall.

He said it’s too late to amend the budget, but he hopes that the governor will be contacted. If anything deserves to be red-lined out, this is it, he said.

S3001: This makes a supplemental appropriation of $224 million for the current fiscal year, reduces fiscal year 2013 appropriates by $398 million. It passed 40-0.

Senate passes FY14 budget bill