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Democratic Assembly Budget Panel Members Respond to First Public Hearing
(TRENTON) - Today, the Assembly Budget Committee held the first of two public hearings on the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 State Budget. The second public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday May 27, 2019 in committee room 4 in the State House Annex at 9:30 a.m. Democratic committee members released the following statement regarding today's testimony:
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex), committee chair: "Today we began a months-long process to craft a fair and responsible budget. We heard from a variety residents and important groups and associations. We fully understand the importance of adequately funding schools, transportation, direct service providers who care for the most vulnerable, the arts and more. We also understand for every spending increase a corresponding cut is needed. This committee will give today's testimony the consideration it deserves as we work to produce a spending plan that reflects the priorities of our fellow residents.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem), committee vice-chair: "Today, we heard quite a few people urge us to pass the proposed millionaires tax. I, like the Speaker, remain opposed to any broad-based tax increases. Our top priority must be to identify and help implement government cost-cutting measures. The residents and organizations that came before us today may all be worthy of more State aid, but we have to face the fiscal reality that we simply don't have the funds to give everyone everything they ask for."
Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex): "The previous Administration all but ignored transportation funding, but now we are beginning to see real progress and a significant reduction in fund diversions. The message by some today was loud and clear: There are still funding concerns for NJ Transit, transportation capital projects and more. As chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, I am looking forward to having discussions with the Murphy Administration as we tirelessly work our way through the budget process. In a state like New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation, transportation issues cannot be ignored."
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen): "Many educators told us today that they are losing school funding. Others came forward to thank the committee for addressing underfunded districts by helping change the School Funding Reform Act during last year's difficult budget deliberations. We will continue to work throughout the budget hearings to ensure we are doing all we can to provide the education our children need and deserve whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area of our state."
Assemblywoman Patricia Egan Jones (D-Camden, Gloucester): "I was particularly interested in testimony by the Corriell Institute for Medical Research. The Institute's request for funding for the second project year of the Camden Opioid Research Initiative (CORI) is beyond reasonable because the CORI research study is critically important. New Jersey is in the throes of an opioid epidemic. Corriell is respected internationally and providing additional funding to give the Institute an opportunity to help stem the tide of opioid abuse is an investment well worth making."
Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris): "As the co-chair of the bi-partisan committee that investigated NJ Transit as well as the prime sponsor of the reform legislation recently signed into law, I am acutely aware that one of NJ Transit's problems was a lack of appropriate funding. The Governor and his administration have made tremendous strides in the past 14 months with their stewardship of NJ Transit. However, a $25 million increase in funding over last year may not be adequate to continue the progress at a pace acceptable to the commuters. As such, as we continue through this budget process I am hopeful that we can find a way to increase that sum."
Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Burlington): "Direct Service Professionals work as community providers helping our most vulnerable residents live a dignified life, but salary and recruitment issues present serious challenges. Many DSPs are forced to work two jobs with overtime just to make ends meet. We can't accept this. We have to identify a source through which we can fund our community providers who are facing staffing shortages. For many, being DSP is a calling, not a job. Community providers deserve our full support."
Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic): "For the eight years he was Governor, Chris Christie woefully underfunded our schools. We helped address that last year with changes to the school funding formula, but some districts are still feeling the pain from the Christie years. I will not allow a zip code to dictate the quality of one child's education. If more changes are needed this year to ensure fairness for all, you can rested assured I'll lead the charge in making those changes."
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