Voting along party lines, the Senate and Assembly on Monday passed a bill that would appropriate $31.74 billion for the state budget for fiscal 2013. The budget bill, S-2013/A-3200, does not change the dollar amounts or allocations of state aid for education recommended by the governor in February.
For 2012-2013, the state will provide $8.87 billion for preK-12 education. In February, the Administration indicated that the amount reflects a $120.9 million increase in formula aid—including $46.4 million more for special education, a $14.6 million increase for pre-school education aid, $14.2 million more for the state's Inter-District School Choice Program, and $4.7 million more in other areas.
Funding Report Deleted Earlier this year, Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf released the Education Funding Report, which outlined the rationale for the Administration's 2012-2013 state aid recommendations. The document is not the "official" funding report that is required under the current school finance law and which will be submitted to the Legislature for its consideration this fall. However, it is viewed as the blueprint for the official document, which will guide future years' state aid allotments under the current funding law.
The governor's proposed budget memorialized the Education Funding Report, but the Legislature this week removed the language from its version of the budget, even though it left the aid amounts resulting from the report intact.
The Legislature's removal of the language indicated hesitance on the part of many lawmakers to endorse the proposed long-term changes contained in the Education Funding Report through the Appropriations Act before having the opportunity to vet the "official" document this fall.
Tax Cuts at Issue A far more contentious factor involves tax reductions. The Legislature's budget bill does not include the 10-percent income tax cut sought by Gov. Chris Christie. Instead, it would create a reserve fund that would be used for tax cuts if the governor's revenue forecasts are reached.
Under New Jersey's state budget process, the governor may line-item veto specific spending from the Appropriations Act. Any such action may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature.
State lawmakers must pass a budget by June 30.