State lawmakers on Monday approved legislation to borrow $3.9 billion for school construction, primarily in urban schools.
The bill, A-2873, would authorize the state’s Economic Development Authority to borrow $2.9 billion for Abbott schools and another $1 billion for all other schools ($50 million of that $1 billion would be earmarked for county vocational schools).
The school construction bill was a major issue of debate during the Legislature’s budget negotiations. Opposition came from lawmakers who believe all new borrowing should be delayed until after a November general election vote on a constitutional amendment that would mandate voter approval of state borrowing. Although he supports the amendment, Corzine wanted to secure the additional Abbott construction funding as soon as possible to fulfill the state Supreme Court’s mandate.
The $3.9 billion is designed to restart a state Supreme Court-ordered school construction program in the state’s Abbott school districts. The state’s Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act of 2000 allocated $6 billion to pay for all construction in the 31 Abbott districts, with another $2.6 billion to cover at least 40 percent of eligible school construction in all other districts. However, those funds were largely depleted by late 2005, and hundreds of projects remained unfinished.
The additional $3.9 billion would immediately fund approximately four dozen projects in Abbott districts.
“By its actions, the Legislature provided the means to build decent schools for New Jersey’s children,” Corzine said in a prepared statement.