NJ lawmakers weigh $46.4 billion budget, up 15% over last year

New Jersey
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a news conference in Hoboken on May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey lawmakers unveiled a record $46.4 billion budget, a 15% increase over last year.

The spending plan unveiled on Tuesday boosts the state’s public pension payment, allocates hundreds of millions for tax givebacks and sets aside almost $4 billion to cover debt.

The mammoth spending plan was set to be debated by Assembly and Senate budget committees and would go next to the floor of each house if approved, with votes as early as Thursday. Both chambers are heavily controlled by Democrats.

For the first time in 25 years, the budget will fully fund the state’s pension system with a $6.4 billion payment and additional $505 million boost payment, fulfilling a major promise from Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2017 campaign.

“In our continued drive to build a more resilient post-pandemic future for our State, this budget lays the foundation for a more affordable New Jersey where everyone has the opportunity to prosper from young adulthood well into retirement,” said Murphy in a statement. “We’re providing the resources to help parents save to send their children to college, help graduates get a fresh start in life without the crushing burden of student loans, and help seniors age in place by guaranteeing more of their hard-earned retirement income.”

Some of the proposals in the budget include free tuition at public institutions for third and fourth year college students with household incomes below $65,000 among several college affordability plans; raising the amount of retirement income that can be excluded annually from taxation;

The budget makes use of a portion of the $6.5 billion in federal relief provided to the State under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). Investments include $100 million to support childcare services helping parents get back to work, $450 million for public health infrastructure, and $180 million for HVAC improvements in schools; language to give the Legislature more control over the spending of ARP funds. Joint Budget Oversight Committee approval is required for the vast majority of ARP appropriations.

The deadline for budget approval is June 30, a vote is scheduled on Thursday.

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