The Governor’s Budget continues to provide municipal formula aid at the fiscal year 2011 level. Providing municipalities with a stable funding level in fiscal year 2012 will help minimize service disruptions during the first year of the new 2 percent property tax levy cap. The Budget also builds on the Governor’s fiscal year 2011 “Best Practices” initiative by increasing municipalities’ incentives to enact meaningful fiscal and management reforms. These efforts will continue strengthening local government transparency and accountability.
Governor Christie’s fiscal year 2012 Budget restores part of the education aid reductions made in the fiscal year 2011 Budget. This additional $250 million in funding will reach every school district in the state and provide additional relief to school districts and taxpayers alike as communities transition to budgets under the 2 percent property tax cap.
The Governor’s Budget proposal doubles the Homestead Benefit for eligible homeowners to provide direct property tax relief. The former Homestead Rebate program has been changed to a Homestead Benefit program that directly reduces a recipient’s property tax bill. Senior and disabled homeowners with gross income up to $150,000 will receive benefits averaging $540, and non-senior homeowners with gross incomes up to $75,000 will receive benefits averaging $404. In addition, every New Jersey senior and disabled person who received a Senior Freeze check last year will receive one this year as well, provided they continue to meet program eligibility criteria.
As Governor Christie stated when he put forward his comprehensive pension reform plan, the state has an obligation to make its payments to the fund, together with the systems reforms needed to make pensions sustainable over time. As such, the Governor’s Budget proposes making an early $506 million pension fund payment, representing the first funding provided for the defined benefit plans since fiscal year 2009.
The Governor’s Budget includes funding for the Transportation Capital Plan, providing a $1.6 billion per year capital program, including $200 million per year for local projects. Over the course of the five-year Transportation Capital Plan, “pay as you go” financing, as opposed to borrowing, will increase by 1,600%.
The Governor’s Budget fully funds fiscal year 2011’s increases to the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled and the Senior Gold prescription assistance programs without any co-pay increases or eligibility changes. This level of funding maintains New Jersey’s programs as some of the most generous state prescription assistance programs in the nation. Senior Gold currently provides coverage to approximately 23,000 seniors with income below $34,432 if single and $39,956 if married.
The Governor’s Budget preserves the health care safety net for New Jersey residents by increasing funding for hospitals. As such, hospitals will gain access to additional funding that can be leveraged to get a matching amount of federal funding. Hospitals will collectively receive $20 million in additional funding.