Community Colleges Resist Budgetary Cuts – Community colleges statewide have spoken out against a $20 million reduction in state aid which will halt colleges’ expansion plans and force them to raise tuition and cut programming and services. State aid should account for a third of funding for community colleges, yet 55% of funding currently comes from tuition. Gov. Murphy explained that he has not changed to this year’s aid allocation; rather, legislators did not add $20 million to community college aid as they did last year. The governor and legislative leaders must finalize the aid allocation for the 2025 fiscal year by June 30.

Senate Committee Advances Bills for College Tax Breaks – The Senate Higher Education Committee advanced on June 10 two bills to establish tax breaks for college students and their parents. S1200 would allow taxpayers making under $85,000 to deduct tuition payments made on their own behalf or on behalf of a dependent spouse or child – including tuition paid through student loans. S1235 would extend a tax credit to parents paying at least half of the tuition for full- and part-time community college students. Both bills now await review in the Senate Budget Appropriations Committee as well as in the Assembly. 

Assembly Education Committee Advances Bill to Promote School Bus Electrification – On June 6, the Assembly Education Committee advanced A1677, a bill promoting the electrification of school buses. The legislation would extend the terms of lease and purchase contracts to last the life of a bus and enable the ​​New Jersey School Boards Association to act as a government aggregator to help school districts obtain electric buses. The transition from diesel ones to electric buses forms a part of the statewide plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 20% of 2006 levels by 2050 as well as an effort to reduce childhood asthma to improve education outcomes. The state is also piloting a grant program that distributes $45 million over three years to aid school districts in school bus electrification. 



Lawmakers Adjust Plan for Mental Healthcare Worker Salary Increases – On June 6, lawmakers amended S1032, a proposal to address low salaries for mental healthcare workers amid a statewide workforce shortage. The original plan mandated the state Department of Human Services to fund the cost of living adjustment (COLA) pay increases for programs contracted to provide mental health, substance use disorder treatment, and services to people with developmental disabilities. The Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee approved instead a revised proposal only to require the state to conduct studies on the organization’s financial needs. While some applauded the forward movement, others expressed concern that salaries will stay low and that workforce shortages will remain. The bill now faces review in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly.


Public Administration

Senate Committee Advances Budget Stress Test PlanThe Senate Economic Growth Committee advanced on June 10, S1411, legislation requiring the state treasury to perform budget stress tests every three years. The economic crises provoked by the pandemic caused lawmakers to make budgetary decisions amid uncertainty. The legislation would mitigate the effects of economic shocks through a regular Treasury report predicting revenue performance and economic conditions and presenting methods to minimize the impact of recessions. The legislation would bring the state closer to multi-year budgeting, which is a best practice for the state in weathering weather economic crises. The bill’s Assembly equivalent remains pending in committee. 

Wildwood Police Testify in Favor of Harsher Juvenile Criminal Justice Measures – In a special hearing on June 12, Wildwood police officers spoke out against measures restrict their ability to police increasingly unruly young people on boardwalks. In particular, they highlighted a 2020 Attorney General directive to divert young people from the criminal justice system by issuing warnings or adjusting their charges in exchange for a formal promise to conduct community service, as well as guidance which prevents police from arresting people under 21 solely for smelling like marijuana. Pending legislation would address the police force’s concerns: S3622 would allow towns to create new alcohol and cannabis-free zones; S399 would create new crimes of mob and cyber intimidation. 



Advocates Mount Pressure to Pass Corporate Transit Tax – As lawmakers face a June 30 deadline to finalize the 2025 fiscal year state budget, advocates are escalating their calls for the legislature to approve Gov. Murphy’s proposed corporate transit fee – a tax rate surcharge of 2.5% for companies making over $10 million to permanently fund NJ Transit. The proposal comes in advance of contested fare hikes set to start July 1 to help alleviate the transit agency’s budget shortfall of $750 million, and it follows Gov. Murphy’s ending of a pandemic-era corporate surcharge on businesses making over $1 million annually. Other budget solutions include increasing the sales tax to 7% and reconsidering an $11 billion plan to widen the NJ Turnpike in north Jersey. With just a couple of weeks left before the budget is due, the legislature still has no proposed bill to advance the corporate transit fee.