Legislators met for the Senate Budget Committee hearing today. Sen. Jennifer Beck told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that this year the state will invest more state aid money in education than ever before.
“Commissioner David Hespe is not new to the Department of Education. He has been in and out of that department under the administration and has a stellar reputation. This year the state will invest more in education than we have ever before. It is the largest amount of state aid we have ever provided. I think that we have a lot to be happy about and there has been a lot of conversation about the funding formula and different initiatives the department is going to undertake this year. I think by and large the commissioner was well received,” said Beck.
Beck said that there are elements of the funding formula that need to be revisited. She said if there was disparity, for example a school district that was at one time challenged economically became wealthy, it would no longer qualify for the state aid. She said that adjustment was never made in the current formula and New Jersey has several municipalities such as Freehold Borough, that have had huge demographic changes. She said the district gets none of that extra aid and it spends one of the least amounts per student in the whole state. Beck said that there are some problems with the formula as it was constructed and only implemented one time but there is a bit of an anomaly that the Supreme Court has declared it constitutional and the legislators are required to comply.
Beck said that this year, Sen. Paul Sarlo thought that the projected revenue of $500 million that was off in a two-year window of the budget was significant, but she thinks that across the country most states, when they are projecting revenues, on average are about 3 percent off so New Jersey is doing much better than most states in the nation. She said that legislators always want the projected revenues to be as accurate as possible and the Office of Legislative Services and executive branch take the job very seriously and have come very close to projecting what the state’s actual revenues are.
“When Gov. Jon Corzine was in office, I believe that some of his tax policies took New Jersey into the recession much earlier so New Jersey entered the recession in 2007 and it lasted until the third quarter of 2010. That was not the case in Pennsylvania and New York. Both of them entered the recession much later and exited much earlier. We have a much deeper hole to get out of and it is going to take us a longer period of time,” said Beck. “It is not totally fair to compare revenue between New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania because New York and Pennsylvania implemented new taxes. That is why they saw revenue growth so much more quickly. I think New Jersey is moving along at a decent pace. We see decent growth year after year in jobs and revenues. We still have a ways to go.”