Earlier today the Joint Budget Oversight Committee (JBOC) met to consider items including the transfer of Federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds. The transfers, which were already outlined in the State budget, included:
- $300 million for various capital improvement projects for Rutgers University
- $50 million for initiatives of the Liberty State Park Design Task Force
- $40 million to support technology upgrades to improve resident services
- $20 million to support capital improvements Kean University
- $8 million to support Carteret ferry terminal infrastructure project
- $8 million to support South Amboy ferry terminal infrastructure project
- $5 million for Rowan University-Rutgers Camden eligible projects at and around Rutgers Camden campus
- $40 million to support Jersey City’s acquisition of Port Liberte ferry terminal to reinstate public ferry service
- $3.6 million for Developing Resiliency with Engaging Approaches to Maximize Success (DREAMS)
In addition, JBOC also considered a request to appropriate $2 million for a campaign to advertise the ANCHOR property tax relief program.
During the hearing, Senator O’Scanlon noted that there is still $5 billion of federal funds in State accounts earning about 1% while inflation is at 10%. Senator O’Scanlon also suggested that there should be public participation when making an appropriation of federal funds. Senator Sarlo noted that there has been no request from the Administration for release of federal funds. Also, Senator Ruiz noted that there is a lot of work to be done, including necessary discussions about the State Health Benefits increases that could potentially create an economic threat to local government budgets. Senator Sarlo echoed and supported Senator Ruiz’s comments and stated that there needs to be an early and robust discussion on budget process, including oversight of federal funds and dealing with SHBP increases.
We are also hearing that some municipalities in the State Health Benefits Program are finding that their January bills do not match the amount on the Health Benefit Rate Renewal material published during open enrollment. The discrepancies vary by cover type and plan, but it has been about $10 per month for single coverage, $20 per month for member/spouse and parent/child coverage, and $30 per month for family coverage. We suggest that your Chief Financial Officer review the January bill. If you find that the rates in your municipality are higher than published during open enrollment, please let us know.
We will ring in the new year with no relief for the 379 municipalities participating in the State Health Benefits system, along with their employees, and ultimately their taxpayers. They will have to fund an unsustainable 22% increase in health benefits costs. It is imperative that the Governor and your legislators hear directly from you about the negative impacts this increase will have on your budget, your employees, and your taxpayers. Even with the 19.6% levy cap and 17.6% appropriation cap exemptions for the increased cost to health benefits, municipalities must fund this increase.
Please take action immediately. With so little time remaining, it is critical for Mayors and elected officials in municipalities that participate in the SHBP to directly reach out to your Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) contact in the Governor’s office and reiterate to your Legislators the need for an acceptable resolution of these newly imposed costs on municipal and county governments, our public employees, and taxpayers. If you have already reached out, please do so again–we need their attention and action.
- Mike Cerra, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481, x120.
- Lori Buckelew, Deputy Executive Director & Director of Government Affairs, email@example.com, 609-695-3481, x112.