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TRENTON — Legislation that would let Gov. Phil Murphy fulfill a campaign promise of extending financial aid to undocumented immigrants is now on Murphy’s desk after being approved Thursday by the Assembly.

The bill (S699) passed 49-24. The vote was mostly along party lines, except that Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, D-Somerset, voted against it. The Senate approved it in late March.

New Jersey began allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state resident tuition rates in 2014, but they remain ineligible for state Tuition Aid Grants. Individual colleges can offer them scholarships.

 Assemblyman Gary Schaer, D-Passaic, said the bill makes sense from philosophical and economic perspectives.

He said TAG averages $7,500 for students at four-year colleges – half the cost of what taxpayers already spend per pupil a year to educate undocumented immigrants in the K-12 school system.

There are perhaps 600 students who would benefit from the change at a total cost of $4.5 million. Schaer said that’s 1 percent of the TAG budget, one-tenth of a percent of the state budget and equal to 17 cents from the average resident’s $1,479 state tax bill.

Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, said the cost could be $13 million, not $4.5 million, and that the change is both unaffordable to the state and unfair to citizens.

“The bill doesn’t make sense from a fiscal perspective, and it doesn’t make sense from a fairness perspective,” Webber said.

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