Senate President: Governor doesn’t realize his proposed $1B tax hike wouldn’t put a penny into overfunded districts under bill he signed into law
TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney today blasted the Governor for playing politics on critical school funding issues by calling for a $1 billion tax increase that would do nothing to help districts facing Adjustment Aid cuts.
“It is disappointing to see the Governor demagogue the critical issues of school funding and property tax fairness in order to call for an unrelated $1 billion increase in the sales tax and the millionaire’s tax,” Senator Sweeney said.
“What is more inexcusable is the Governor doesn’t even acknowledge his proposed $1 billion tax hike wouldn’t put a penny into overfunded districts under the school funding bill he signed into law 15 months ago,” Senator Sweeney said. “Any increase in state funding for schools would go to the overwhelming majority of school districts that are underfunded by more than $1.7 billion, not to the Adjustment Aid districts that would be helped by my plan for cap relief.”
Senator Sweeney’s 2018 school funding reform law restored fairness to the 10-year-old School Funding Reform Act by eliminating the growth caps that kept 72 percent of schoolchildren in underfunded districts – urban, suburban and rural – from getting the state aid they deserved, while establishing a seven-year phase-out of Adjustment Aid payments to school districts for students they no longer have.
On Saturday, Senator Sweeney announced that he was developing legislation that would provide cap relief to school districts facing Adjustment Aid cuts that were spending below the adequacy level established by the School Funding Reform Act – and affirmed by the state Supreme Court – as needed to provide the “thorough and efficient” education guaranteed by the 1947 New Jersey Constitution.
“We need to ensure that students do not suffer in districts that are now taking cuts after receiving more than their fair share of state aid for more than a decade,” Senator Sweeney said. “The new law will give school boards in these districts the ability to make up for past years when they had no incentive to provide their Local Fair Share because the Adjustment Aid windfall they were getting gave them no reason to do so.”
Senator Sweeney noted that the legislation signed into law by the Governor already gave the 31 former Abbott districts the ability to exceed the 2 percent cap if they were spending below adequacy, and required any school district facing Adjustment Aid cuts and spending below adequacy because it was not providing its Local Fair Share to raise school property taxes by 2 percent a year.