New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans to reduce cost of attendance at public universities, as well as other investments in healthcare and the economy in his annual budget address on Feb. 23.
In a pre-recorded address, Murphy spoke about key elements of New Jersey’s proposed $44.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2022.
The budget introduces several new investments and initiatives without increasing or adding taxes or fees. These proposals include a multimillion-dollar investment in financial aid for qualified students at New Jersey’s public colleges and a proposed investment to ensure healthcare coverage for every child in New Jersey.
“It is time for us to lean into the economic policies that will not just get us through the remaining months of the pandemic, but which will supercharge our reemergence from it and the recovery that awaits on the other side,” Murphy said.
Murphy announced the Garden State Guarantee and said it looks to “provide the first two years of study at one of our four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free to thousands of eligible students.”
According to NJ.gov, a combined investment of $50 million will be distributed among 13 of New Jersey’s four-year public institutions. These institutions will then allow eligible undergraduate students to attend tuition-free for two years of study. To be eligible, a student must have an adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less.
“Each institution would develop a sliding scale pricing structure for students above that income threshold,” the press release said. “A transparent, locked-in tuition price would be provided for all students throughout the duration of their academic program.”
In addition to supporting New Jersey’s public colleges and universities, Murphy announced that the budget proposes an increase of $700 million in the state’s public school investments.
“This is not just vital funding for our educational communities so they can invest in the tools our students and educators need for 21st-century education,” Murphy said.
Murphy also announced the “Cover All Kids” initiative, which proposes an investment of $20 million in federal Medicaid funds to ensure healthcare for every child in New Jersey.
“Through this investment, our administration will have come closer to meeting our obligations to our students, educators and communities through fully funding our school funding formula,” Murphy said.
For families currently in need of health insurance, Murphy announced a special health insurance enrollment period on New Jersey’s state-run healthcare marketplace, which has been enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This period will remain in effect until May 15.
The proposed budget also invests $200 million as part of a multi-departmental economic growth initiative to boost economic growth and recovery in New Jersey communities and support minority-owned businesses. This investment includes $100 million allocated from the recently passed Economic Recovery Act Main Street Recovery Finance program.
Regarding public transportation, Murphy announced that for the fourth consecutive year, there will not be any NJ Transit fare hike. Despite this, the proposed FY2022 budget increases NJ Transit’s total resources by 9% to $2.65 billion.
Murphy also announced that for the first time since 1996, the state will make a full contribution to its pension system.
“The problems and shortfalls in our pension systems have absolutely nothing to do with our hardworking public employees who have dutifully paid their fair share into the pension funds every two weeks,” Murphy said. “The problems in our pension system have everything to do with past administrations who simply and shortsightedly decided not to pay.”
Louis Motta can be reached at email@example.com