Murphy plans to spend $ 700 million on COVID recovery. Top Republican calls the proposal “grossly incomplete”.
Governor Phil Murphy announced sprawling plans to allocate nearly $ 700 million in state taxpayer dollars and federal coronavirus relief funds to various projects to strengthen healthcare facilities and economic recovery after the pandemic.
The state’s Treasury Department sent a letter on Wednesday outlining the proposals to the Joint State Budget Oversight Committee, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers to approve spending as part of a state budget deal. .
Murphy said the spending is the result of a deal with his fellow Democrats who head the state legislature.
“This proposal will allow us to responsibly fund capital construction and continue to use federal dollars for one-time and transformative investments in our residents, communities and infrastructure,” the governor said in a statement Friday. “I am grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature for their commitment to helping us build a stronger, fairer and more resilient post-pandemic New Jersey for all.”
Still, State Senator Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, the new Senate Minority Leader and one of the two Republican members of the Joint Oversight Committee, said the part of the proposal involving federal funds is ” grossly incomplete and does not meet key New Jersey needs. “
The proposals call for allocating $ 435 million from the New Jersey Debt Defeasance and Prevention Fund to help pay for construction projects. Including:
- $ 265 million to the State Economic Development Authority for the New Jersey wind port at Lower Alloways Creek.
- $ 65 million for the construction of Rowan University School of Veterinary Medicine.
- $ 45 million to the State Department of Transportation for the dredging of wind ports.
- $ 35 million to the South Jersey Port Corporation for the modernization and improvement of the port.
- $ 15 million for the expansion of the Cooper Medical School at Rowan University.
This will save the state $ 8.7 million in the new fiscal year and avoid future debt service costs of more than $ 508 million in subsequent years, according to the proposal.
The proposals also call for the allocation of $ 262.6 million in aid from the US federal bailout package passed by Congress. Including:
- $ 100 million to Hackensack University Medical Center, which was recently verified as a Level 1 trauma center, to bolster its public health preparedness.
- $ 40 million to create a state program to “close COVID-induced supply chain gaps” in affordable housing and community development projects.
- $ 37.5 million to help tenants enroll in an eviction prevention program and for temporary staff to help the program.
- $ 25 million to help the state purchase an abandoned rail corridor spanning Essex and Hudson counties for a long-planned greenway.
- $ 20 million to help Inspira Health acquire Salem Medical Center.
- $ 10 million to help boost urban areas with public transportation that faced economic problems due to a reduction in the number of commuters during the pandemic.
- $ 5 million to help RWJBH and Rutgers University Behavioral Health with pandemic-related programs.
- $ 5 million for pandemic-related programs at the Wally Choice Community Center in Glenfield Park in Montclair.
- $ 5 million to help the state implement a marketing program to highlight business with the state as the economy recovers from the pandemic.
- $ 3 million to Atlantic Health to help modernize and renovate the emergency department at Morristown Medical Center.
- $ 2 million to the Alexander Hamilton Visitor and Education Center at Great Falls National Park in Paterson.
- $ 100,000 to help the Township of Vernon carry out environmental remediation work.
Murphy did not use any of the funds to offset a $ 250 million increase in the UI payroll tax that New Jersey employers began paying last month to replenish a fund depleted by millions. of unemployment claims during the pandemic.
Oroho said the plans were long overdue because the state received the federal money in May. He also noted that Democrats had ignored a proposal released by Republicans in April on how to spend federal aid to help workers, businesses, tenants and landlords, fix the computer systems of unemployment centers and state motor vehicles and offset the increase in the corporate unemployment tax.
Additionally, Oroho said Murphy’s new proposal was only for a few hundred million of the billions available to the state.
“The Murphy administration cannot undo the damage that has already been done, but it can work to adopt a comprehensive plan as we have proposed using the billions in relief funds that are still available,” Oroho said.
Michael Zhadanovsky, spokesperson for Murphy’s office, said it was “ironic that Senate Republicans blame our administration for using federal funds in a prudent, responsible and fiscally sound manner.”
“If the administration followed the advice of Senator Oroho and his caucus, state ARP funding would quickly run out while the pandemic is still ongoing,” Zhadanovsky added. “The investments we are making with federal pandemic relief funds are designed to benefit our state for years to come, as intended by Congress, instead of committing to short-term gimmicks and gimmicks. fiscally irresponsible. “
Oroho replied: “The ironic thing is that New Jersey has the third lowest unemployment rate in the country and the Murphy administration still does not understand the importance of using disaster relief funds. pandemic to fix the broken unemployment system and prevent an unnecessary tax hike on struggling employers.
Murphy has previously used federal COVID-19 relief funds to help small businesses struggling with the pandemic, help tenants and landlords pay rent and utilities, expand child care, increase funding for the special education, among other plans.
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