November 29, 2011
RE: TRANSITIONAL AID RESTORATION BILLS INTRODUCED
Companion bills have been introduced, which would appropriate $140,500,000 to DCA for transitional Aid to Localities and administrative costs. The bills would also authorize enhanced State oversight of municipalities in the Transitional Aid to Localities Program.
The bills - A-4373 (sponsored by Assemblyman Prieto and Speaker Oliver) and its companion measure, S-3118 (sponsored by Senators Norcross and Sarlo) - need to be passed as soon as possible.
We have urged Speaker Oliver to refer A-4373 to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which is scheduled to meet this Thursday, December 1.
Transitional Aid funds are only available to municipalities anticipating difficulties making payments toward nondiscretionary or critical obligations including, but not limited to, debt service, contractual obligations, and public safety payroll. And it is only available where local officials have “implemented substantive cost reduction strategies.” In addition, municipalities receiving Transitional Aid are required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Division of Local Government Services, acknowledging state controls and committing to compliance therewith.
With municipal budgets hanging in the balance, fast action is needed to resolve this matter. Otherwise massive municipal program and personnel cut-backs could deny our fellow citizens access to vital life-sustaining and life-enhancing services.
By line item veto of the Appropriations Act in June, Governor Christie removed $139 million from this program, reducing the total appropriation to $10 million. On July 18, however, the Governor announced his support for a supplemental appropriation to provide the full $149 million for the program in the State’s current Fiscal Year, provided State administrative expenses were covered and appropriate safeguards, regarding the use of these funds, were guaranteed.
This program is meant to help municipalities deal with extraordinary difficulties. Throughout the appropriations process, the Administration proposed a $149 million appropriation for this purpose. That level of funding was a part of the Governor’s original budget proposal.
We applaud A-4373/S-3118, which advances Governor Christie’s decision to restore $139 million to the Transitional Aid program. And we salute Speaker Oliver, Assemblyman Prieto and Senators Norcross and Sarlo. Further delays in action on this appropriation would serve no public purpose.
Please contact your State Senator and your representatives in the General Assembly and urge them to support A-4373/S-3118. Thank you for your consideration.
Very truly yours,
illiam G. Dressel, Jr.