This week, both the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee continued to hear testimony from several departments regarding FY2023 funding. Assembly Budget Committee heard from the Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit, Motor Vehicle Commission, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and Department of Children and Families. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee heard from Higher Educational Services, Department of Health, Department of Law and Public Safety, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit, Motor Vehicle Commission, and Department of Agriculture.
Department of Transportation
The Department of Transportation (NJDOT). Commissioner of Transportation Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti provided the Department’s testimony focused on capital programs, staff augmentation, local aid, Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), investments, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and climate resiliency.
Last year NJDOT was able to complete the state’s largest Capital Program to date, which resulted in over $1.6 billion in consultant and construction awards. It is estimated that the FY2022 Capital Program has awarded 66 construction contracts valued at $486.8 million, and the Commissioner expects that NJDOT will reach its goal of awarding 112 contracts equaling approximately $900 million. In addition, there have been 113 consultant selections valued at nearly $283.9 this year, and 40 to 50 additional selections are expected to keep the NJDOT’s project pipeline moving through the end of the year.
The Commissioner noted that 95% of New Jersey’s municipalities received Municipal Aid grants in FY22. With extra funding for Grants-in-Aid programs and Pedestrian Safety this year, NJDOT was able to grant $5.9 million for Bikeway projects; $8.6 million in Safe Streets to Transit grants, and $3.8 million in Transit Village grants. The Commissioner also mentioned that since 2018, the Division of Local Aid and Economic Development has processed 4,500 grant applications totaling more than $2.5 billion and serves approximately 1,000 customers per month through the Local Aid Resource Center website.
The Commissioner also noted that the State Transportation Fund, supported by the gas tax, typically provides $2 billion annually for the NJDOT and NJ Transit. The Transportation Trust Fund is projected to end FY22 with over $1 billion.
The Commissioner also noted that New Jersey is expected to receive $12.2 billion over five years for transportation projects from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. $8.1 billion will be received by NJDOT and $4.1 billion by NJ Transit. NJ DOT's portion includes $6.9 billion for federal highway programs and $1.14 billion specifically for bridge replacement and repairs over five years. In addition, under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, New Jersey expects to receive approximately $104 million, over five years, to support the expansion of the Electric Vehicle charging network.
Department of Law and Public Safety
Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin provided the Department of Law and Public Safety testimony highlighting the department’s efforts combating gun violence and violent crime, advancing racial justice and equity, strengthening community-police relations, and protecting the rights of New Jersey’s residents in court.
Acting Attorney General Platkin highlighted the state's efforts to reduce gun violence. In collaboration with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the state’s 21 County Prosecutors, and the New Jersey State Police the state created a Gun Violence Reduction Task Force. The state also organized the largest gun buyback events in New Jersey’s history, collecting nearly 4,000 firearms across 12 counties. In addition, the state has had successful operations targeting gang members, resulting in the removal of illegal guns and drugs from communities.
Governor Murphy’s proposed budget recommends $10 million in community-based violence intervention funds to help combat violence in New Jersey and Governor Murphy added another $10 million to help develop license plate recognition technology. In addition, the Attorney General's office along with the New Jersey State Police recently announced the expansion of the Auto Theft Task Force.
Acting Attorney General Platkin also highlighted that the Attorney General's office has increased efforts to promote equity for underserved communities. The Office has issued a directive that comprehensively incorporates racial justice into the office's civil enforcement priorities; codified rules on discrimination and harassment that, if adopted, would apply to over 720,000 licensees overseen by 51 professional and occupational board; and signed a two-year initiative that focuses on initial and repeat youth involvement in the justice system.
The Acting Attorney General noted that the office has promoted policing policy that enhances police-community trust and ensures that law enforcement officers have the tools they need to do their jobs safely. With the help of local elected officials, clergy, and mental health advocates the Department of Law and Public Safety was able to launch a pilot program (ARRIVE Together) that pairs a State Trooper with a certified mental health screener to respond to calls that involve a behavior crisis or mental health incident.
The Acting Attorney General also noted that all 21 counties in New Jersey and 241 municipalities joined the State in signing onto the nationwide settlement agreements with Johnson and Johnson and the country’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors (McKesson, Cardinal Health & Amerisource Bergen) to resolve claims involving their roles in the opioid crisis. As a result, New Jersey is estimated to receive settlements of over $641 million. These funds will be used for state and local programs focused on treatment, prevention, and other data-driven strategies to end the opioid epidemic.
Department of Labor and Workforce Development
Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo of the Department of Labor gave testimony to the Assembly Budget Committee. The Commissioner touched upon how last year New Jersey’s unemployment rate was 7.7% and is down to 4.2% this year. He also noted that while 96% of private sector employment has recovered, recovery measures just 56% for the public sector in New Jersey and nationally.
The Commissioner discussed the department’s shift in attention to those with outstanding issues and modernizing its systems. This includes calling on Congress for Unemployment Insurance (UI) policy reform at the national level and the local launch of a new initial claim application simplified from the last version.
Finally, the Commissioner praised career employees, who approved claims and in a little over two years paid out almost $38 billion in benefits to over 1.6 million New Jerseyans–almost an entire year’s state budget.
Next week both the Assembly Budget Committee and Senate Budget Committee will host several different departmental hearings. For the full legislative calendar please visit New Jersey’s legislative website.
Contact: Andrew LaFevre, Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org , 609-695-3481 ext. 116