Leaders Highlight Recent Legislation as Responsible, Fair, Historic

(TRENTON) – In a less than three-week span beginning June 30, Assembly Democrats’ have spearheaded efforts to ensure the State can and will recover from the public health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaker Craig Coughlin, Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, Assembly Budget Committee Chair Eliana Pintor Marin, Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair John Burzichelli, Speaker Pro Tempore Gordon Johnson and Assembly Housing Committee Chair Benjie Wimberly said Assembly Democrats fully realize the fiscal carnage spawned by the ongoing coronavirus public health emergency.

Thursday, Democrat-sponsored legislation (A-4175) was approved by the full Assembly to give the State the authority to borrow funds through the federal government to help the State through the unique challenges and the significant revenue loss the coronavirus public health emergency has caused. Thursday, the measure was signed into law by the Governor.

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“We took the necessary next step to enable the borrowing through passage of the ‘COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act,’” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “The coronavirus pandemic represents the greatest public health and economic challenge we have faced since the Great Depression, nearly a century ago. Our residents face record unemployment, loss of business and difficulty in paying rents and mortgages. Hard working New Jerseyans are struggling to make ends meet. Furthermore, the State Treasurer estimates the revenue loss in excess of $10 billion. It’s an economic tsunami that requires an extraordinary action.”

The Majority Leader is in lockstep with the Speaker.

“New Jersey’s nine million residents were our only concern Thursday,” said Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “Staving off property tax increases, supporting education for our children and helping local governments and businesses recover was our only objective with this law. Securing this funding will help the State meets its obligations to our schools, higher education institutions, municipalities, hospitals and, most importantly, to residents who are struggling as a result of the effects of the pandemic.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have a devastating impact on the State’s economy,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex), sponsor of the COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act. “The impact of COVID-19 on our economy, budget and finances is unpredictable and changing rapidly. The ‘New Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act’ authorizes the State to issue State general obligation bonds to help address the fiscal crisis caused by this pandemic. We do not make this decision lightly. The historic nature of the current pandemic has led to this unprecedented last resort due to the current fiscal crisis.”

On June 29, the full Assembly today voted to approve legislation (A-3) to extend the State spending authority by three months and make Fiscal Year 2020 supplemental appropriations of $7.7 billion in State funds and $4.5 billion in federal funds. This was an extraordinary move brought on by unparalleled circumstances. The Governor signed the bill into law the following day.

“We produced a ‘bare bones’ spending plan because that is what was necessary,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem), a sponsor of the bill along with Pintor Marin. “This pandemic has forced the residents of this state to make some very difficult choices. The government will have to do the same, both now and again in October. This plan ensures a balanced spending for the State and it does that without tax increases. This spending plan also includes over $4 billion in cuts.”

“Assembly Democrats displayed what bold leadership looks like in a fiscal crisis,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), a member of the Assembly Budget Committee. “This reconciliation plan is disciplined, fair and responsible given the economic calamity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Difficult decisions had to be made and we made them. Quite frankly, this is a spending plan that everyone should have voted for, including our friends on the other side of the aisle.”

Also on June 29, the full Assembly approved a Democrat-sponsored measure (A-20), designed to provide much-needed Chapter 78 relief for public education employees in New Jersey. Governor Murphy signed the legislation into on July 1.

“Public education employees are essential to New Jersey and we value their contributions,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic), who is also Joint Recreation Coordinator for Paterson Public Schools. “This new law will restore fairness to Chapter 78 health benefit contributions and provide needed relief to New Jersey taxpayers. After months of work with Senate President Sweeney, the NJEA and the Governor’s Office we were pleased to move the bill forward. By providing new, more affordable health plan options and including a guaranteed floor of savings, this bill is without question a win-win.”

The Speaker and Majority Leader also pointed out the Democrat-controlled Assembly has advanced over 40 COVID-19 response bills that have been signed into law since mid-March.

“We never stopped doing the ‘people’s work,’” said the Speaker. “We refused to allow the coronavirus pandemic to prevent us from doing the job we were elected to do on behalf of our constituents. I thank Chairwoman Pintor Marin and the entire budget committee for working tirelessly to produce the fair and responsible three-month spending plan. I, along with the Assembly Democratic Leadership team have already begun working with the Chairwoman on the Fiscal Year 2021 State Budget which must be adopted by October 1.”

“These unpredictable and frightening times presented us with a challenge to step up and lead rather than hit the pause button on the important work of the Assembly,” said the Majority Leader. “I am very proud of what we have accomplished thus far during the public health emergency. I am also fully aware that there much more we need to do.”