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New Jersey Senate Committee Passes State Budget

The New Fiscal Year Begins On July 1
New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton (file)

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton (file)

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - A $32.9 billion state budget that includes more money for nursing homes and county colleges but none for expanding preschools or funding women’s health clinics cleared its first legislative hurdle on Thursday.

The Senate Budget Committee advanced the budget bill Thursday after less than 40 minutes of debate. A bipartisan compromise between the Legislature and the governor’s office was reached Wednesday.

“I am pleased we are meeting almost 10 days prior to our constitutional deadline to avoid some of the drama that we’ve incurred here in past years,” Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo said. “I don’t believe anybody should be overly excited that this is a budget that funds all of our priorities. But it is a balanced budget, and it is a product of good-faith negotiations between all the parties.”

Republicans and Democrats voted 11-2 to advance the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1, but not all Democrats were satisfied.

Sens. Loretta Weinberg and Nellie Pou voted `no’ because the budget contains no money to expand preschool or fund women’s health clinics for the third year. There also is no money in the budget to restore a tax credit for the working poor or fund a pilot school voucher program that Gov. Chris Christie supports.

Still, the negotiated budget is similar to the one Christie proposed in February.

The compromise budget does not fulfill the school funding formula for public education, but it does keep 270 districts from receiving less aid than last year by appropriating an additional $7.4 million.

The budget also does not include $12 million for a special U.S. Senate election Christie set for Oct. 16, leading Pou to ask how the governor can fund an election 20 days before his own while failing to fund clinics that provide family planning services and cancer screenings to mostly poor women. Money for the special election likely will come from the Secretary of State’s budget.

The Assembly budget panel is set to consider the budget Thursday afternoon, with final votes in both chambers set for Monday.

The budget then goes to Christie to sign.

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