New Jersey Assembly Seeks to Pass Emergency Aid Bill for Distressed Cities

New Jersey Assembly lawmakers plan to pass a bill today that would restore $139 million of transitional aid for 11 cities in fiscal distress, including six with barely enough cash to last the month.

The Democratic-sponsored legislation would be posted as an emergency measure on the Assembly floor, bypassing the usual committee hearings. The move needs support from three-quarters of the chamber’s 80 members, according to legislative rules.

Democrats control the Assembly 47-33. Republicans will agree to grant an emergency hearing on the bill, Alex DeCroce, the chamber’s Republican leader, said in a Statehouse interview.

“It’s something we’re all comfortable with,” said DeCroce, who is from Parsippany. “It’s long overdue.”

Governor Chris Christie, a first-term Republican, had reduced transitional aid to $10 million in the $29.7 billion budget he signed in June. He then agreed to increase the amount to $139 million in a supplemental spending bill as long as his administration got more power over it.

The Democrats’ bill adds $1.5 million for the cost of oversight, Tom Hester, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, an East Orange Democrat, said by e-mail. Christie’s measure took that cost out of the total pool for the cities. Michael Drewniak, a spokesman, declined to say immediately whether the governor would support the $1.5 million increase.

‘Reasonable Compromise’

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, said he expects his house to give final approval to the transitional aid measure by Dec. 15. “I think this is a very reasonable compromise,” he said during a brief interview.

Six of the 11 cities waiting for their share of the aid operate on a calendar-year basis, giving them less than a month to make their cash last.

Last week, Terry Reidy, city manager of Asbury Park, said he was considering short-term borrowing to pay municipal workers because he may run out of cash by mid-month. The town of Harrison was shifting money among municipal accounts as it awaited $4.5 million, according to Gabriela Simoes, chief financial officer.

The transitional aid is 13 percent less than the $159 million budgeted last year, the result of Christie’s promise that municipalities will be gradually phased out of the program. Assistance went to 22 municipalities last year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Elise Young in Trenton at eyoung30@bloomberg.net; Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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