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.
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.
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