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February 26, 2015
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State Budget Highlights for Children and Families
Governor Christie unveiled his proposed FY 2016 budget on Tuesday. Details are still sparse and will emerge in the coming weeks. The budget will be debated in the state Legislature over the next few months. Earlier this week, a Superior Court judge ordered the Christie Administration to fund the state pension system an additional $1.57 billion in the current fiscal year. Christie has said he will appeal the ruling. It is uncertain at this point whether this will have an impact on the proposed budget. The Legislature must adopt a final budget by June 30. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

The following is what we know so far.

State Aid to Schools
The Governor recommended total school aid of $12 billion --  a nearly $1 billion increase. Most of that additional money – about $400 million – is earmarked for the teacher’s pension fund, while $45 million would pay for health care costs for retired teachers. The portion that funds actual education costs – about $9 million -- would increase $4.6 million, under the Governor’s proposed spending plan. This $9 billion represents almost 27 percent of the $33.8 billion proposed budget.

The $9 billion in school aid includes $655.5 million to fund preschool for districts with existing programs. This is a $2.7 million increase over FY 2015.

School Breakfast
New Jersey school districts are expected to receive an additional $44.4 million in federal funding to feed breakfast to hungry students. In state fiscal year 2011, prior to the launch of the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, which ACNJ co-leads, New Jersey collected about $47.6 million in federal funds for school breakfast. That is expected to increase to $92 million in the coming fiscal year – a 93 percent increase.

This is the result of schools serving more children that all-important morning meal. The NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, a coalition of anti-hunger and education advocates, state agencies and national organizations, has succeeded in convincing more districts to serve breakfast during the first few minutes of the school day, rather than before school when students have not yet arrived.
Known as “breakfast after the bell,” this approach significantly increases student participation in this federally-funded child nutrition program. This is great news for New Jersey students, schools and the communities they serve. And it means that New Jersey is bringing back more of the federal dollars we already send to Washington, while addressing childhood hunger -- a major barrier to learning.

NJ FamilyCare
The budget summary issued Tuesday reports that 390,000 previously uninsured New Jersey residents are now covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The FY 2016 budget also recommends $45 million more in state and federal funds to increase reimbursement rates for certain primary and specialty care services offered through NJ FamilyCare. The rate increase will be effective January 2016.

Earned Income Tax Credit
The governor’s budget does not recommend restoring the FY 2011 cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit, which reduced the amount of state refunds low-income workers receive.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey will continue to comb budget documents for more details. We will let you know when public hearings on the budget are scheduled. Please be on the lookout for future updates and opportunities to influence the budget process.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

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