February 23, 2012
Governor Christie's Proposed FY 2013
Budget Highlights for Children and Families
Governor Christie unveiled his proposed FY 2013 budget on Feb. 21, 2012. 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. The Legislature must adopt a final budget by June 30. Changes could occur during that time. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.
Here is what we know so far.
Consolidating Children’s Services
As part of the Governor’s initiative for people with disabilities or mental health needs, the budget reorganizes the Division of Child Behavioral Health Services into an expanded Division of Child Integrated System of Care Services. The goal is to consolidate services for children with disabilities and children with addictions into this agency, which currently provides mental and behavioral services.
Under the plan, this division, housed in the Department of Children and Families, would serve children under 18 who were previously helped through the Divisions of Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health and Addiction Services, both housed in the Department of Human Services. These divisions would continue to serve adults. The plan calls for phasing in services for youth ages 18 to 21 in subsequent years.
In addition, the Division of Youth and Family Services would become the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. This division would continue to focus on child protection and providing children with safe, permanent homes.
DCF officials have recently announced changes in the way they plan to handle cases in which a family needs support but the child is not being abused or neglected. Dollars that were previously allocated to a pilot program that diverted these families to community agencies will be used to fund family success centers in the same communities. Family success centers provide an array of supportive services to struggling families.
The department’s total FY 2013 proposed budget is $1.56 billion, an increase of $36 million (2.4%) over the FY 2012 adjusted appropriation of $1.24 billion. No details are yet available for how this additional money would be spent.
Increases for Preschool
As part of the overall $212.5 million recommended increase for aid to schools, the proposal includes a $14.6 million increase (2.4%) in the preschool aid. This money would reportedly fund increased enrollment in 35 districts now receiving preschool aid and cost-of-living increases in some other districts that have public preschool. No new dollars for preschool expansion are proposed.
State Cuts to Child Care
The budget would cut funding for center-based child care by $878,000. No details are available yet on exactly how this might affect families and/or child care services. Last fiscal year, the state projected spending $69.8 million on child care vouchers for low-income families. About 8,000 New Jersey families are on a waiting list for child care assistance.
Children's Health Insurance Steady
The Governor’s proposed budget does not indicate any changes in state funding for NJ FamilyCare, the state's free- or low-cost health coverage. The budget would continue to support the program’s income eligibility for children at 350 percent of the federal poverty level – one of the nation’s most generous levels. For FY 2013, the plan is to spend roughly $1 billion in state and federal funds for health coverage for about 162,000 children and 192,600 adults. This appears to be roughly the same level as last year. This does not include children and adults enrolled in Medicaid.
Restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit
The proposed budget would restore cuts made to this tax credit for low-income workers. While no specific dollar increases are yet indicated, the plan promises to increase the amount of money workers receive from 20 to 25 percent of the amount received under the federal tax credit. According to the budget plan, the average eligible family would receive a $550 annual benefit when fully phased in. It is unclear how much of an increase this would be over last year’s credit.
Under the proposal, FY 2013 aid to senior public institutions will increase by $80.1 million, or 6% from FY 2012. Similarly, total student financial assistance will increase by $28.4 million (7.8%) However, aid to county colleges will experience an 0.3% decrease of $695,000 in FY2013.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey will continue to comb budget documents for more details. Watch for future updates.