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Senate President Steve Sweeney. Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Sweeney slams Murphy on school funding

Senate President says Murphy is ‘playing politics’

By David Wildstein, November 26 2019 3:05 pm

The latest fight between state government’s most powerful Democrats is over education funding, with Senate President Steve Sweeney accusing Gov. Phil Murphy of playing politics over what he called a $1 billion tax hike that doesn’t help local school districts.

“It is disappointing to see the Governor demagogue the critical issues of school funding and property tax fairness in order to call for an unrelated $1 billion increase in the sales tax and the millionaire’s tax,” said Sweeney.

Sweeney said it was inexcusable that  Murphy refused to acknowledge his plan “wouldn’t put a penny into over-funded districts under the school funding bill he signed into law 15 months ago.”

“Any increase in state funding for schools would go to the overwhelming majority of school districts that are underfunded by more than $1.7 billion, not to the Adjustment Aid districts that would be helped by my plan for cap relief,” Sweeney said.

Late last week, the senate president said he will introduce a cap relief bill to help school districts facing adjustment aid cuts.

“Any increase in state funding for schools would go to the overwhelming majority of school districts that are underfunded by more than $1.7 billion, not to the Adjustment Aid districts that would be helped by my plan for cap relief.”

According to Sweeney, 31 onetime Abbott districts may now exceed the 2% cap if they are spending below suitable levels under a new signed by Murphy.

“We need to ensure that students do not suffer in districts that are now taking cuts after receiving more than their fair share of state aid for more than a decade,” Sweeney said. “The new law will give school boards in these districts the ability to make up for past years when they had no incentive to provide their Local Fair Share because the Adjustment Aid windfall they were getting gave them no reason to do so.”

“We do not support the Senate President’s plan to raise property taxes,” said Mahen Gunaratna, a spokesman for Murphy.

This story was updated at 5:09 PM.

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