Legislative, business, higher education and union leaders on Monday reiterated their support for a bond package for school safety and vocational training programs that’ll be on the ballot in November.
The ballot question has widespread, bipartisan support among the state’s politerati – Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sens. Vin Gopal and Steve Oroho spoke on behalf of the program, as did Bill Mullen, president of the powerful New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council – it’s possible voters won’t see past the price tag.
“The building trades in New Jersey, we spend over $100 million of our money to train people,” Mullen said. “We’ve been training people for over 100 years, and it’s time that vocational training has expanded into manufacturing, into other avenues so people can make a middle class living.”
The proposal devotes a total of $500 million in bonds, with the lion’s share – $350 million – going to vocational schools and school security, though it’s not clear how much is devoted to each.
An earlier version of the ordinance called for $1 billion in bonds, but Gov. Phil Murphy, who supports the pared-down version, conditionally vetoed it in August over concerns about the size of the bond program.
The program doesn’t appear to have any institutional opponents, but while that may be the case, voters are the ones that will decide whether the program goes through.
So, New Jersey’s political leaders are asking voters to approve $500 million in borrowing months after the state approved a tax hike. Though those hikes largely avoided hitting New Jersey families directly, voters may still prove wary in approving more spending over fears that such spending will further increase the state’s already large debt service payments.
Unions are pushing their members to vote in favor of the program, but senators weren’t aware of any mass media campaign to push voters in general to back the bonds.
“I think the weight of things covered speak for themselves in some respect,” Coughlin said.