Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senator Paul Sarlo and Senator Dawn Marie Addiego increasing the income tax deduction available to veterans from $3,000 to $6,000, has been signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.
“The men and women who served our country in the military deserve any extra support that can be provided in recognition of their sacrifices,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen), the Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “Veterans should not be left to struggle with finances and affordability if we are able to help. This will double their tax deduction, providing some financial relief in recognition of their service to our country.”
The law, S-3960, will double the gross income tax deduction available to veterans from $3,000 to $6,000.
“New Jersey is home to thousands of veterans, men and women who have dedicated years to this nation,” said Senator Addiego (D-Atlantic/Burlington/Camden). “All too often, however, they come home with little support and little to show for it. For quite some time I have been pushing for a small tax deduction as recognition of their sacrifice. It really is the least we can do as a state and I am glad we are doubling it this year.”
Veterans who are honorably discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, a reserve component, or the National Guard of NJ in a will be eligible to deduct $6,000 from their income when calculating their State gross income tax liability.
Sent To Governor after Senate Concurrence with Assembly Amendments
TRENTON – The Senate today approved reform legislation authored by Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) that will require real-time auditing of billions of dollars in state health insurance claims to prevent overpayments.
The bill, S-3042, also will provide the state with full access to healthcare claims data that the state’s health insurers has withheld as proprietary – data that the state needs to build its own database to analyze healthcare costs and develop future savings.
“This legislation will provide significant cost savings on healthcare costs by assuring real time auditing of the billions of dollars we pay out in claims every year for current and retired teachers and state, county and municipal government employees, and it will do so while providing savings both to public employees and to taxpayers,” said Senator Sarlo.
Previously approved by the Senate, today’s vote concurred with Assembly amendments. The measure now goes to the governor.
“I have been pushing for a bifurcated system with an independent Third Party Administrator that would clearly separate the claims adjudication process from the health insurance provider network. This is the system that was recommended by the bipartisan Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup that I co-chaired and by the Governor’s task force on healthcare reform. The Administration, however, was only willing to go as far as a real-time third party audit, so that is what we did.”
By gaining full access to claims data that the health insurance provider networks had previously deemed proprietary, the state government will have a chance to fully analyze the principal drivers of healthcare costs and create a better plan design that will provide cost savings year after year.
“One of the most important provisions of this bill is that it will guarantee that the state will have ownership and access to all health insurance claims data,” Senator Sarlo said. “As both Treasury and the public employee unions have recognized, this data is vital to analyzing healthcare costs and redesigning our public employee and retiree healthcare system in future years to maximize savings.”
The legislation is patterned after the Pharmacy Benefits Manager program that the Legislature created in 2016 that saved hundreds of millions of dollars by providing real -time auditing of pharmaceutical bills.
Trenton – Students from underserved communities that are underrepresented in STEM fields would be provided with greater educational opportunities to prepare themselves for New Jersey’s innovation economy through a new program created by legislation authored by Senator Paul Sarlo and Senator Troy Singleton that was approved by the Senate today.
The bill, S-3685, would create the “ACES” scholarship program to broaden opportunities by “Accessing Careers in Engineering and Science.”
“Expanding opportunities for underserved students to gain the knowledge and skills in science and technology will help advance New Jersey’s innovation economy,” said Senator Sarlo, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee. “The ACES program will provide exposure to science and technology disciplines with an emphasis on hands-on experience. It will open doors of opportunity where they can excel.”
The innovative program would be modelled after a successful effort at the Stevens Institute of Technology. In its first year, Stevens experienced a 60 percent increase in underrepresented minority participation in precollege STEM summer programs.
“Exposure to the sciences and technology through STEM programs will set this generation up for success in the future,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “However, we must ensure that this opportunity exists for all of our students, especially those who have been traditionally underrepresented in this field. By creating the ACES program for these high school students, we are expanding their access to the innovation economy.”
Students who participate would be required to be a member of an underserved community or a member of a group that is underrepresented in the STEM fields. An initial investment of $750,000 and rising to $2.5 million annually after four years, matched with institution and private sector funding, the program would produce 200 high school students and 100 college graduates per year.
The ACES Program would consist of a residential pre-college summer program for selected high school students who attend a partner high school and an undergraduate ACES Scholar program.
Under the bill, the Secretary of Higher Education would select up to seven public or independent research universities in New Jersey.
The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 37-0.
Sarlo: NJ Transit Funding Increase Should Be Well Planned, Put an End to ‘Diversion Funding’
TRENTON – Senator Paul Sarlo, the chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, said today that he will work with transportation officials and legislative leaders on well planned ways to provide increased support for NJ Transit, but supports the efforts to end the “diversion funding” that has shifted money intended for other transportation purposes to shore up Transit’s budget.
“If NJ Transit needs more state funding to improve its service and make capital improvements, the Transportation Commissioner should work with legislative leaders on a plan for a dedicated source of funding that makes sure the money is used effectively,” said Senator Sarlo, the chair of the budget committee and authored the renewed Transportation Trust Fund. “I support the administration’s request for an additional $25 million but I also applaud them for phasing out the practice of diverting money from the New Jersey Turnpike. It’s a bad habit that shortchanges other transportation needs and leaves NJ Transit with unpredictable funding.”
Senator Sarlo, an engineer with decades of experience in the transportation construction industry, has long been an outspoken opponent of diverting money from different state transportation agencies. The Transportation Commissioner, who also chairs the boards of NJ Transit and the Turnpike Authority, said the road agency needs the money after years of diversions.
“There is no appetite for any tax increase this year, but if revenue growth produces enough additional funding we can consider more aid for NJ Transit,” said Senator Sarlo. “Beyond that, I urge the Commissioner of Transportation to work with legislative leaders over the next two years to develop a legislatively dedicated funding source for NJ Transit, even if that requires dedicating it from another transportation source.”
New Jersey has had a medical marijuana program in place since 2010, but up until recently it was not as expansive as it should be in order to be available to those in need. While over the past 18 months the medical cannabis program has more than doubled, offering relief to New Jerseyans fighting cancer, suffering from epilepsy and PTSD, and living with various other health conditions, we need to do more.
The Murphy administration has made significant strides, but it cannot do it alone and it can’t be fully accomplished by administrative or executive actions. If the program is going to continue to grow and improve the quality of life for patients across the state, it should be expanded through statute. The Legislature can and should act to advance this industry in the state with legislation that would expand the program; we should not tie its fate to the recreational marijuana bill.
We should move forward with the bill that would expand the medical marijuana program so that its full potential can be realized while the debate and discussion about legalizing adult-use cannabis continues. Although I personally have not been convinced that recreational marijuana is right for our state today, I am convinced that there is enough support in the Legislature for legislation to expand the medical marijuana program on its own merit.
NJ Health Commissioner, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, speaks at Hackensack University Medical Center about medical marijuana. Wednesday, July 11, 2018 (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)
Medical cannabis has the potential to transform the way we treat physical and mental illness. Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for more than 3,000 years, and there is a growing body of scientific research documenting its safety and effectiveness. It has been found to be a beneficial course of treatment for a long list of medical problems, especially for long-term or lifelong illnesses. For people suffering from chronic pain, cannabis offers relief without the negative side effects or highly addictive properties of opioids. Allowing cannabis as an alternative pain reliever could help address the opioid crisis in the state.
We must ensure that patients’ access is not hindered by unreasonably long processing times and that we are open to adding new eligible conditions as credible research arises. Ensuring ease of access for those prescribed medical cannabis is crucial. Dispensaries closely monitor the quantities and strains given to patients, making sure the product is being used as intended and providing the intended result. Controlling these factors is key to cannabis functioning as an effective form of treatment.
Paul Sarlo (Photo: Mitsu Yasukawa/Staff photographer)
Some argue that there is not enough research on the negative and positive effects of medical cannabis, but there is little opportunity for doctors to engage in cannabis research because of state and federal laws. Allowing clinical research in the state of New Jersey has the potential to put us at the forefront, drawing doctors from up and down the East Coast to our state. We have some of the best institutions of higher education in the country; we should allow their medical students to engage in this groundbreaking research.
The medical marijuana bill under consideration allows physicians and other health care providers to prescribe cannabis for any diagnosed condition, not just those already prescribed by law or state policy. It would also expand access to designated caregivers, including those in hospitals or nursing homes, substantially increase the amount patients could obtain, allow terminally ill patients unlimited amounts and provide new legal protections for participants. The bill would allow physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize patients for medical cannabis.
For the cancer patient struggling to eat, for the terminally ill in constant pain, for all those suffering with conditions cannabis can help, we must make this program the best it can possibly be — and this can only be fully realized through legislation.
Paul Sarlo, a Democrat, represents the 36th Legislative District in the New Jersey state Senate, where he is the deputy majority leader and chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.
TRENTON – Senator Paul Sarlo, the chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement today after the committee heard from the Office of Legislative Services and the State Treasurer on the fiscal and economic conditions that will shape the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget plan:
“This is a pivotal time for public finances in New Jersey, which makes our work on the state budget as important as ever. We face both immediate and long-term fiscal challenges that can no longer be ignored or deferred.
“There are structural financial problems that, left unaddressed, threaten to choke-off our ability to support vital services and invest in future opportunities. We can make real and lasting progress on these challenges in the upcoming budget by making cost-cutting reforms that will produce substantial savings and efficiencies.
“Current economic conditions present us with a high degree of uncertainty for state revenues, especially for the volatile and unpredictable income tax. The shortfall of income tax revenue, coupled with a reliance on a surge in April, present us with unknown economic factors that can’t be ignored. We don’t want a hoped-for ‘April surprise’ to become a springtime disappointment.
“I am also concerned that we are not prepared for a recession or even a substantial economic slowdown. A sizeable surplus will help, but the millionaires’ tax could make economic and fiscal conditions worse. An added surcharge on high income earners going into an economic slowdown is unreliable and likely counterproductive.
“The Governor has given us a budget plan that we can work with and I welcome his willingness to work cooperatively with the Legislature, including additional cost saving measures. It is now the Legislature’s responsibility to give the proposal a thorough review and put in place a fiscally responsible budget for the upcoming year.”
SCHEDULE OF COMMITTEE MEETINGS FOR FY 2020
March 29, 2019)
All departmental budget meetings listed below will be
held in Committee Room 4, 1st Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ
MARCH 21, 2019
PUBLIC HEARING at New Jersey Institute of Technology, Campus
Center Atrium, 150 Bleeker Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102
MARCH 28, 2019
PUBLIC HEARING at Salem Community College, 460 Hollywood Avenue,
Carney’s Point, New Jersey 08069
APRIL 2, 2019
Budget Overview and Revenue
Forecast (Office of Legislative Services)
Budget Overview (State
*APRIL 4, 2019
Department of Labor and
Department of Environmental
APRIL 9, 2019
Department of Law and Public
APRIL 11, 2019
Department of Health
Corrections/State Parole Board
APRIL 16, 2019
Department of Children and
Department of Military and
APRIL 18, 2019
Education/Schools Development Authority
Review of Out-Of-Network
Department of Banking and
MAY 2, 2019
Department of Community
Department of Human
Department of State
MAY 9, 2019
Higher Educational Services
Transportation/New Jersey Transit/Motor Vehicle Commission
MAY 14, 2019
Revenue Update (Office of
Revenue Update (State
Department of the Treasury and
New Jersey Economic
New Jersey Board of Public
Carney’s Point – Senate President Steve Sweeney joined with Senator Paul Sarlo, the chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, for a public hearing on the budget plan for New Jersey for the coming fiscal year. The day-long session by the budget committee, held at Salem Community College, included the participation of more than 70 individuals, groups and organizations who spoke to the needs and priorities for the state’s FY2020 spending plan for the upcoming year.
“Today’s public hearing provided a forum for a broad cross section of individuals and organizations to give voice to the budget priorities that they believe are important to New Jersey,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “We have to continue to make the reforms that will allow for investments that address the needs of the people, that make New Jersey a more affordable place to live and that ensure that government operates efficiently and effectively.”
This was the second public hearing by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee as the panel engages in a full review of the spending proposal over the next few months. The schedule includes departmental hearings and presentations on state revenues and economic conditions by the Office of Legislative Services and the State Treasurer.
“It is more important than ever that we find ways to capture savings and reduce costs so that we have the resources to support the state’s immediate and long-term priorities,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen). “We want to make effective investments to expand economic opportunities at the same time, we have to hold down costs and be fully aware of the impact on taxpayers.”
The public participants spoke about the need for continued increases in education aid, Pre-K, higher education, the responsible management of the pension system, support for transportation infrastructure, job training programs and services that care for the most vulnerable.
“The Governor’s budget proposal includes some of the cost-saving initiatives that we identified to address the state’s chronic fiscal problems and supports many of our shared priorities,” said Senator Sarlo. “It is now the Legislature’s responsibility to give the proposal a thorough review and put in place a fiscally responsible plan for the upcoming year.”
The budget committee’s next session on Tuesday, April 2, in Trenton, will have the State Treasurer and Office of Legislative Services provide an overview of the budget as well as revenue forecasts.