By Assemblyman Joseph Vas
As President Barack Obama completes his first 100 days in office, we are beginning to see the fruits of his labor. His crowning achievement is the passage of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Each week we learn of more federal dollars coming back to our state and benefiting our schools, our infrastructure, and our local communities.
On the education front, thus far, New Jersey has been allocated $891 million for schools and colleges. Specifically, the State will earmark $238 million for services for low-income children and $371 million for special education students over the next two years.
The state will receive $652 million for road, bridge, and associated transportation projects. In Perth Amboy, $800,000 will be allocated to accelerate design work for a Route 440 Bridge deck replacement. In Woodbridge, $3.1 million will be allocated to construct a Smith Street Bridge deck crossing over Route 440.
Our local police departments will benefit as well. Through the Justice Assistance Grant Program, Carteret will receive $36,705, Perth Amboy will receive $128,140, Sayreville will receive $40,180, and Woodbridge will receive $173,098.
Additionally, the federal stimulus package delineates 45 separate forms of much needed tax relief for New Jersey citizens and businesses. Examples include: a sales tax deduction for vehicle purchases, a temporary suspension of taxation of unemployment benefits and a first-time homebuyers credit. Working Americans ought to know about the “Making Work Pay Credit.” For 2009 and 2010, working individuals would receive a refundable tax credit of up to $400 and $800 for working families. About 3.2 million taxpayers in New Jersey are estimated to benefit from this program.
I encourage you to visit www.nj.gov/recovery/ to witness how federal stimulus dollars are being utilized here in the Garden State.
In the Statehouse, Legislators are grappling with Governor’s proposed $29.8 billion FY2010 budget. Due to the recession, we have fallen victim to plunging state revenue. The reality of the situation calls for cutting dozens of programs and services that we have come to appreciate. In order to more fairly analyze Governor’s budget, select members of the Legislature have been holding hearings with each department to more wisely identify ways to balance the budget. Make no mistake, our decisions will not be made lightly. The final budget will be voted upon by the State Legislature by June 30th.
As currently proposed, nearly every agency will experience a budget cut. However, the Department of Agriculture will receive additional money to support hunger and school lunch programs. According to the proposal, more students will qualify for free or low-cost lunches. Also, food banks would receive additional state assistance because of an increasing demand. Another proposed spending increase will come in the form of $25 million for preschool expansion.
Too often we make progress so quickly that it becomes difficult for government to keep a constant tally of where the public stands on the issues of the day. In an effort to combat the disconnect, my legislative office is conducting a series of surveys that will serve as our vehicle of better understanding your needs as residents of the 19th Legislative District. Survey questions consist of local, state, and national issues such as immigration reform, energy independence, public education, and more. In an effort to remain “green,” the survey will only be conducted by e-mail.
Though we have already begun our second of four surveys, we are seeking more participants. If you would like to participate in the survey, please contact my office at AsmVas@njleg.org. It is our hope that your ideas will initiate and facilitate action at all levels of government.
As always, should you have any questions, comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my district office at 276 Hobart Street, Perth Amboy, (732) 324-5955 or via e-mail at AsmVas@njleg.org.