Dems work on restoring aid to New Jersey’s poorest cities

Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature are hoping a new plan paves the way for getting more money to the state’s poorest cities.

A bill introduced in both houses of the Legislature would restore $139 million in “transitional aid” for 11 financially distressed communities including Camden, Trenton, and Paterson.

Gov. Chris Christie cited the lack of a provision for state oversight when he slashed the aid earlier this year.

To deal with the governor’s concerns, Senate President Steve Sweeney said the Democrats’ bill adds $1.5 million to cover the cost of that oversight.

“He’s already cut this down significantly and these communities are suffering. We just didn’t think it was fair to take an additional $1.5 million more away from them,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney, who said he wants the Senate to pass the measure in mid-December, called it a reasonable compromise that he hopes the governor will sign.

If cities don’t get that aid by the start of 2012, New Jersey League of Municipalities Executive Director Bill Dressel said they will have cash-flow problems and may have to make additional layoffs.

“They’ll be looking at temporary financing. They’ll be looking at possible layoffs,” Dressel said. “Keep in mind that many of these communities have already cut back their emergency services to the point that any further cuts will mean severe problems as it relates to public safety.”

Dressel is urging both houses of the Legislature to act quickly to approve the aid bill.

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