New Jersey Democrats unveil economic investment plan

 New Jersey Senate Democrats announce their economic investment plan at Statehouse news conference Monday.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Senate Democrats announce their economic investment plan at Statehouse news conference Monday.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

After seven weeks of public forums, Democrats in the New Jersey Senate have announced an economic investment plan, but they don’t plan to introduce legislation to implement it until the start of the new legislative session in January.

 

One recommendation is establishing a five-year pilot program allowing the private sector to pay for expanding early childhood education — and then receive a portion of the state savings from that investment, said Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex.

“It allows for programs to really develop more quickly because the funding is there, and certainly, later on, what we can look for is we will save money because we won’t have to have early-intervention programs and classification and wrap-around services because we did the work early on,” she said Monday during a Statehouse news conference.

Another proposal calls for replacing the New Jersey Stars Program with an honor scholars program to provide increased financial aid to top-performing high school students to attend community college, according to Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson.

“And, for the first time. we’re going to provide high school students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class with a $6,000 per year grant to attend a public institution in New Jersey,” she said.

Sen. Paul Sarlo said another recommendation is a three-year phase-in of the exemption on retirement income to $100,000.

“There will be a fiscal impact over the three years,” he said. “However, they’re going to use their disposal income to remain here. There’s sale tax, property taxes, and other things here that going to be spending money in the state to offset any loss of revenue from these exemptions.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney said he believes the plan’s estimated $174 million cost could be covered by the projected increase in state revenues as the economy improves.

“People say you can’t rely on growth,” Sweeney said. “That’s what you have to rely on in order to run a government. When we had the recession we took the hits, we cut the budgets. We’re growing again.”

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