The state budget process continued Thursday as the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee held its second public hearing on Gov. Phil Murphy’s Fiscal Year 2023 spending proposal.
The hearing follows new revenue and economic updates that were recently provided to the committee, which Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, said allows for more up-to-date information to comment on.
“This hearing will give the public the opportunity to express their views on how the state budget can address their needs and advances their priorities,” said Sarlo, the deputy majority leader. “The public’s input is important. We want to put in place a spending plan that makes their lives more affordable, ensures the efficient use of resources and enables the effective delivery of vital services.”
The meeting was held via Zoom to allow more people the opportunity to participate. Each participant was given three minutes to advocate for their particular initiative. That process allowed for approximately 30 people to testify in the morning session of the hearing. Two more sessions were slated for the afternoon.
The committee heard from a diverse group on an array of issues, ranging from arts to autism to local journalism to education and cancer.
This part of the process comes at a critical juncture in New Jersey as the state emerges from COVID-19 flush with money from surpluses and federal relief funds.
Ann Marie Miller, director of advocacy & public policy for the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation, spoke about how vital consistent funding is for organizations such as hers.
“Stable operating funds are critical to the survival of cultural organizations, and I think I can safely say, without being hyperbolic, that the increased appropriation from ‘22, along with other state and federal pandemic relief support, literally saved arts groups all over New Jersey during the nearly two-year period when they were not a safe option for entertainment.”
Lauren Haney and Dr. Mona Shah testified on behalf of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. They outlined their group’s three budget priorities, including maintaining current funding levels, establishing a non-lapsing fund for the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research, and an increase in funding for the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection and Screening Program.
“Increase funding means more families could catch cancer early and survive this horrible disease,” said Shah.
There are many initiatives that the budget committee must consider. This part of the process allows them to hear directly from the advocates, then to prioritize and decide how to proceed.