Tracking Legislation and Other Items Important to the Business Community:
Representatives of state departments have been testifying in front of legislative budget committees on how the proposed state budget impacts their agencies. Here is a breakdown so far:
On April 2, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox and Veronique "Roni" Hakim, of NJ Transit, testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. NJDOT and NJ Transit are proposing a $4.9 billion program to address the deficient status of the state's roadways and bridges, Commissioner Fox said. He cited the urgent need to find a recurring and dedicated source of revenue for the Transportation Trust Fund, and acknowledged the need to both secure more federal funding and to find ways to reduce the costs of infrastructure projects. NJ Transit Executive Director Hakim said that safety is a focus at NJ Transit. She said the infrastructure will strengthen the state's infrastructure and create jobs.
On April 14, Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Kenneth Kobylowski testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. DOBI's FY 2016 proposed budget is approximately $64 million. Commissioner Kobylowski outlined legislative initiatives, such as Insurance Solvency Modernization, the NJ Captive Law, and the Reinsurance and Surplus Lines Stimulus and Enhancement Act, that DOBI has adopted in recent years to protect both consumers and the business community from risk while maintaining a focus on improving the business climate. Commissioner Kobylowski said he has been involved in discussions pertaining to regulations nationally and worldwide of the insurance and financial services industries that stem from the 2008 economic downturn.
On April 14, Department of Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Commissioner O'Dowd addressed the changing landscape of healthcare when discussing the Health Department's proposed $1.7 billion budget. She said that the expansion of Medicaid has insured more New Jersey residents, leading to a 40 percent reduction in state-paid medical services for the uninsured. As a result, the Christie Administration decreased charity care funding in its proposed state budget, she said. The Health Department also plans to increase funding to physicians who treat Medicaid patients and will dedicate money for the hospital Delivery System Reform Incentive Payments program. The program will reward hospitals for positive patient health outcomes.
On April 16, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The commissioner stated that its FY 2016 budget totals $353 million. Additionally, DEP is overseeing the management of nearly $1 billion in multi-year Superstorm Sandy restoration and rebuilding projects. Commissioner Martin addressed changes in the Corporation Business Tax. DEP's full allocation is as follows: Brownfields ($11.3 million), Private Underground Storage Tanks ($10.2 million), Publicly Funded Cleanups ($5.6 million), Water Resources ($5.6 million), and Acquisition, Development and Stewardship of Lands ($80.1 million). Commissioner Martin said that less than a quarter of the DEP's operational budget comes from the General Fund. Most of its funding is covered by dedicated and federal monies, and administrative fees.
On April 16, Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD) Commissioner Hal Wirths testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Commissioner Wirths shared figures that show steady employment growth over the past five years. According to the data, there has been a net gain of 74,600 total nonfarm jobs instead of the 47,800 initially reported by BLS. He said that the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund has a balance of $1 billion dollars. Additionally, the department's anti-fraud efforts have saved more than $800 million from being diverted from the Fund. These anti-fraud efforts have been recognized as effective and innovative safeguards for the UI Trust Fund by the U.S. Department of Labor. Commissioner Wirths also touted the successes of DLWD's re-employment program.
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