Strong budget responsibly funds public education, pensions

Gov. Murphy has signed the FY2021 budget. It was an unusual budget that covers only nine months, from Oct. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. That change was the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted the Legislature to delay the budget deadline by three months. 

While it was an unusually challenging budget due to decreased tax revenue, Gov. Murphy and the Legislature agreed on a budget the protects funding for public education and lives up to the state’s pension payment obligation.

Among others invited to the signing, NJEA President Marie Blistan was asked to speak about the budget.  Her remarks are below:

Remarks by NJEA President Marie Blistan at signing of FY2021 budget

My name is Marie Blistan and I am a VERY proud New Jersey classroom teacher and equally as proud to be the president of the New Jersey Education Association representing over 200,000 school employees.

Today, I am here with our NJEA Vice President Sean Spiller, Secretary-Treasurer, Steve Beatty, and our GR Director, Al Beaver.

We are proud to be on this stage today with Gov. Murphy, Lt. Governor Shelia Oliver, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Speaker Craig Coughlin. These legislative leaders came together in this unprecedented year to stand up for our children, students, educators and working families in New Jersey.

I know there were no easy decisions over the last six months, but it is obvious that you share the same non-negotiable values that distinguish New Jersey and is why families come here to live.

To me, the most important thing about this budget is that it looks forward.

It doesn’t just focus on how we can make it through a difficult time. It envisions how we can emerge even stronger.

What I call that “future-facing vision” is going to put New Jersey at an advantage, because unlike many other states, we aren’t tearing down things that will need to be rebuilt.

We are investing in things that need to be kept strong.

As just one example, things like our public schools, that were recently named the best in the nation for the second year in a row!

We know how important public schools are to every part of our state’s success.

This budget recognizes that and protects the funding that has made them successful and will keep them successful.

It builds on the support for pre-K education that is the foundation of long-term student success. As a classroom teacher, I can tell you that investing in pre-K is essential, as it is nothing less than a game changer!

It preserves funding to provide critical support services to many of our most vulnerable students, like our special education students, extraordinary aid, and those special counseling services that are especially needed now.

And it supports our county colleges, which are a lifeline for so many, and are part of the reason that New Jersey is an attractive place to live, work and do business.

I was especially pleased that the final version of this budget restored vital funding because I am a proud graduate of Camden County College, and as I stand here before you, they were the lifeline for me as I would not have been able to become a teacher nor be here on this stage now.

Yes, we still have work to do to get to full funding, but I know these leaders share a commitment to that, and that’s why they refused to go backwards this year.

This budget also continues to promote long-term fiscal stability by funding the pension according to schedule.

 By refusing to fall into the bad habits of the past, these leaders have sent a message that New Jersey is serious about fiscal responsibility!

That’s a message that will be heard on Wall Street and Main Street, and it gives everyone much more confidence in the future.

And we are pleased that New Jersey took another step toward tax fairness by ensuring that those who are prospering the most pay their fair share, while those who are hurting the most can get a much-needed break.

That’s what New Jersey is all about and that’s what we do in New Jersey with our communities: we look out for each other and help each other.

 And when we do that right, we all move forward together toward a stronger, fairer future.

So, on behalf of our students, their families and our members, thank you to the leaders here who took a situation that could have set us back and built a budget that will carry us forward!

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