Institute Responds to Budget as NJ Legislature Prepares to Vote
NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today issued the following statement in response to the FY2022 budget to be voted on tomorrow in the New Jersey Legislature.
“While the budget process has lacked adequate transparency and a strong democratic process, it includes several important items when it comes to advancing racial and social justice, and we hope that New Jersey will take even bolder and more progressive steps in the future.”
In the area of economic justice:
“We are pleased to see the budget helps to expand access to affordable higher education through a continued commitment to the Community College Opportunity Grant program and the implementation of the new Garden State Guarantee, which will help more eligible students access tuition-free college at New Jersey’s two and four-year public institutions. Successful implementation of the Garden State Guarantee as well as sustained funding and increased awareness of both programs moving forward will greatly expand higher education opportunities for low-income students in New Jersey and serve to reduce racial disparities in higher education.
“We are also encouraged that the budget preserves the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for its intended purpose – the creation and maintenance of affordable homes – and that no funds will be diverted from the trust fund for other housing or non-housing purposes. Increasing affordable housing options is crucial for both renters in the state, who are more likely to be people of color, and families of color hoping to access homeownership for the first time in New Jersey.”
In the area of youth justice:
“We are pleased that the Legislature has provided sufficient funding for A4663 | S2924 (expected to be voted on tomorrow), which establishes a two-year Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program in four communities (Camden, Newark, Trenton and Paterson) directly impacted by high rates of youth incarceration. The increased investment will fund community-based interventions, which will keep young people away from youth prisons and support youth reentering their communities.”
In the area of policing:
“We are happy to see the legislature invest in front-end criminal justice reforms, such as officer body-worn cameras and mental health diversion programs. However, New Jersey must do more to rethink public safety by investing in community-based public safety options apart from traditional law enforcement, like mental health first responders. Cities across the country are successfully implementing programs that send mental health professionals instead of police to assist people experiencing a mental health crisis. New Jersey needs to invest meaningfully in non-law enforcement approaches to achieving public safety.”
In the area of voting and democracy:
"We are thankful that the legislature will be fully funding early voting implementation, which we have been advocating for months. In-person early voting on machines is crucial for ensuring that our elections are accessible to all New Jersey voters. There is a long tradition of Souls to the Polls in Black communities and early voting will allow this to be practiced in New Jersey for the first time this November.
“We are also grateful the legislature is funding $2 million to allow New Jersey to join the Electronic Registration Information System (ERIC) (expected to be voted on tomorrow), a multi-state nonprofit organization that allows states to improve their voter rolls and increase voter registration access for voters. Thirty states and the District of Columbia already participate in ERIC. Joining ERIC will improve New Jersey’s voter registration system, which will allow us to continue expanding voter access.
“We also appreciate that the legislature has increased funding from past cycles for legislative and congressional redistricting, as redistricting is the foundation of our system of government and the maps we draw must reflect the diversity of our state’s population. We are thankful that the budget states that Legislative Reapportionment Commission and Congressional Redistricting Commissions will be fully funded for their needs – in addition to providing the allocated base amounts of $2 million and $1.5 million, respectively. It is imperative for both commissions to conduct open and transparent redistricting processes with meaningful public participation.”