NJ Voters Could Soon Decide On $500M In School Projects

New Jersey's leaders are rushing to finalize an ever-changing plan to ask voters in November to approve the state borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for various school projects.

The referendum seeks $500 million for improving security at K-12 schools, upgrading water infrastructure to protect students from lead, and expanding vocational and county college programs.

The price tag was almost doubled. Both houses of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature last month approved a measure (S2293) to place a $1 billion bond referendum on the November ballot. 

The extra $500 million was added for school safety measures after the Parkland, Florida, shooting.

But Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is planning to conditionally veto that proposal in the coming days and ask lawmakers to cut the figure in half to its original amount because he was "uncomfortable with the size of the bond," according an administration official.

The official asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. 

Both the state Senate and Assembly will head to Trenton on Monday to vote in a special session to approve of the new referendum with Murphy's changes. 

The houses need to act quickly to not miss a deadline for the question to reach this year's ballot. 

"We're working with the administration on what the final bill is," state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said during a news conference Friday in Trenton. 

Murphy added during the event that it's "stuff we all collectively think we need.

"Stuff we all are strongly supportive of," the governor said.

Details of how much money will go to each aspect in the end were not available Friday.

If the Legislature approves the new measure Monday, it will then need to be signed by Murphy before appearing on the ballot. 

Sweeney told NJ Advance Media expanding vocational programs is crucial because 17,000 students in New Jersey every year get turned away from vocational schools "because the slots aren't there.

"Vocational jobs are just as important as other jobs," Sweeney added. "I'm an iron worker. I make a good living. Creating a situation where kids who want to have this opportunity to go to a vocational school but they can't -- where do they go from there?"

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