NJ Senate delays vote on protecting sanctuary city funding
TRENON — A scheduled vote on a plan to have the state make up any federal funding cuts that may be suffered by so-called "sanctuary cities" was put off Monday, because there weren't enough senators present to pass it.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, indicated the bill has the minimum 21 votes needed to pass but that it was delayed because one supporter, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, was absent Monday.
"It'll pass," Sweeney said.
Sweeney said Sen. Fred Madden, D-Gloucester, Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, and Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, don't support the bill.
The bill was put on the fast track for consideration, skipping a committee hearing, after President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing that federal funds be held back, to the extent that is allowed, from cities that don't share information with federal immigration officials about residents in the United States illegally.
Sweeney said he hasn't gotten any additional information about how much money could be cut by the federal government and, therefore, be made up by the state.
"And if you listen to Republicans and Democrats in Washington, they say they can't just do what he said he was going to do," Sweeney said. "It's through the budgetary process they would have to do it. And we would see where it goes."
"So far, the feds haven't done anything with it. And I think this was more of a statement right now that we're making that you shouldn't do this. You can't do it by executive order," Sweeney said. "Just like his travel ban, he couldn't do by executive order. Just like a whole lot of things he's done in the first three weeks that he can't do."
Republicans, citing the state budget, say New Jersey municipalities are expected to receive $15.7 billion in federal funding this year.
"I think many people are beginning to realize that this is a very expensive and unaffordable vote for the citizens of the state of New Jersey," said Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., R-Union. "It's based on an issue that hasn't even passed yet on the federal level that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars in New Jersey."
Asked if the state could afford it, Sweeney said "I don't know if the state could afford not to."
"If you have people living in cities that now all bunker down and hide from law enforcement — people that witness crimes, people that are victims of crimes, it gets to be a very, very bad situation," Sweeney said.