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N.J. Lawmakers Clash on Sanctuary City Bill

New Jersey lawmakers are debating a bill that would require the state to reimburse municipalities that defy President Trump's ban on "sanctuary cities."

Legislation introduced in both the state Senate and Assembly would allow local governments denied federal funds due to a sanctuary city policy to apply for state matching dollars from New Jersey's Commissioner of Community Affairs. The bill was introduced last week by State Sen. Brian Stack, D-Union City, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-Jersey City, and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, D-Hoboken, but has met stiff resistance from some Republicans. A vote on the measure was tabled Monday and Richard McGrath, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, said no specific date has been set yet to take up the legislation.

"It is our responsibility to show these mayors and these communities who are protecting their own that they need not fear federal funding cuts," said Mukherji in a press conference announcing the legislation. "What we're doing with this legislation is we're making a statement to mayors and police chiefs throughout the state."

New Jersey municipalities with sanctuary city policies include Newark, Jersey City, Union City and Camden. The bill does not include a specific appropriation, but State Sen. Jim Holzapfel, R-Toms River, argued in opposition to the proposal that it would be too expensive.

New Jersey localities are estimated to receive $15.7 billion in federal funding based on the fiscal 2017 budget.

"The legislation has the potential to devastate our state budget by shifting a $15 billion burden onto New Jersey taxpayers," said Holzapfel in a statement. "While this ill-conceived legislation is designed to make a political statement, it lacks a financial statement that addresses the tremendous tax increases it would require."

Gov. Chris Christie stated in a radio interview Tuesday that he would veto "on arrival" the sanctuary city legislation. The Republican governor is slated to introduce his final budget proposal on Feb. 28.

New Jersey has experienced 10 rating downgrades since Christie took office seven years ago and now has the second lowest rating of the 50 U.S. states, ahead of only Illinois. S&P Global Ratings dropped the state one notch to A-minus on Nov. 14 citing expected budget pressures from increased pension burdens and revenue volatility. The Garden State is rated A2 by Moody's, A by Fitch Ratings and A by Kroll Bond Rating Agency.

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