State Senate President Steve Sweeney has called for a statewide bond issue to fund a major expansion of New Jersey’s vocational-technical schools, to meet what he termed a shortage of “middle-skilled workers” in the Garden State.

Sweeney stated his goal is to put a bond issue on the November 2018 ballot. At a press conference last week, he also announced the creation of a Legislative Manufacturing Caucus that would work out details of the bond issue and hold hearings on what else can be done to better support the state’s manufacturing industry.

The dollar amount of the proposed bond referendum is not yet determined, but Sweeney said he expects the state would look to borrow several hundred million dollars, according to published reports.

In a news release issued by the Senate Democratic Office, Sweeney called for the development and passage of a bond issue to expand New Jersey’s county vocational-technical schools.

The proposed bond issue would need to be passed by the Legislature, then approved by voters in the form of a ballot measure.

The bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus, chaired by Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen), is scheduled to convene for its first meeting in Paterson next month, with the goal of developing a legislative package for consideration in December. In addition to Gordon, the Manufacturing Caucus will include Sens. Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer), Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), Ron Rice (D-Essex), Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr. (R-Monmouth) and Bob Singer (R-Ocean), and Assembly members Nick Chiaravalotti (D-Hudson), Benji Wimberly (D-Passaic), Andrew Zwicker (D-Middlesex), Adam Taliaferro (D-Gloucester), Anthony Bucco Jr. (R-Morris), Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) and Maria Rodriguez-Gregg (R-Burlington).