New Jersey lawmakers held the first in a series of public hearings Tuesday on Gov. Chris Christie's proposed $32.9 billion state budget.

The Senate Budget Committee heard pleas from several groups for more state funding.

Several issues broached

East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov, who serves as president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, urged the Legislature to restore millions of dollars in energy tax money to local governments.

"The time has come to do that and to end the state's reliance on using our money to plug holes in the state budget," she said.

Lawmakers should consider increasing reimbursements for nursing homes that spend more to provide quality care for sicker patients, said John Indyk, vice president of the Health Care Association of New Jersey.

"The current policy does not live up to current policy of focusing more of the already inadequate reimbursement dollars on increased spending for direct patient care," he testified.

The state's mental health services are also in need of attention, said Phil Lubitz of the National Association of Mental Illness.

"We really should temper some of the excitement we have about increased access to insurance for mental-health coverage with know that our mental-health system is nowhere near prepared to take on additional services," he cautioned.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, assured those who spoke that their testimony matters.

Lawmakers have made changes to previous budgets based on what they heard at the hearings, said Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.