New Jersey governor Chris Christie presented his budget for fiscal year 2012, challenging the state legislature to adopt his proposed $29.4 billion plan that would feature business tax cuts, property tax relief, pension reform, and a slight bump in education spending.
Speaking last week in Washington D.C., Christie spoke of his desire to make New Jersey a model of fiscal discipline for other states to follow. He reiterated that desire yesterday in Trenton.
“The change is coming from the states and the charge is being led by New Jersey," Christie told the legislature.
Christie’s budget proposal would alleviate some of New Jersey’s high property tax burden, by setting aside $1 billion for property tax relief and almost $200 million in property tax credits.
In exchange, however, the governor would require the state legislature to pass his measure that would require public employees to pay 30 percent of their health costs by 2014.
“Let’s make a deal,” Christie said.
As expected, the governor’s plan would cut funding from many of the state’s departments: the Department of Health and Senior Services would be cut by 15.1 percent and the Department of Environmental Protection 9.8 percent. Health benefits would lose $323 million.
In a New Jersey television interview, following the governor’s speech, State Senate Republicans and Democrats were invited to respond to the budget proposal.
Republicans supported the measures. “The priorities are right,” said Declan O’Scanlon, a budget officer in the Senate. O’Scanlon's Republican colleague Steven Oroho added his own praise: “This budget is based on reality…on conservative revenue projections…not wishful thinking.”
Responses from the Democrats ranged from cautious praise to outright dissatisfaction.
Democrat Paul Sarlow criticized Christie for being “vague on details,” and added, “I don’t think we’ve done enough to deal with the property tax problem.”
Democratic legislator Lou Greenwald took his criticism a step further: Christie’s plan amounts to “pitting neighbor against neighbor,” Greenwald said, condemning the deal Christie hopes to make that would exchange property tax credits for pension reform.
Thomas O'Ban is an intern at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.