They told Oliver in a letter they did not oppose the university overhaul per se but believe its costs and impact on students have not been fully assessed. They wanted the vote delayed till after the November election.
By late Friday, however, two of the nine had backed down from linking the issue to the budget, meaning the spending plan will have at least 41 votes from Democrats, the number needed for the bill to pass in the Assembly.
Republicans do not support it because it defers Gov. Christie's tax cut until at least January over revenue concerns. Christie wants to start phasing in a 10 percent cut immediately.
Assembly members Connie Wagner and Tim Eustace, both of Bergen County, said they would support the budget despite their concerns about how quickly a plan to revamp Rutgers and Rowan Universities and the University of Medicine and Dentistry is being sped through the Legislature.
They say they are comforted by the fact that the reorganization would not take effect until next July.
Cryan, in a statement, said nothing had changed on the university issue.
"Our decision was based on principle," he said. "There is not enough information available for anyone to be able to vote yes on this merger proposal. We don't know short-term or long-term costs or what impact this will have on education in the state for decades to come, and there is still no reason to force this vote."
The plan would draw Rutgers-Camden and Rowan closer and transfer most of UMDNJ, including about $500 million in its debt, to Rutgers.
Rowan would get UMDNJ's osteopathy school in Stratford; the medical school's teaching hospital, University Hospital in Newark, would continue to operate as a nonprofit.
Backers of the restructuring include Christie, who proposed a version of it in January; South Jersey Democratic leader George E. Norcross III; and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), a sponsor of the bill.
Oliver said she wanted to move the discussion forward.
Backers say the overhaul will increase educational opportunities in fast-growing South Jersey focused around a health sciences curriculum.
Rowan gained a medical school in partnership with Cooper University Hospital in 2009. Norcross is chairman of Cooper's board and a managing partner of The Inquirer's parent company. His brother, State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), is another of the bill's sponsors.
Opponents include Rutgers' governing boards, which object to their loss of authority over the Camden and Newark campuses. The bill calls for new trustee boards at each site, and would create an oversight board with joint authority over Rutgers-Camden and Rowan.
Rutgers board members maintain that their authority over any of the university's campuses cannot be taken away. The trustee board has hired a constitutional expert to fight the legislation.