The Democratically controlled Legislature made few changes to the governor's proposed fiscal 2013 budget, using separate bills for most of its larger spending requests. Many of those bigger-ticket items also were vetoed Friday.
Christie cut $86 million from their spending plan, far less than the $900 million he slashed last year from the Democrats' proposal.
"This is certainly a kinder, gentler Chris Christie as opposed to where we were a year ago," Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D., Essex) said somewhat facetiously. "A year ago, the governor just went bombastic with his red pen."
The budget relies on Christie's optimistic projection of 7.2 percent growth in state revenue in fiscal 2013, which begins Sunday. That's the highest predicted by any state. If the economy tanks, lawmakers will have to find more places to trim.
"I only hope that we can come within a few points of hitting these targets," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D., Bergen) said in a statement. "Because if we don't, we will need to come back and make painful cuts."
Friday's cuts were painful enough, Oliver said.
For the second year, Christie vetoed a $50 million bill that would have immediately restored funding to the state's earned-income tax credit, a benefit low- and middle-income wage earners can claim on their income taxes.
The governor reduced the credit in 2010. In his February budget address, Christie vowed to reverse that, but taxpayers wouldn't be able to claim the increased credit until 2014 under his plan.
About a half-million New Jerseyans qualified for the state's earned-income tax credit in fiscal 2010, receiving an average benefit of $430, Assembly Democrats said. The Democrats' bill would have increased that benefit to $545 if the same number of people applied.
"That could have helped a struggling homeowner with a mortgage payment or a utility bill," said Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D., Passaic).
Oliver called it the most disappointing of Christie's vetoes.
"The governor has been railing for the past week or two about the Legislature not wanting to give a tax cut to New Jerseyans. The earned income tax credit is a tax cut for low and middle wage-earners in the state," Oliver said.
Oliver also decried Christie's cut to legal aid to the poor. Though the governor added $600,000 in the fiscal 2013 budget for clinical legal programs for the poor administered by the law schools at Seton Hall and Rutgers in Camden and Newark, he cut $5 million for civil legal services.
And he vetoed a Democratic bill that would have given $10,000 and a stable funding source to Legal Services of New Jersey. The organization represents low-income residents and lost $10,000 of its funding via Christie's veto pen last year.
Democrats wanted $30 million in additional money for nursing homes. The governor vetoed $15 million of that.
Other vetoes of the Democrats' proposed spending included:
$21 million for medical care for the elderly.
$5 million transitional aid to poor cities such as Camden.
$3 million in supplemental spending for an educational program that helps high school students from low-income families attend college.
A bill that would have returned to municipalities fees collected by utilities. The state has dipped into the fund to balance the budget since 2009. The bill would have returned the money to towns to help keep offset increases in property tax rates.
A bill that would have allowed towns to transform foreclosed homes into affordable housing.
A measure that provided $7.5 million for women's health centers.
To help balance the budget, Christie also used $200 million intended for affordable housing, a move that already has been challenged in court.
In addition, the governor eliminated legislative oversight of halfway houses. Democrats had called for greater transparency at the privately operated corrections centers after the New York Times exposed violence, drug use, and escapes at the facilities, including one run by a company with ties to Christie.
Tax cuts were the focus of this year's debate, with Christie calling for a 10 percent income-tax cut phased in over three years. Democrats wanted to put property-tax credits into the budget, arguing that they would benefit the middle class. Christie said he was open to compromise.
But after revenue came up short in March, April, and May, Democrats worried about the state's ability to pay for the cuts. They have proposed moving the $183 million Christie earmarked for the first, least-expensive year of his proposed tax cut and putting it in an escrow account. Democrats said they would consider legislation in January enacting property tax relief if the state meets Christie's revenue projections.
Democrats also put a millionaire's tax on Christie's desk for the third time. He has vetoed it twice in the past, but had taken no action on it by Friday evening.
Christie has 45 days to act on a bill once it has passed both chambers.
Contact Joelle Farrell
at 856-779-3237 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or
follow on Twitter @joellefarrell.