Christie signs $32.9 billion state budget

Gov. Christie negotiated the state spending plan with Democratic legislative leaders.
Gov. Christie negotiated the state spending plan with Democratic legislative leaders. (TIM LARSEN / N.J. Governor's Office)
Posted: June 30, 2013

TRENTON - Gov. Christie on Friday unceremoniously signed a $32.9 billion state spending plan that takes effect Monday, capping a legislative budget-making season devoid of the usual fireworks.

Christie, a Republican up for reelection this year, negotiated the budget with leaders of the Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

Though some changes from Christie's initial proposal were made, they amounted to mostly tinkering around the edges of a budget that largely maintains the status quo. It was the first time since 2010 Christie and lawmakers negotiated a spending plan.

"It was pretty close to everything I wanted," he said at a news conference this week.

Even though they struck the deal on it, Democratic lawmakers have lamented that it did not include money to expand preschools and women's health clinics or to restore a tax credit for the working poor that was reduced in 2010.

Democrats complain that Christie's revenue expectations are too rosy, and that they didn't have much power to fight over them because the governor has the power to certify the projections.

Because Democrats agreed to negotiate the budget rather than pass their own version, Christie agreed not to use a line-item veto to eliminate parts of it he didn't like.

More than one-fourth of the budget - about $9 billion - goes to aid for public schools. That's the most ever, and enough that no district will get less than under the current budget.

It also includes a legally obligated $1.7 billion payment into a pension fund for public workers, a record, but still less than half of what experts say the state should be contributing each year.

Christie did make some sacrifices, including agreeing not to include $2 million to fund a scholarship program that would use taxpayer money to send children in some struggling, low-income school districts to private schools.

He also did not get a tax cut he's been pushing since last year. His plan would give a refundable income-tax credit to households earning up to $400,000. The amount would be based on the size of their property-tax bills. He said he intended to make that a campaign issue in the fall as he seeks reelection against State Sen. Barbara Buono, one of the Democrats who voted against the budget plan.

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