SOUTH RIVER – Gov. Chris Christie signed his first state budget into law this afternoon. Earlier this morning, he called legislators back to Trenton for a special session to pressure them to consider his proposal for a constitutional amendment to cap property tax increases at 2.5 percent.
The $29.4 billion budget passed the Democrat-controlled Legislature after a marathon session that extended into the early hours of this morning.
“This budget deals responsibly with the fiscal nightmare we inherited and makes the tough and necessary choices to restore fiscal sanity to our state and begin fundamental reform,” Christie said in a statement released after the Assembly’s 1:13 a.m. vote.
Democrats provided just enough votes for the Republican-sponsored budget bill to pass, but many continued to criticize the governor’s priorities.
State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) said, “The Governor’s got the right idea when it comes to cutting, he just made the wrong choices and the people of New Jersey are already beginning to experience the fallout. We cannot allow that to go unchallenged.”
Assemblyman Peter Barnes III (D-Middlesex) said that Christie and the Republicans “were more concerned with protecting the pocket books of millionaires than they were with protecting the bottom line of working-class New Jersey families.”
“Whether it’s Republican or Democrat, these are not votes that any of us really like,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said. “We did some good things to change the governor’s budget, but no one’s going to run around and say, ‘It’s a great bill, it’s a great budget,’ because it hurts a lot of people.”
Christie’s budget avoided explicit tax increases and cut 2.2 percent of state spending from Gov. Jon Corzine’s final budget. However, by eliminating $848 million from property tax rebates and reducing the amount of state aid sent to municipalities and local school districts, he ensured that most New Jersey residents would see more of their dollars go to the government.
The governor vetoed a Democrat-backed proposal to reinstate an income tax surcharge on residents making more than $1 million that would have been used to fund property tax relief for New Jersey seniors.
Christie’s budget did not include a $3.1 billion pension fund payment, which will ensure that next year’s required payment will be even larger.
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