TRENTON – Democratic lawmakers criticized Gov. Chris Christie for his handling of New Jersey’s state budget at a hearing on a projected $10.5 billion deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2011 this morning.
“Gov. Christie can try to solve problems by avoiding obligations and pretending they don’t exist, but that’s like a family saying, ‘We’re going to tighten our belts and we’re going to live within our means, but we’re not paying our bills.’ A family wouldn’t do that, and neither should the state,” said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Louis D. Greenwald (D-Camden).
Democrats charged that Christie addressed an $11 billion shortfall in the current year fiscal budget by avoiding payments instead of actually reducing spending.
The non-partisan Office of Legislative Services calculates the structural deficit figure by comparing revenue projections to the costs of fully funding all of New Jersey’s statutory obligations and continuing to fund all other programs at their current levels.
According to David Rosen, budget officer for the Office of Legislative Services, New Jersey would need to double the income tax rate to generate enough revenue to close the structural deficit projected for next year’s budget. Such a move lacks support in either party.
Democrats looked to place blame for the budgetary shortcomings on Christie.
“This OLS analysis and the testimony we heard today doesn’t bode well for working class New Jerseyans who deserve better from Gov. Christie,” said Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex.) “In just one year his budget policies have led to higher property taxes, increased tuition, health care woes and slower economic growth. Now, we hear this may just be the start, with even worse times ahead.”
Republicans were willing to lay the blame with Democrats.
“Today’s hearing stated the obvious: New Jersey taxpayers cannot afford the tax and spend policies enacted by the Democrats over the past decade,” said Assembly Budget Committee member David W. Wolfe (R-Ocean). “Democratic legislators said today they will no longer support broad-based tax increases so perhaps they finally understand that their fiscal policies have ruined New Jersey and left us with a severe structural deficit to fix.”
“The need to fix a decade long structural deficit in New Jersey is old news,” said Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-Union.) “What’s new is Gov. Christie’s commitment to not raise taxes. The legislature should now build on the structural reforms started since Gov. Christie took office. Here’s a plan of immediate action: further reforms to pension and health benefits, acting on proposals to save our gaming industry, and moving forward with ‘tool kit’ reforms that drive down the costs of government at the state and local levels. My hope is that we come to the center of the room and find these solutions in bipartisan hearings.”
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