TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie unveiled a $29.4 billion state budget Tuesday that slashes funding for health and senior services by 15 percent and environmental protection by 10 percent.
Christie also proposes to cut $540 million in Medicaid spending. Some of the savings would be realized by transferring 121,000 low-income seniors and disabled people into a managed care program. Approximately $300 million would come from a “global waiver” from the federal government.
Trumpeting the “new normal,” Christie urged the Legislature to “continue on our path of fiscal discipline and reform. And help me chart a path for growth again in New Jersey. There is no turning back – New Jersey is in the lead and victory is in sight – for all of us.”
Christie’s budget pits public employee unions against New Jersey senior citizens. The governor proposes increased funding for property tax credits if Democratic lawmakers agree to reduce health care benefits for public employees. Christie also pledged to make a $506 million payment into the state pension fund if lawmakers approve his proposed pension benefit reductions.
The governor told the assembled lawmakers, “the chance for middle class taxpayers and seniors to receive double the property tax relief without raising taxes on anyone else is solely up to you, the Legislature. The ability to provide doubled property tax rebates involves a tradeoff and requires real reform to pay for it.”
“In this budget, the governor continues to scapegoat public education employees by pitting senior citizens and all of New Jersey against them,” said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian. “He promises to provide property tax relief to senior citizens, but only if teachers and school employees pay thousands more in higher health care premiums – on top of what they already pay.”
“The theme of Gov. Christie’s budget address can be summarized in one word – divisive” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “What the governor is forgetting is that we are all citizens, we are all taxpayers, and we all need to be able to afford to live here. We all have a stake in New Jersey’s success.”
Christie’s spending plan would increase state aid for schools by $250 million and keep municipal aid at current levels.
“NJSBA recognizes the continued financial challenges facing our state,” said Marie S. Bilik, New Jersey School Boards Association executive director. “In light of these difficulties, we are relieved that Gov. Christie did not find it necessary to recommend further reductions in school funding.”
The Republican governor also proposed a variety of business tax cuts in his budget, including some that were in Democratic bills that he vetoed last week.
“Responsibly changing New Jersey’s tax climate does not mean running deficits to cut taxes – it means cutting taxes in a balanced budget to create job growth,” Christie said. “A few of the tax provisions are similar to those approved by the legislature. As I have said before, I agree with some of what was in that package. But we cannot have tax cuts that we do not pay for.”
“The Governor’s commitment to make good on tax cuts and incentives for job creation for small businesses will be a welcome relief to the NJRA membership that has endured much through the economic downturn,” said Deborah Dowdell, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association. “Gov. Christie has outlined a budget that makes the hard choices, but will create an environment where our members’ businesses and all small businesses in New Jersey can grow and create jobs, the true engine of any economic recovery.”
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