Legislature Passes Democrats’ Budget, Awaits Christie’s Response

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TRENTON – In party-line votes, the Legislature passed a Democrat-sponsored state budget proposal yesterday that Republicans criticized and Gov. Chris Christie has no plans to sign.

The bill passed 24-15 in the Senate and 46-32 in the Assembly. The $30.6 billion spending plan is $1 billion larger than a proposal made by Christie earlier this year and relies on higher revenue projections than the governor certified. The Democrats’ plan avoids the governor’s cuts to Medicaid and includes more money for schools and property tax relief.

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“At the heart of this budget is a statement on our principles. “When we began this process nearly four months ago, we undertook the arduous task of rectifying the Governor’s drastic cuts to some of our most vulnerable constituents within the confines of our fiscal realities,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex.)

“The end result is a budget we can all be proud of – one that restores vital tax credits for the working poor, funds education more fairly for every student, provides property tax relief to seniors, and expands health care access to working-class families.”

“Last year, we passed a bipartisan balanced budget that put our state on the path to renewed and sustainable growth. Unfortunately, the spending plan that was approved today strays from that path,” countered Asm. Jon Bramnick (R-Union.) “It spends money we do not have and taxpayers cannot afford. I have no doubt that Governor Christie will exercise his constitutional authority in order to balance this budget as required by our state constitution.”

Lawmakers also approved a tax hike for residents with incomes higher than $1 million, raising their tax rate from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent. The added revenues would be used to give tax breaks to retired individuals making less than $100,000 and for school aid.

Christie has been adamant about maintaining his “no new taxes” pledge, but a majority of taxpayers are in favor of increasing rates for the richest. The tax hike would affect less than one percent of all taxpayers, according to the New Jersey Statistics of Income 2010. A taxpayer making $2.8 million now pays $231,368 – or 8.4 percent of their income, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective. Under the Democrats’ proposal, that would rise to $262,863 – or 9.5 percent of their income.

Christie can veto the bills outright, make changes through a conditional veto which must then be approved by the Legislature, or use a line item veto to remove specific spending items from the budget. Democrats do not have enough votes to override a veto, but there may not be enough support to pass an alternative budget if Christie opts for an outright or conditional veto.

The new fiscal year begins tomorrow, so the state would be faced with a government shutdown if politicians cannot agree on a budget today.


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