Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Happy Days

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Happy Days

Article excerpt

THEY SAY even the great Rocky Marciano had a soft side. Seems Chris Christie, New Jersey's often-combative governor, has one, too.

On Tuesday, Governor Christie delivered his annual budget address for the 2013 fiscal cycle, a speech long on passion and compassion. The delivery was passionate, especially when the governor was scoring political points; the text and overall tone were more compassionate, especially when he spoke of the state's responsibility toward its most vulnerable citizens, including the working poor, seniors, homeless veterans, the disabled and those addicted to drugs.

Striking an ever-optimistic tone, Christie laid out the most generous budget plan of his term, a feel-good, $32 billion blueprint he said is warranted now because of the prudent fiscal policies and pro-growth initiatives put forth in his first two years in office and because of brighter economic forecasts for the future.

"Today it is time to continue making those better choices," said Christie. "Today, we will both maintain our fiscal discipline and drive New Jersey into a new era of growth. Today, it is time to put the New Jersey Comeback into high gear."

The governor's budget includes many things we like: $213 million more in state funding for K-12 education, $100 million more in funding for higher education, $24.7 million in new funding toward community placements for the developmentally disabled, and a $2.5 million down payment to establish a mandatory drug court for non- violent offenders in all 21 New Jersey counties.

There is also the matter of the state pension fund. The governor's proposed $1.1 billion contribution to the fund at least sets the state on the path toward making the full payment into a fund that has been abused and misused for decades, by elected officials of all political stripes.

Christie also acknowledged a request of $89 million to fund his so-called Transportation Capital Plan, an investment that is essentially debt service on a continued borrowing model that provides upkeep on the state's roads and bridges. …

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