Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie's Budget

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie's Budget

Article excerpt

GOVERNOR Christie used his annual budget address Tuesday to proclaim that "New Jersey has turned around and is growing again." Those words were more than political rhetoric in a state that has been battered by the economy and superstorm Sandy.

Christie's address was a tale of two state chief executives: One is the Republican leader with national ambitions, who promoted more public employee benefit reforms, a voucher-style trial program for public education in low-income communities and a 10 percent tax cut. The other spoke of drug courts and made national news by embracing an expansion of Medicaid in New Jersey.

The governor's $32.9 billion budget assumes a tax revenue growth of 5 percent, which is far more realistic than last year's projection of 8 percent growth. That target hasn't been reached and is responsible for an estimated $407 million gap in this year's budget, a hole the governor plans to fill by deferring about $400 million in property tax credits to qualified homeowners from this month to August.

A budget is merely a plan for the future; the Democratic- controlled Legislature will thoroughly examine the governor's proposal before it is adopted in late June. But with the governor and all 120 lawmakers facing reelection this year, Democratic criticism of the budget began as soon as the governor stopped speaking. For example, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, said the proposed budget has problems because of the "reckless" projections the governor made last year.

Political sniping is to be expected. But the governor's budget is a far cry from rigid conservative dogma.

For example, the governor wants to increase funding for the state's very worthwhile drug court program by $4.5 million. This initiative, which began last year, allows non-violent drug offenders to be treated in rehabilitation centers instead of being incarcerated. The governor also proposed to increase funding to expand housing opportunities for people with disabilities as opposed to placing them in institutions. …

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