Christie May Not Have Enough Votes to Ensure Passage of New Jersey Budget

Two Republicans in the New Jersey Assembly plan to vote against Governor Chris Christie’s $29.4 billion budget, which may leave his party unable to pass the spending plan by the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a Republican from Morristown, said he won’t support the budget because it doles out school aid disproportionately to urban districts. Republican Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose said the budget was crafted in order to “attract Democratic support” at the expense of middle-class communities and she won’t vote for it.

There are 33 Republicans in the Democrat-led Assembly. The budget negotiated by Christie must pass with a majority vote, or 41 members in support. Democrats agreed during budget talks with Christie to provide eight votes to ensure passage, and they have no plans to give more if Republicans fail to get all their members’ backing, said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan.

“The agreement was to put those eight votes up and that’s what we’re going to do,” Cryan, a Democrat from Union, said in an interview today. “No Democrats like this budget. None of us endorsed it. We made an agreement to keep to keep government functioning. We hope our Republican colleagues will do the same.”

Budget Accord

Christie and lawmakers announced a budget agreement on June 21, 10 days before the start of the new fiscal year. State law requires a shutdown of nonessential services if a spending plan isn’t in place by July 1. Democrats said they agreed to support Christie’s budget to avoid a repeat of the 2006 impasse that shut New Jersey parks, courts, beaches and casinos for a week.

McHose said she has been in contact with Christie’s administration and leaders in her house about her plans to vote against it. She said she will seek to amend the plan to redirect $613 million in funding for urban pre-schools to all districts and is confident a government shutdown will be averted.

“I have school districts that are struggling with having to close buildings and cut programs,” McHose, who sits on the Assembly budget panel, said in an interview. “People want relief now and they should have an opportunity to get that money back.”

Carroll, whose district includes Christie’s hometown of Mendham Township, said in an interview today that the responsibility to approve a budget rests with the Democratic majority, and he doesn’t see his lone vote as prompting a shutdown or defeat of the plan.

State Interests

“It doesn’t serve my interests and I don’t believe it serves the interest of the state,” Carroll said about the budget. “My district probably wouldn’t miss the state tomorrow if it shuts down.”

Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said “we value their support and are interacting with” Carroll and McHose. He declined to give further details.

Richard Savner, a spokesman for Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, a Republican from Parsippany, said DeCroce wouldn’t comment.

The budget proposed by Christie, 47, who took office in January, would close a record $10.7 billion deficit without raising taxes. It contains $10 billion in spending reductions.

The plan would cut aid to public schools by $820 million, reduce funding for municipalities by $445 million and skip the state’s $3 billion payment to its pension funds.

The Senate, which Democrats control 23-17, began debate on budget-related bills today in Trenton. The Assembly’s budget committee plans to hold hearings tomorrow and the following day. Both houses have scheduled June 28 voting sessions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton, New Jersey, at tdopp@bloomberg.net.

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