Governor Chris Christie, with little more than a day to go to meet a statutory deadline, erased $361 million in Democratic spending initiatives before he signed a $31.7 billion New Jersey budget for fiscal 2013.
The first-term Republican vetoed what he described as measures that “represented a step backward” by Democrats, in a statement sent from his office yesterday. The spending plan includes $347 million in tax relief for businesses and $1.03 billion for state pensions, according to the statement.
“The budget the Legislature sent me violated two core priorities of this administration -- it denied tax relief to our hard working, middle-class families while proposing an $800 million tax increase,” Christie said. After the line-item vetoes, the budget “reverses irresponsible funding decisions, establishes funding levels based on realistic and responsible revenue assumptions, and increases our surplus.”
Funds to back the Democrats’ proposed $361 million in spending will be put into reserve as a result of the vetoes. That will increase the surplus to more than $600 million, according to Christie. Whether Democrats who control the Legislature will seek to override the governor’s changes hasn’t been decided, according to Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, of Cherry Hill.
“I hope he’s right and that the money can go to property taxes, but we just lost 1,000 jobs this week, unemployment is at 9.2 percent and he’s counting on growth that is double any other state,” Greenwald said in an interview before Christie’s budget action. “It’s wishful thinking -- he’s wishing his way out of this rather than looking at the facts.”
Christie, 49, had prodded lawmakers to use $183 million for the first phase of his proposed 10 percent income-tax cut in the budget for the year that starts July 1. Democrats countered with a plan to provide property-levy relief instead.
The governor relented, then labeled his political opponents “liars” after the spending plan that passed the Legislature without a single Republican vote put off the cuts and made them subject to revenue conditions. He pledged a campaign in the next few months “to kick their rear ends all over the state this summer” on the issue.
“The governor’s insistence on tax cuts now, before we know if we can truly afford them and six months before they would even take effect, is a platform built on national campaign rhetoric rather than fiscal reality,” Senator Paul Sarlo, a Democrat from Wood-Ridge who leads the chamber’s budget panel, said in a statement.
“We can afford a tax cut and we must provide relief to middle-class New Jerseyans,” Christie said yesterday. “Now is the time to give back and ensure our families can share in the benefit of the New Jersey Comeback.”
The plan Christie signed also provides $8.87 billion for aid to public schools and $2.05 billion for state colleges and universities, according to the governor’s office.