Chris Christie’s budget – NJ Democrats plan to present an alternative
The state legislature's Democratic majority is planning to present an alternative to the spending plan Gov. Chris Christie presented in his budget address in February, a speech which kicked off a series of town hall meetings focused on the state's underfunded pension system for public employees.
While the governor has been arguing the case for pension reforms, the Democrats plan to present a budget plan that would make the full pension payment for fiscal year 2016.
"We're going to do everything we can to present a budget again to show that it could be funded, that the governor's not choosing to fund it. There's a big difference there," said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford). "We're going to work to find a way to fund the budget or get as close as we can again."
Sweeney used the word "again" because Democrats did present a budget of their own to Christie in 2011, but it failed. The governor line-item vetoed tens of millions of dollars in Democrats' add-ons including funding for AIDS, tax credits, women's health care and mental health services.
The governor's vetoes led Sweeney to call Christie a "bully," a "punk" and much worse. Sweeney said he has good reason to produce a spending plan option this year.
"I've haven't seen a good one (budget proposal) since I've been here under republicans or democrats, but this one's probably one of the worst," Sweeney said.
A millionaire's tax increase is not the end-all, be-all solution, but it would produce another $660 million in revenue for the state that could be used to close the pension funding gap Sweeney explained. If Christie is to be taken at his word and history is to be used as a guide, things won't work well for Sweeney if he and his fellow democrats pass another millionaire's tax increase.
"I have vetoed four income tax increases passed by this body and make mistake, I will veto any more income tax increases that come before me," said Christie in his budget address on Feb. 24.
If the governor vows to veto a millionaire's tax increase and Sweeney wants the hike to pour money into the pension system, should New Jerseyans be worried about a budget battle that could lead to a government shutdown?
"No one should be concerned about anything right now until we really drill deep down into it (the budget)," Sweeney said.