Gov. Chris Christie says a midyear budget deficit at NJ Transit is common and "absolutely" won't cause a fare hike.

During his monthly appearance on New Jersey 101.5's "Ask the Governor" on Wednesday, Christie again lauded the contract agreement NJ Transit reached with its rail unions almost three weeks ago, shortly before a strike deadline and close to five years after the old deal expired.

The contract runs through 2019. It provides a 21 percent pay increase, including back pay, and requires workers to pay 2.48 percent of their salaries toward their health insurance.

"When you add their additional contributions they have to make for health, which are significant, the average net increase is 1.7 percent," Christie said. "That's a good deal -- good deal for them, good deal for the taxpayers."

Christie said in announcing the deal that it wouldn’t require a fare increase in fiscal 2017, but he again didn’t rule out hikes in future years.

"I'm not going to talk about what I'm going to do in the budget in February of '17 when I'm sitting in March of '16. How would I know?" Christie said.

One bit of NJ Transit news has emerged since the deal was struck, however. The Record reported Friday that the agency is facing a $57 million gap in this year’s budget. Ridership hasn’t grown as expected, and NJT has spent more than it expected.

Christie said the deficit isn't a big deal and "absolutely" won't require a fare hike.

"That happens every year," Christie said. "It happens every year. Every year New Jersey Transit cries that they have a budget deficit. If I gave in to every department and agency that told me that they had a deficit and they needed more money, the budget would be $40 billion."

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