NJ Budget Still On Track For Monday Passage [AUDIO]
Sources tell Townsquare Media news that a faction of Democrats in the Assembly are still waging a bitter internal battle over what the final state budget bill should include or not include.
This has some insiders questioning whether the Assembly has the 41 votes needed to pass the spending their Monday as planned. They're not likely to get any Republican support without having to cut costly deals. The Assembly Budget Committee chairman says don't believe the hype.
"I feel confident that we do have the votes," says Assembly budget panel boss Vinnie Prieto. "I really do think we have the 41 votes, yes."
Prieto says he will sponsor the budget bill in the Assembly (A-3200) and it is likely he'll introduce it tomorrow morning prior to the Assembly Budget Committee hearing which is scheduled to begin at 9am in room 11 of the State House Annex.
Because the Assembly also has a voting session slated for tomorrow, Prieto says his hearing will be adjourned during the session and he'll pick it back up afterwards. The hearing could conclude late tomorrow night/early Friday morning, but Prieto says he might close out the hearing and bring everybody back to wrap things up later Friday morning.
He explains, "We'll play it by ear."
The Senate budget panel has also slated a Thursday hearing on the budget bill. The goal for leaders in both houses is to have the full legislature pass the spending plan Monday and send it to Governor Chris Christie.
As for today, Prieto says he's working with Senate leadership because, "Obviously what we each do on each side (of the legislature) has to mirror each other…We're just hammering it out….We're definitely working with each other just to get the final product. Right now I don't think that's an issue."
Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo says the Democrats' budget bill will be different from the proposal Governor Chris Christie laid out in February, but it will also be fiscally responsible.
He explains, "Any additional (spending) items that we do add in will be offset with another cut in spending…The size of the budget will remain as the Governor has indicated he will certify…I know in the Senate we have the votes to support this plan."
Sources says democrats plan to add approximately $140 million in spending.
Christie's $32.1 billion spending plan proposal for Fiscal year 2013 is roughly $2 billion above the current budget. The Christie Administration is projecting revenue growth of 7.3% in the coming year.
Democrats think Christie's growth projection is overly optimistic and that's why they still plan to set aside roughly $180 million to pay for some type of tax cut to be enacted only if revenues match the Governor's estimates.
In his State of the State Address and again in his budget message to the legislature Christie proposed a 10% State income tax cut for everybody. Feeling that idea favored the rich, Senate Democrats countered with a 10% property tax cut proposal and Assembly Democrats offered up a 20% property tax reduction plan, half of which would be funded with revenue from a millionaires tax increase.
Democrats in both houses now say they will pass a millionaires tax hike and commit all of the approximately $800 million in revenue from it directly into the existing homestead property tax credit program. Christie has already vetoed the tax increase twice and isn't shy about promising to do it again.
In his budget message, the Governor was clear on his position as it pertains to a millionaires' tax increase.
He said, "Our standing in the last two years has improved somewhat, but not enough. We have stopped spending growth in its tracks. We have eliminated the special surtax that for a time gave New Jersey the highest marginal tax rate in the nation - and I am proud to have twice vetoed the effort to re-introduce it. And just so there is no mistake in my intention: I will veto any tax increase again."