NJ Democrats Promise Alternative To Chris Christie’s Budget [AUDIO]
Democrats haven't been shy about criticizing Governor Chris Christie's Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 State Budget proposal. They vow to do more than just complain. The top Democrats in the State Senate and General Assembly are promising to produce a spending plan alternative.
"We want to see the documents," says State Senate President Steve Sweeney. "Then we're going to work on our plans, but we know the focus and the real tax is property taxes so we'll see his (Christie's) budget, but we're going to be developing our own plans."
Prior to Christie delivering his budget address last Tuesday, State Treasurer Andrew Eristoff told lawmakers and the State House press corps that a complete copy of the Governor's spending plan should be ready in ten days. That means Democrats are still at least a week away from getting a final copy.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver says, "You will see, once we receive the budget, a counter-proposal that the Democratic caucuses would want to move forward……You know that last year the Democrats crafted their own budget and we presented the Governor with a budget."
That didn't work out so well for Democrats. Christie vetoed almost $1 billion in spending items from the Democrats' plan. That created a brief but bitter feud between Christie and Sweeney.
After seeing last year's budget cuts, Sweeney took his criticisms to a level usually not seen even in New Jersey. He was quoted as calling Christie, "a rotten bastard" and "a rotten pr--k."
"Possibly, maybe I shouldn't have used the strong language, but I don't apologize for it," said Sweeney after making his statements. "Could I have gone over the top with my language? Probably I did, but I don't apologize for it. The Governor was wrong to hurt people…..My rage was what it was. My rage was what it was…….My anger, and I'm having a hard time controlling it is because I know what these programs mean that he cut……Understand, this isn't like he didn't know what he was doing. He sat down and consciously drew a line through these things."
Among the cuts that angered Sweeney last year were;
Transitional Aid to Localities cut by $139 million leaving just $10 million in aid. Democrats fear this could lead to more police layoffs and higher crime in urban areas.
Municipal Public Safety Aid cut by $50 million which completely eliminates a Democratic proposal.
Family Planning Services cut by $7.5 million which completely eliminates a Democratic proposal that had some Republican support.
AIDS Drug Distribution Program cut by $7 million slashing the program by a little more than half.
Nursing Homes cut by $25 million cutting what Democrats had added.
Special Care Nursing Facilities cut by $4.65 million cutting what Democrats had added.
Mental Health Services Salaries and Wages cut by $9 million. This is the money Democrats added to reverse Christie's plans to close a mental hospital
Mental Health and Addiction Services Community Care cut by $8 million. This is Democrat-sponsored funding to fully implement the involuntary outpatient commitment law. Christie left the $2 million he had put in.
Medicaid Prescriptions -- Dual Eligibles cut by $13 million cutting what Democrats had added.
Keep Aged, Blind and Disabled Out of Managed Care cut by $11 million cutting what Democrats had added.
Services to Blind and Visually Impaired cut by $1.5 million cutting what Democrats had added.
WorkFirst NJ Child Care (eliminate new work requirements) cut by $6 million.This Democrat-sponsored funding would have eliminated his proposed 25 hour a week work requirement to receive child care.
Educational Opportunity Grants (EOF) cut by $5.5 cutting what Democrats had added.
Public Broadcasting Services cut by $2 million completely eliminating funding and killing NJN.
Child Behavioral Health cut by $5 million.
Senate Salaries and Wages (staff account) cut by $2.67 million. Democrats say this is questionable because the Governor's budget maintains a $640 million surplus and he didn't cut his own budget but cut the legislative staff salaries
General Assembly Salaries and Wages (staff account) cut by $1.09 million. See above for why Democrats question this cut.
Wynona Lipman Chair in Women's Political Leadership (Eagleton) -- OLS budget cut by $100,000. Democrats feel this may be payback because Rutgers' Dr. Alan Rosenthal was the tie-breaking vote in the recent round of legislative redistricting that favored the Democrats and angered the Governor.
Raimondo Legislative Fellows Program -- OLS Budget cut by $69,000. This is another Eagleton/Rosenthal targeted cut by Christie claim some Democrats.
Every attempt by the Democrats to override one of Christie's vetoes failed.