Legislature approves largest budget in NJ history [AUDIO/VIDEO]
The New Jersey Legislature passed a $34.1 billion state budget on Thursday, voting along party lines, with Democrats supporting the spending plan, while Republicans voted against it.
If the budget is signed into law as is by Gov. Chris Christie, it would be the biggest state budget in the history of New Jersey. However, Christie has said he will veto the tax hikes that help support the Democrat-sponsored plan.
“This budget is not an easy one and many of the measures that are in this budget to help balance it quite frankly are last resort measures,” said State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood Ridge), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “I don’t think that there’s anyone here who ever wants to raise any type of fee or tax, but we have obligations and payments and bills to make.”
All 16 Republicans in the upper house rejected the budget. Most railed against the tax increasesdespite the fact that the money generated would help fund obligations like the state’s full $2.25 billion public employees’ pension fund payment in the next fiscal year. State Sen. Kevin O’Toole, a member of the senate budget panel said he would love to fund the system, but the state cannot afford it.
“Would we love to put $2.25 billion in? The answer is, ‘of course,’” said O’Toole (R-Wayne). “The revenues don’t support it so do you take away money from the hospitals or the schools or the roadways? Do you? Do you make that decision? We do what we can afford to do. I suggest to you that we could probably double the size of the state budget and we still can’t cure every ill the state has.”
The governor has been very outspoken about his plans to veto tax increases that reach his desk. Christie reiterated his position at his latest Town Hall meeting Wednesday.
“Let me guarantee you what’s going to happen, the same thing that’s happened every time they (Democrats) have sent me an income tax increase in the nearly 5 years I’ve been governor now. I will veto it. I will veto it,” Christie said.
The two key revenue-raising components in the Democrat-sponsored budget are a tax increase on New Jersey residents earning over $1 million annually and a 15 percent surcharge on the Corporation Business Tax. The millionaire’s tax would expire after three years and the CBT surcharge is a one-year maneuver.
It’s unclear when the governor will take action on the budget and its supporting legislation. He has until midnight June 30 when it is expected he’ll use his line-item veto power to eliminate tax increases and some funding for programs added by Democrats who control the legislature.
See video comments from the NJ Budget Committee Democrats below.