If the lawsuit settlement is a approved by a judge, New Jersey only has to use $50 million of the $225 million Exxon Mobil would have to pay the state to clean up land contamination.

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The state will also have to deal with the inability to use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in the northern part of the Garden State. Current law allows Gov. Chris Christie to use the rest of the money to plug budget holes. Several Democrats are seeking to change the law.

"Money that comes from environmental settlements is just for that. It's for compensation for environmental contamination," said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Madison).

A bill (A-4281), sponsored by McKeon, Assembly Budget Committee chairman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) and Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) would amend the Fiscal Year 2015 budget to require half of all amounts of environmental lawsuit recoveries received by the state -- above $50 million -- be used for the costs of remediation, restoration and clean up.

"It doesn't take 100 percent of it. It doesn't hamstring any administration either currently or in the future," McKeon said.

Before the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the measure Thursday, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (D-Westfield) criticized the bill and derided what he called pure partisanship.

"It's very hard to tie the hands of governors with respect to use of funds depending on what emergencies arise. This is a political bill aimed at Gov. Christie. If there was a democratic governor this bill wouldn't be on the desk," Bramnick said.

It would be very hard to imagine a scenario under which Christie would actually sign the legislation into law should it pass both houses of the legislature, but McKeon insisted he was not concerned about that.

"I can't speak for the governor. He has a different function than in this," McKeon said. "The legislature can only put forward what we think is in the best interest of the people of this state and the governor has his duty to do the same."