Governor Chris Christie's proposal to reorganize the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers and Rowan Universities hit a major speed bump yesterday.

Secretary of Higher Education, Rochelle Hendricks defended the plan, but couldn't tell the State Senate Budget Committee how much it will cost and the panel's chairman was none too happy.

Committee chairman, State Senator Paul Sarlo says, "I don't think anybody in their right mind could vote for the merger without knowing what it's going to cost (and the) impact on the state of New Jersey. We need to have that. Now, that may be done outside the budget. That could happen. It doesn't mean we're going to stop the budget process."

Hendricks says the numbers should be available by July 1 when the merger is to take place, but that's also the deadline for a signed and balanced budget. Sarlo asked, "It's supposed to be done by July 1, and we're not going to have a number?" How is that going to work?"

"There is something missing," says Sarlo. "Something glaring (is) missing and quite frankly its insulting to this committee that we're sitting here just two months before the self-imposed (merger) deadline and nobody can give this committee, a co-equal branch of government a dollar amount what it's going to cost the State of New Jersey."

"Senator, there is not a number that I can tell you," said Hendricks. "We have teams from the three institutions working in every way, around all the critical issues…….. Too often, we get fixated on the costs without understanding the direction….Let's try to do this in a comprehensive and thoughtful way, and when we've walked away from it, we've done our due diligence."

Christie contends he doesn't need the legislature's approval. An appellate court disagrees.

"This model seeks to propel the entire system to greatness while providing incentives to have more of our students remain here to attend college," says Hendricks. "I am confident that integration will strengthen and enhance these universities as well as the state."