New Jersey Democrats responded to Gov. Chris Christie's $34.4 billion state budget Tuesday, calling for more job growth and an increase in state revenue.

Democratic leaders react to Governor Christie's Budget Address (NJ Assembly Democrats Facebook)


Last year, Democrats in the Legislature thought Christie's revenue projections were pie-in-the-sky. Tuesday, Christie proposed the $34.4 billion spending plan, which relies on a 5.8 percent growth in revenue in Fiscal Year 2015, which begins July 1. Democrats admit that projection is realistic, but they still don't think it's good enough.

"That revenue growth is not enough to catch up to what our obligations are," said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus). "We need to get revenues. You can't keep growing a budget when you know you have more expenses without putting something more into it."

In his budget address, the governor talked about more reforms to the public employee pension and health care system. Top Democrats said they have already asked public workers to pay enough, and they insisted if the state simply stays the course of increasing payments into the system every year, the burden on taxpayers will lessen. Democrats said the governor knew what he was getting into when he signed the pension and health benefits reforms into law.

"We have to have the Democrat majority sit down at the table and face the reality about the future of our pension and health care costs," said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield). "I give the governor tremendous credit for not ignoring the issue this year. He could've kicked the can down the road. He didn't do that."

It would take almost $2 billion in extra revenue to restore property tax rebates to where they were before Christie took office, Prieto said. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees) said reforming the property tax system should be among the state's top priorities.

There is a path to growing the economy and increasing revenues, according to state Sen. Pres. Steve Sweeney.

"We need to get people back to work," said Sweeney (D-West Deptford). "We need a plan to put people back to work. That will fix your revenue problems."