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7-7-11 State Street Wire, 3:50 pm - A caucus unified, Senate Dems announce veto overrides

By Timothy J. Carroll | July 7th, 2011 - 3:50pm

TRENTON – State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, stood with Democratic leaders of the Senate today to announce that on Monday the chamber will begin veto overrides of Gov. Chris Christie’s budget cuts. Sweeney said the entire Democratic caucus is on board with the overrides.

“This is about priorities,” Sweeney said. “We didn’t offer him a budget so that he would hurt innocent victims.” The Senate received the veto documents from the administration today, but have not yet finalized which budget cuts they will entertain for an override vote.

The Senate will handle the vetoes in two or three sessions this summer, and the lower chamber can only schedule their overrides if the measures pass the upper chamber first.

In the meantime, the Assembly is planning to hold committee hearings on Christie’s budget cuts. The body can also schedule an override of the absolute veto of the millionaire’s tax and accompanying school funding bill, if they choose. That override must pass in the Assembly before moving to the Senate.

“We’re dealing with them now because people’s budgets are affected,” Sweeney said, referring to municipal, school board, and county budgets that rely on state funding commitments.

State Sen. Barbara Buono, (D-18), Metuchen, said, “This line-item veto was not an act of fiscal restraint. It was an act of political retribution and the governor’s aim is terrible, because people that will be hurt are not his political opponents but New Jersey’s most vulnerable.”

Buono said of Monday’s override votes, “I know our chances are slim…but Monday will be a day of reckoning.”

Sweeney wasn’t as doubtful that Republicans won’t join the restoration movement. “I know my colleagues in the legislature have to realize (the cuts) went well beyond, well beyond what was kind and human. Well beyond,” Sweeney said. "I honestly think we got a real shot at it."

Budget Officer Paul Sarlo, (D-36), of Wood-Ridge, said the cuts weren’t snap decisions, but were deliberated on for days. “He had an entire week to take his pen out,” Sarlo said, accusing Christie of targeting “those people who spoke publicly against him.”

The state is planning a surplus of $640 million, Sarlo said, more than double the original $303 million in surplus set by Christie in his initial budget proposal.

Sweeney said the surplus comes “at the expense of AIDS patients, abused children, the elderly and sick.”

He said he’ll put the house under call for the votes on Monday, which requires lawmakers to cast their vote and stay on the chamber floor. He said he will not require a voice vote.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., (R-21), Westfield, issued a statement regarding the Democrats’ attempt at overrides. "We would not be here if the Majority had chosen to negotiate a balanced budget with the Governor and Legislative Republicans rather than use the budget process to make a political statement,” Kean said.

“A bi-partisan, negotiated budget worked perfectly well last year…If the Majority were serious about working together to restore some line items that were lost in an overly politicized budget process, they would have done what they failed to do before they passed a budget: picked up the phone, called the Governor, and asked to negotiate a compromise with the front office and Legislative Republicans.”

Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608

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