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6-24 and 25-13 State Budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 on the Governor's Desk
(GSCS Note: The FY'14 Budget passed through both the Senate and Assembly on Monday efficiently, with both votes recorded prior to 5 pm. For education there were no big "surprises" as earlier anticipated in statements by the Budget Committee Chairs Senator Paul Sarlo and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto. While language adjusting the SFRA formula was deleted by the legislature, the aid amounts remained in place similar to the way the legislature dealt with the Governor's State Budget proposal from February 2013. This process mirrors the legislature's approach to the Governor's Budget proposal of last year. As already reported by GSCS, the legislature found additional aid to reduce the SDA Assessment Fees by $7.4M so that no local disticts would receive less aid that last year, as well as boosting state support by $1M for local school costs for anti-bullying programs.

Star Ledger - Christie's $33 billion budget sails through Legislature

NJ Spotlight - Sweeney: More Compromise Budgets Likely in Years Ahead…Built-in rise in pensions payments means “there’s no money’ to fight over, Senate president says

Star Ledger - Christie's $33 billion budget sails through Legislature

Salvatore Rizzo/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger on June 24, 2013 at 7:13 PM, updated June 25, 2013 6:15 AM

TRENTON — A surprisingly tame budget season ended today as New Jersey lawmakers approved Gov. Chris Christie’s $33 billion spending plan with only a few minor changes.

Lawmakers from both parties blessed Christie’s budget — which is 4 percent, or $1.3 billion, larger than what he signed last year — after removing a $2 million pilot program for school vouchers and securing slightly more funding for education, nursing homes and programs for disabled residents.

The Assembly passed the budget, 52-25, and the Senate approved it, 29-11, with none of the insults or profanity-laced tirades that have marked the budget battles during Christie’s first three years in office.

"I don’t recall cooperation like this during the entire decade of my service," Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) said. "It wasn’t very long ago when we were here overnight arguing on each and every issue that faced us in the budget. Let the nation know that New Jersey knows how to cooperate."

After hashing out a deal with Democrats during closed door meetings over the past week, the Christie administration secured the support of nearly two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber. Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.

But the dealmaking rankled Sen. Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor, who said Christie’s blueprint takes funding away from women’s health services, universal pre-school and the Earned Income Tax Credit geared toward the working poor.

"People are asking us to stand with them and you know what we’re saying? ‘You’re on your own,’" Buono (D-Middlesex) said. "Protecting the pocketbooks of millionaires, this governor has forced the working poor and the middle class to pay more and get less in return."

Christie, who is seeking re-election this year, sought to defuse any blowback from Democrats from the start.

• He agreed to expand the state’s Medicaid program, saving New Jersey $227 million for the coming fiscal year by shifting more costs to the federal government under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

• He backed away from demanding a tax cut, as he did for most of 2012.

• He projected revenue growth of 4.9 percent — a more conservative estimate than the 8 percent he expected last year, which never came through and earned him months of criticism from Democrats and Wall Street analysts.

Christie is expected to sign the budget into law later this week, and it would take effect July 1.

Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), the budget committee chairman, said the spending plan was far from perfect but that Democrats were able to protect funding for "our most vulnerable residents" by sitting down with Christie to strike a deal.

"Nobody should be declaring victory today," Sarlo said, listing women’s health care, property tax relief, and school funding as areas that could use extra dollars. "This is not a time to celebrate."

But Republicans were celebrating anyway, heralding the budget talks as a national model and lavishing praise on Democrats for reaching out to Christie in an election year.

"This chamber shines when we work together," Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris) said.

"That’s how government should work — not like 2008, when you (Democrats) spent some ridiculous money that we didn’t have," Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) said.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said the real budgeting test will come next year.

Christie and lawmakers have agreed to make a record $1.7 billion payment to the broken pension fund this year, but that payment is only 43 percent of what is required under law.

The state will have a hard time finding the money in coming years as pension costs keep rising, Sweeney said.

"We are so strapped financially in this state," Sweeney said. "Almost all the new dollars coming into the state are going to go into the pensions. It’s $6 billion over the next several years."

On the other side of the debate, Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren) said the new budget already breaks the bank.

"Our neighbor to the west, Pennsylvania, a state with 4 million more people, this year are passing a budget for $28.3 billion," he said.

The budget includes a $303 million surplus, or rainy-day fund, and $540 million in corporate tax cuts that were authorized in previous years.

What it doesn’t include is more than $24 million for the special primary and general election Christie called to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Frank Lautenberg, who died earlier this month. Democrats opposed Christie’s decision to hold a separate election 20 days before the governor’s race. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 13, and the special general election Oct. 16.

Star-Ledger staff writer Matt Friedman contributed to this report.

 

NJ Spotlight - Sweeney: More Compromise Budgets Likely in Years Ahead…Built-in rise in pensions payments means “there’s no money’ to fight over, Senate president says

 

By Mark J. Magyar, June 25, 2013 in More Issues

When it came to negotiating this year’s budget, there just wasn’t enough money to fight over, and there won’t be for the next several years either, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said yesterday.

With the state’s pension obligations eating up the lion’s share of normal revenue growth through Fiscal Year 2018, compromise budgets like the $32.9 billion spending plan that cleared both the Democratic-controlled Senate and Assembly yesterday are likely to be the rule for the next four years, Sweeney said.

“What happened this year is going to happen over the next several years,” Sweeney said. “There’s no money. There are no other programs we can cut. That’s why this negotiated budget was so easy to negotiate.”

Despite Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s saber-rattling over pushing for a tax cut, even “the governor recognized there’s no money for it,” Sweeney said. In fact, Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) said “there was no real mention of a tax cut” in the meetings he had with Christie.

The inability of the state over the past two years to fund even the first-year $183 million to $215 million cost of the property tax credit on the income tax that Sweeney proposed in March 2012 and Christie endorsed the following month raises doubts about how the state could possibly find the estimated $1.6 billion needed by the fourth year to pay for the maximum $1,000 per homeowner tax cut.

Sweeney said the $1.6 billion the state put into the pension system this year will grow to as much as $6 billion four budgets from now when the state completes its seven-year phase-in to full funding of pensions for state workers and New Jersey’s school employees. That pension obligation will eat up most of the expected revenue growth during Christie’s second term or the first term of his Democratic challenger, Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), who led the opposition to the negotiated budget during yesterday’s Senate debate.

Speaking at a recent Monmouth University property tax conference, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), the Assembly Republican budget officer, tacitly acknowledged that major tax cuts most likely would have to wait when he suggested that the state could shift the additional $600 million to $700 million being pumped into pensions each year to fund property tax cuts after the pension phase-in is completed in FY2018.

Sarlo and Assembly Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto said their agreement with the Christie administration on a negotiated budget guaranteed that the governor would not use his line-item veto powers to red-line every Democratic-sponsored initiative, as he did two years ago. “This way, we know that the money we put in for nursing home providers, for example, will stay in the budget,” Prieto said.

The compromise budget passed comfortably -- 29-11 in the Senate and 52-25 in the Assembly -- but not without vehement opposition from sizable blocs in both Democratic caucuses, led by Buono and Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), who were deposed as Senate majority leader and Senate president by Sweeney and who have been the most vocal critics of Sweeney’s cooperative working relationship with Christie.

Buono focused her attack on Christie, saying she was “very disappointed in his priorities” for failing to include full funding of the school aid formula and preschool education, and for refusing to provide funding for women’s health clinics, reinstatement of the full Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor, and more money for colleges and college students. She also criticized him for not providing funding to cut property taxes that are the highest in the nation.

“This governor has left New Jersey,” Buono asserted, contending that Christie was already looking ahead to running for president in 2016

Like Buono, Codey criticized Christie for insisting on holding special primary and general elections for the U.S. Senate that will cost $24 million combined, instead of saving at least $12 million by allowing the Senate general election to be held the same day as the November general election.

“When the governor is asked about it, he says, ‘I don’t give a damn,’” Codey said, noting that the special Senate election would cost more than funding women’s health clinics or reinstating the full Earned Income Tax Credit.

Codey also blasted Christie for closing the Hagedorn psychiatric hospital in Hunterdon County and a pair of developmental centers in Totowa and Woodbridge -- a move that would require family members “to drive three hours to visit their loved ones who would be cared for by new employees they don’t know. What the governor is saying is ‘We don’t give a damn.’”

However, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) said the budget compromise reached by Christie and Democratic legislative leaders could serve as a model of bipartisan cooperation for the nation. “It wasn’t very long ago that we were here overnight arguing over every single issue in the budget,” Bramnick noted.

Kevin Roberts, Christie’s campaign spokesman, criticized Buono for voting against a budget that contained a record $9 billion in school aid, a record $1.676 billion pension payment, and more than $1 billion in funding for hospital charity care, as well as a dozen Democratic-sponsored add-ons that included increased funding for community providers of care to the mentally disabled, nursing home operators, and community colleges.

Democratic budget negotiators persuaded the Christie administration to add only $97 million in increased funding to the $32.9 billion budget that the governor originally proposed. The new funding was covered largely by Medicaid savings created by Christie's decision to participate in the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act. “There wasn’t much wiggle room in the budget,” Sarlo acknowledged.

The only Republican to speak against the budget -- and the lone GOP vote in opposition in the Senate -- was Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren), the Legislature’s leading conservative, who criticized the size of the $32.9 billion spending plan. "Our neighbor to the west, Pennsylvania -- a state with four million more people -- this year passed a budget for $28.3 billion," Doherty noted.

Sweeney said one of his biggest regrets was his inability to persuade Christie to include $7.5 million in funding for women’s healthcare clinics, including Planned Parenthood, which he has refused to do for four years in a row. “He sees it as funding for abortion, but it’s not,” Sweeney said. “For every $1, we would get $9 back from the federal government. If you can find $24 million for special elections when you need to,” it’s not a question of finances, but of a policy choice, he said.

Sarlo was philosophical about the compromises Democrats made to get a budget agreement with Christie. “Nobody should be declaring victory today,” he said. “But it’s 2:30 in the afternoon on June 24th and we have a budget -- six days early.”

That, said Sen. Joseph Pennachio (R-Morris), is “something to celebrate.”your own,’" Buono (D-Middlesex) said. "Protecting the pocketbooks of millionaires, this governor has forced the working poor and the middle class to pay more and get less in return."

Christie, who is seeking re-election this year, sought to defuse any blowback from Democrats from the start.

• He agreed to expand the state’s Medicaid program, saving New Jersey $227 million for the coming fiscal year by shifting more costs to the federal government under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

• He backed away from demanding a tax cut, as he did for most of 2012.

• He projected revenue growth of 4.9 percent — a more conservative estimate than the 8 percent he expected last year, which never came through and earned him months of criticism from Democrats and Wall Street analysts.

Christie is expected to sign the budget into law later this week, and it would take effect July 1.

Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), the budget committee chairman, said the spending plan was far from perfect but that Democrats were able to protect funding for "our most vulnerable residents" by sitting down with Christie to strike a deal.

"Nobody should be declaring victory today," Sarlo said, listing women’s health care, property tax relief, and school funding as areas that could use extra dollars. "This is not a time to celebrate."

But Republicans were celebrating anyway, heralding the budget talks as a national model and lavishing praise on Democrats for reaching out to Christie in an election year.

"This chamber shines when we work together," Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris) said.

"That’s how government should work — not like 2008, when you (Democrats) spent some ridiculous money that we didn’t have," Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) said.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said the real budgeting test will come next year.

Christie and lawmakers have agreed to make a record $1.7 billion payment to the broken pension fund this year, but that payment is only 43 percent of what is required under law.

The state will have a hard time finding the money in coming years as pension costs keep rising, Sweeney said.

"We are so strapped financially in this state," Sweeney said. "Almost all the new dollars coming into the state are going to go into the pensions. It’s $6 billion over the next several years."

On the other side of the debate, Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren) said the new budget already breaks the bank.

"Our neighbor to the west, Pennsylvania, a state with 4 million more people, this year are passing a budget for $28.3 billion," he said.

The budget includes a $303 million surplus, or rainy-day fund, and $540 million in corporate tax cuts that were authorized in previous years.

What it doesn’t include is more than $24 million for the special primary and general election Christie called to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Frank Lautenberg, who died earlier this month. Democrats opposed Christie’s decision to hold a separate election 20 days before the governor’s race. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 13, and the special general election Oct. 16.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828