Governor Christie in his opening press release statement trumpets his budget actions by boasting he “acts decisively to veto over $1 billion in irresponsible tax hikes and balances a fifth consecutive budget. He makes the hard and necessary choice to protect essential services for NJ families.” Well, the tax hikes were not irresponsible. They were designed to meet a contractual obligation to State employees and retirees. He has no choice but to balance the budget as it’s required by law. As a result of his huge line item vetoes and smaller legislative cuts we end up with a budget lower than he proposed, lower than the legislature’s budget and lower than last year’s budget. Christie should have an easier time to meet his revenue projections, but he has insufficient funds “to protect essential services for NJ families.” After poorly managing the economy, not meeting a union obligation, and having the legislature cut some of his priorities, it is no surprise that he “signed the budget privately in his inner office.”
The State Budget appropriations that Governor Christie initially proposed at $34.5 billion, reduced by the legislature’s counter proposal of $34.1 billion, now end up at a much-reduced $32.5 billion – $2 billion less than what the governor sought and $1.5 billion less than what the legislature wanted. That’s because of several reasons. Christie vetoed the legislature’s bills for new surcharges to the millionaire’s income tax and business tax, while slashing the State pension 2015 contribution from $2.25 billion back to $681 million. In addition to other line item vetoes he made, the legislature had reduced departmental appropriations, which the Governor could not restore. (See here for the departmental increases and decreases the legislature introduced.) The Governor can line item veto or just reduce appropriations, but can not restore appropriations cut by the legislature.
The total resources available to the state were originally set at $34.4 billion by the Governor and reduced by the Legislature to $34.1 billion. According to Executive Office emailed documents, detailing Christie’s budget changes, the final certified resources available to the state are now $32.9 billion. With appropriations set at $32.5, such indicates that the difference of about $400 million is our surplus – an increase of about $100 million from the 2014 surplus of $300 million – a good move, but largely brought on by so many cuts.
According to the Record, “Christie signed the budget privately in his inner office and his staff sent out a picture through the governor’s Instagram account. Christie offered no comments on the budget other than his veto message.” Christie’s reaction is not surprising because in spite of his proud evisceration of the two key legislative business and income tax proposals, he could not reverse a one-year freeze imposed by Democrats on the Business Employment Incentive Program of tax breaks, nor re-instate a new tax on electronic cigarettes, nor revive other legislative cuts. He does not have his beloved income tax decrease nor a “Jersey Comeback.” He has done a poor job of managing our economy and estimating revenue. Additionally he now has troubled water under two bridges.
Some of Christie’s other actions include:
With all of the cuts we are left with a budget ill-prepared to meet essential needs, and with a governor who has generated less growth than others in our region. The governor’s original 2014 budget provided certified available funds of $34.8 billion, as opposed to 2015’s much-reduced certification for $32.9 billion. We need to generate economic growth and we need a budget that not only accounts for inflation but provides the resources (and policies) to meet the coming challenges – social, infrastructure, pension, environment, and more. This budget and this governor are not what we need.