Yesterday legislators sent Governor Christie their FY 14 budget bill. Though it does not include Christie’s coveted tax cut, it largely resembles Christie’s February proposal. There are a few commendable tweaks like increasing funding for nursing homes and funding the higher ed reorganization, but it still underfunds our public schools by over $1 billion, keeps Christie’s tax hike on the working poor firmly in place, and makes no moves to rehire police officers in New Jersey’s urban centers. Even worse, it passes on a coherent approach to jobs creation in favor of yet more corporate tax breaks.
Many legislators are dissatisfied with this status quo budget and said so. Barbara Buono gave a great, impassioned speech where she rightly said the budget failed NJ taxpayers. Dick Codey said that the budget needed a ‘heart’ transplant, and Loretta Weinberg voted her conscience against a budget that continues to keep women’s health funding on the cutting room floor.
Unfortunately, other legislators shrugged their shoulders and even seemed to imply that this budget negotiation might be the template for future years. “We don’t have the money,” Steve Sweeney told NJ Spotlight yesterday. It’s a sentiment that other legislators have echoed – but it’s just not convincing.
Yes, this year’s budget surplus is small. Is it any wonder, when people making $400,000 per year are enjoying their third straight year in a row of a $1 billion tax break? This year’s budget alone includes $200 million in corporate tax breaks, some of them directly targeted to large, multistate corporations. And that’s not even including the giveaways the state has offered to the likes of Panasonic, Citigroup, Prudential. In total we’ve offered over $2.1 billion in present and future revenue to corporations, over 20 of which have taken the money and laid off workers anyway.