Governor Signs Budget

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Governor Chris Christie signed a $34.5 billion FY2017 budget late June 30, making a few changes to the budget bill presented to him just days prior.

The Governor used his line-item veto pen just hours before the state constitution’s deadline for a new budget to slash much of the new spending included by the Democratically-controlled Legislature.  In his veto message the Governor claimed the Legislature had used inflated revenue projections and were willing to drain surplus to help pay for the increased spending proposed.

In the end, the signed budget is a $34.5 billion spending plan that went into effect after midnight as the state started its new fiscal year. The actual difference between the two budgets was minimal in the scheme of things, as Christie slashed $292 million from the Democrat’s budget, while they had added only $275 million to his original proposal.

The budget includes a $1.86 billion payment into the state’s pension system. The payment would be lower than Christie agreed to under reforms he signed in 2011, but the highest ever made by the state.

What Got Cut

The cuts related to education included:

  • $25 million for the expansion of pre-school education that would have expanded the current pre-school program to another 100 districts for three- and four-year-olds. Currently, 34 districts offer funding for two years of full-day preschool;
  • $3 million in additional funds for breakfast ‘After the Bell’ to fund an incentive program to provide a 10-cent per breakfast supplement to the existing federal reimbursement;
  • $4 million for adult vocational and technical education programs; and
  • $20 million appropriation in “programmatic stabilization aid.” Assembly Democrats said that money would have gone to Paterson.  Paterson is the third largest district in New Jersey and has been under state control for 25 years. It’s been underfunded $242 million for the last five years and is facing $186 million shortfall the next several years, the Paterson teachers union president said earlier this week.

The evening also included two surprise executive orders. The first froze all state spending on transportations projects that are not “absolutely essential.” Executive Order 210 came after lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate couldn’t agree on a plan to fund the dwindling state Transportation Trust Fund.  The second order, Executive Order 209, was an order to hold some state funds in reserve, including aid for struggling cities, until public-employee healthcare plan design committees can find some $250 million in savings that the Governor built into his own budget. He said he also wants the state to begin exploring ways to end a complicated reciprocal income-tax agreement with Pennsylvania.