The Senate of New Jersey speedily passed a budget of $34.8 Billion for coming fiscal year. This comes in addition to the $300 million being spent on the many anti-poverty initiatives to the budget plan as proposed by Governor Chris Christie. This budget plan was unveiled on June 23 as the alternative to the Christie budget introduced in February and then revised in May post lowering the projections for the tax collections in 2016. The budget was approved by the Senate 28-11. The Assembly will late vote on this matter.
At $38.4 Billion, this proposed spending plan is approximately $1 Billion more compared to budget adopted in the present fiscal year. This budget has a strong resemblance to the budget made by Christie, that includes about $1.86 billion earmarked for the pensions and reduces the total high education funding to the tune of one percent from current budget. The operating aid to universities and public colleges remained flat.
According to Senator Paul Sarlo, the chairman of Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, of the about $275 million earmarked for new spending, approximately $25 million will expand the New Jersey preschool and about $25 million will restore the cuts made earlier to charity cars in hospitals and about $45 million to help fund the property tax rebates for the seniors. The chairman termed it a budget meant to protect New Jersey citizens.
Since there were no fresh taxes and absence of any agreement on the pension contribution by public workers, the floor debate was short and there were only expressions of gratitude directed towards the budget committee members. Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester, and Senate President, congratulated Sarlo for his excellent work which enabled the Senate to quickly approve the budget.
Senator Anthony Bucco, a Republican from Morris, expressed concern about the almost $300 million spending the Democrats joined to the budget made by Christie. He added that, however, he trusted the review of the governor, and if required, he will veto those items.
This budget will give the state a surplus of $405 million- approximately $60 million less than the revised blueprint of the governor. This financial cushion could be more if reform passage linked to transportation tax is passed by the Legislature during the last week of June and if it stands after a probable veto. This tax deal will free up about $342 million in general treasury in 2017.