(Adds details, reaction)
By Joan Gralla
Feb 21 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
on Tuesday proposed a $32.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2013,
which avoids tax increases and doubles the state's pension
contribution to $1.1 billion.
The Republican governor's plan for the budget year beginning
July 1 includes a 10 percent cut in all income tax brackets,
which he first promised in his State of the State address on
Christie said New Jersey can lead the nation in fiscal
discipline and "be the trendsetter for an America that honestly
wants to confront our challenges."
The plan, if approved by the Democratic-controlled
legislature, would raise school funding by $213 million to a
total of $8.8 billion, increase aid for colleges and
universities by over $100 million and give hospitals $986
Christie said his budget plan would spend less than the
state did in 2008, the last year of Democratic Governor Jon
Corzine's four-year term.
Christie has criticized a court ruling obliging the state to
boost funding for poor schools, but he said: "It's not enough
and it's not appropriate, to simply tell our most challenged
urban families, trapped in over 200 failing schools, that
"'life's not fair.'"
His proposals include a new $1 million scholarship program
for inner-city pupils, and a $28 million increase in student
financial assistance. Christie again urged lawmakers to weaken
teacher tenure while boosting their pay and allowing more
charter schools to open in areas with failing schools.
After Christie spoke, Democratic lawmakers blasted his
proposed income tax cut, saying it would give a middle-class
family $80 over the next three years while the state's 16,000
millionaires would reap more than $7,000.
"The governor's budget plan is just more of the same - tax
cuts for the rich at the expense of the middle-class," Assembly
Majority Leader Lou Greenwald said in a statement.
New Jersey's property taxes are among the nation's highest
and the Democrats said lowering them for middle-class homeowners
was more important than Christie's income tax cut.
"The most glaring omission in his speech was the complete
and utter absence of a plan to address property taxes," Speaker
Sheila Oliver said.
Christie's new budget is based on a 7.3 percent increase in
revenue from the latest revised forecasts for the current year,
the New Jersey Department of the Treasury said. In the first six
months of fiscal 2012, tax revenue missed forecasts by 3.2
Christie said the state's economy has added 60,000 jobs
Christie's tax relief proposals include increasing the
earned income tax credit to 25 percent from 20 percent over two
years to give the working poor $550 a year.
The governor is seen by political analysts as a possible
pick for a vice presidential candidate after he said he would
not run for president. The analysts view Christie's budget as
designed to win voters if he runs for re-election as governor in
(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Kenneth Barry)