July 11, 2011 / 9:53 PM / in 7 years

New Jersey Democrats fail to override Christie budget cuts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled state legislature on Monday tried and failed to reverse 15 vetoes that were part of Republican Governor Chris Christie’s enacted 2012 budget.

On June 30, the budget deadline for the current fiscal year, Christie used a line-item veto to reject $900 million from a spending plan proposed by Democratic lawmakers, saying the plan greatly overstated New Jersey’s surplus.

In a series of votes on Monday, the legislature moved to increase spending for programs for AIDS patients and sexually abused children, among other programs, but failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the governor’s vetoes, they said.

“Today was about protecting the middle class folks who make New Jersey great,” said Christopher Donnelly, a spokesman for Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, in a statement.

“Voting for medication for AIDS patients or for programs that protect sexually abused children seems like a matter of common sense, if not common decency,” Donnelly said.

Christie is on vacation this week, but his spokesman Kevin Roberts called Monday’s votes “political gamesmanship.”

“No matter the budget year or circumstances, Democrats in the legislature have their budget rhetoric on repeat as they trot out the same recycled, overused and rabidly partisan rhetoric to distract from their own empty promises,” Roberts said in a statement.

Christie, known for his blunt style, has been seen as a rising star in the Republican Party since taking office last year with a lean government and anti-tax agenda.

But his budget vetoes have inflamed Democrats, who recently reached a deal with Christie on one of his top priorities -- a plan to force public employees to pay more toward their pensions and health benefits.

The office of the New Jersey Governor is among the most powerful state executives in the country because the governor appoints the treasurer and attorney general -- which in other states are independently elected -- and has line-item veto power.

Reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune

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