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The List: Budget of $34.8B is Biggest Proposed by Christie Since He Took Office

Spending plan is about $5.5B higher than what was proposed by governor during first year in office

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The $34.8 billion budget that Gov. Chris Christie put forward in February for the state’s next fiscal year is the largest spending plan he’s proposed during his more than six years in office. Christie’s budget is also bigger than any of the spending plans proposed by his predecessor, former Gov. Jon Corzine.

Christie came into office in early 2010 during the depths of the Great Recession. At the time, state tax collections were plummeting -- and spending dropped as well, since the state constitution requires a balanced budget.

But revenues have slowly risen and proposed spending has also increased. Christie’s first budget proposal, covering the 2011 fiscal year, totaled $29.3 billion. His proposed budget for the current fiscal year is $33.8 billion.

Corzine, a one-term Democrat, faced an entirely different scenario. He came into office before the recession hit, and his spending peaked at the beginning of his tenure before dropping as the recession took hold.

Budget proposals, in general, only start the debate when it comes to determining how much the state will spend during a given fiscal year. Lawmakers also have a say during a lengthy review process that lasts through the end of June. A series of adjustments are also made during the fiscal year after a budget is enacted, with some additions and subtractions expected throughout the 12-month fiscal year.

Still, the governor’s budget proposal always sets the framework each fiscal year for what the state will end up spending. Here’s a list of the last 10 proposed state budgets, arranged in order of size.

1. $34.8 billion, FY2017, Christie

This is the latest and largest budget that Christie has proposed since taking office in early 2010. If adopted unchanged later this year, total spending would go up by about $1 billion over the budget that Christie signed into law for the 2016 fiscal year.

2. $34.4 billion, FY2015, Christie

This was the spending plan Christie originally put forward in early 2014 for the 2015 fiscal year. But the budget ultimately signed into law was a much smaller $32.5 billion. Christie blamed faulty information provided by economists for the original revenue projections, which he ultimately lowered.

3. $33.8 billion, FY2016, Christie

This is the budget in place right now for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. Due to routine adjustments throughout the fiscal year, the current budget is now projected to come in at just over $34 billion.

4. $33.30 billion, FY2009, Corzine

This was Corzine’s largest proposed budget, narrowly beating out the spending plan he put forward for the 2008 fiscal year. But spending ended up falling well short of the original budget proposal thanks to cuts ordered by Corzine as the recession began.

5. $33.29 billion, FY2008, Corzine

This was the second budget of Corzine’s tenure, and it marked a healthy jump from the spending plan he proposed during his first year in office, when he also pushed through an increase of the state sales tax.

6. $32.9 billion, FY2014, Christie

This is the budget in place for what turned out to be the toughest fiscal year Christie has had so far. A $1 billion revenue shortfall that opened up toward the end of the fiscal year forced Christie to disobey his own pension-reform law, which promised a series of increased state contributions into the public-employee pension system.

7. $32.1 billion, FY2013, Christie

This was the proposed spending plan that proclaimed “The New Jersey Comeback Has Begun.” It included a phased-in 10 percent income tax cut. But as tax collections lagged behind projections, lawmakers decided not to approve the tax cut.

8. $29.8 billion, FY2010, Corzine

This was Corzine’s last budget proposal, and it came during a tumultuous year that included his loss to Christie in the November 2009 gubernatorial election. Total proposed spending marked a drop of about $1 billion from the budget he enacted during his first year in office in 2006.

9. $29.4 billion, FY2012, Christie

This was the first budget proposed after revenue from the federal stimulus program was no longer available to help states like New Jersey balance spending in the wake of the recession. Democrats had advanced their own version of the state budget, only to see Christie reject much of the extra spending they sought.

10. $29.3 billion, FY2011, Christie

This was Christie’s first budget, introduced as New Jersey was mired in the depths of the recession. It was the rare Christie budget to pass with bipartisan support, and it held up through the full fiscal year.

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