The List: Ten Major ‘Adjustments’ Christie Made to Proposed Budget

NJ Spotlight News | June 29, 2015 | The List
Some cuts, like the $1.6B lopped out of the state pension fund, were a given; others, like money withheld from school districts in the Pinelands, may come as a surprise

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Gov. Chris Christie had warned Democrats Thursday night on his monthly radio show that he was sharpening his veto pen to make cuts to the final budget presented to him earlier in the day. “This is what happens when the Legislature refuses to negotiate a budget with me,” he intoned on NJ 101.5 FM.

True to his word, the governor cut $1.6 billion from the budget, although he also made some surprise moves such as /increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit from 25 percent to 30 percent.

A few of the cuts seemed intended to send a message to the Democratic leadership, in particular Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). Both saw local health projects cut from the budget.

Here’s a list of some of the major changes made by Christie:

1. $1.5 billion in state pension funds

As expected, Christie deleted the additional appropriations Democrats made to the state pension system. Democrats also hoped to insert funds into the budget by hiking taxes on corporations and high-income earners. The governor, in separate actions, vetoed the proposed tax hikes.

2. $26.6 million from the Department of Human Services

That includes $20 million for medical services for the aged and $3 million for nursing homes.

3. $24.1 million from Urban Enterprise Zones

UEZs, which are special retail areas in cities across the state, once benefited from being able to charge lower state taxes on merchandise, but Christie put those taxes in the general budget. Democrats added language to the budget to redirect some of the funds back to the towns, but Christie excised that language.

4. $20 million from environmental causes

Rather than using money from the Clean Energy Fund to pay for maintenance and salaries at state parks, Christie is taking it from the $80 million recently set aside by ballot approval to preserve and protect open spaces.

5. $20 million from Programmatic Stabilization Aid

This Democratic budget proposal was meant to bail out the Paterson and Egg Harbor City school districts, which face the same problem: Rising enrollments and falling tax ratables. Paterson, facing 300 layoffs next year, was to get $19.7 million of the total.

6. $20 million for new medical school

The governor has signed off on a proposal to build a new Seton Hall University-Hackensack University Health Network medical school on the former Hoffmann-La Roche campus in Nutley/Clifton. It’s not clear if the veto reflects a temporary dispute about spending or timing.

7. $10 million for new osteopathic program

The proposed program was supposed to be a partnership between Rowan University and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

8. $5 million in funding for palliative-care pilot

The program was slated for Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck.

9. $1 million from the Achievement Gap Reduction Program

The fund, championed by state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex), specifically targets Montclair public schools and is meant to reduce the performance gap between different racial and socio-economic groups.

10. $550,000 from Pinelands school districts

The money would have gone to schools that have seen at least 20 percent enrollment growth since 2001. The Democrats proposed these districts be excluded from paying certain state assessments for capital projects.

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