State Budget Wars: New Jersey Forges a Truce (For Now)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie just signed a $29.4 billion budget for his state that carves deeply into spending on public schools, aid to cities and towns, and postpones paying the state's contribution to public employee pension funds. New Jersey had an $11 billion budget gap that Christie insisted be closed without raising any taxes.
Shortly after signing the budget, the governor's office posted this YouTube video of Christie talking about New Jersey being back on the road to "fiscal sanity." The predictions of a major showdown between Democratic-controlled legislature and the scrappy Republican governor over the budget never really materialized, but that could change later this week.
Christie has ordered lawmakers back to Trenton on Thursday for a special session to consider his proposals for property tax reform, namely a 2.5 percent cap on annual growth in the tax. And this may be when the real battle starts. The governor's desire for a lower cap already has drawn fire from the New Jersey Education Association—fighting with Gov. Christie since his campaign—which is predicting disaster for public schools if it were to be enacted.
Given the personalities and the stakes, this debate, fight, row—whatever you want to call it—will be worth following.
Let me mention to those of you who don't follow New Jersey closely that this governor, a former prosecutor who is the first Republican in charge since 1997, spouts some eminently quotable zingers. My favorite from today's budget signing: "If Trenton is not completely upside down yet, we certainly have it by the ankles and we're shaking it around."