Christie Calls Judge’s Criticism on New Jersey Schools ‘Crazy’

Wednesday, 23 Mar 2011 06:36 AM

 

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney, said a judge’s report criticizing his budget cuts in school spending was “crazy.”

Christie, a first-term Republican, said he hasn’t considered how to balance the budget of the state with the highest tax burden if he’s ordered to spend more than $1 billion extra on public schools.

Judge Peter Doyne, in a report to the state Supreme Court, said Christie and the Democrat-controlled Legislature underfunded schools by $1.6 billion last year. Doyne concluded that the budget cuts violated the state Constitution.

“Our courts have become crazy,” Christie, 48, said in his monthly call-in show on WKXW-FM in Trenton yesterday. “This is like banging your head on the wall.”

Asked what he could cut to compensate for increased education spending, if the Supreme Court agrees with Doyne’s conclusion, Christie said: “I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”

Doyne’s report released yesterday said $1.6 billion in education cuts had prevented New Jersey schools from offering the “thorough and efficient” education required by the state Constitution. The Supreme Court could prescribe a remedy.

In the radio appearance, Christie said the ruling addressed the narrow question of funding for disadvantaged schools, excluding the bigger picture of New Jersey’s finances.

In an exchange with a caller who identified herself as Penny, Christie said he wants to raise worker health-care contributions to 30 percent, from an average of 8.5 percent.

Call From Penny

Penny, who didn’t give her surname, said she earns less than $8 an hour as a government employee and can’t afford to contribute more toward health care. She asked how he expected her to live.

“How I expect you to live, Penny, is you have to choose another health plan that’s not as rich as the one you have now,” Christie said. “That’s how.

‘‘We can no longer afford to pay 90-plus percent of your health care,’’ he said. ‘‘The benefits are too rich and what you pay is too little.’’

Elected officials have scrutinized the cost of employee benefits as a way to cut the cost of government. Forty-four states face combined deficits of more than $100 billion for fiscal year 2012, according to the Washington-based Center on Budget & Policy Priorities.


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