New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will propose a $32.1 billion spending plan that is more than $2 billion higher than this year’s budget, according to four people who were briefed by members of Christie’s administration.
The people, who all work in the legislative branch, declined to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak ahead of Christie’s budget address. The governor, 49, a first-term Republican, plans to present his fiscal 2013 plan to lawmakers during a 2 p.m. speech at the Statehouse in Trenton.
A $32.1 billion spending plan would be the highest since fiscal 2008, according to budget documents. Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, declined to comment.
Christie, halfway through his first term, is calling for a 10 percent income-tax cut for every New Jersey resident, even as this year’s revenue collections trail his projections. He also faces higher costs for pension payments and debt service. Democrats, who control the Legislature, say Christie’s proposal favors the wealthy, and he needs to focus on the property-tax burden that has plagued New Jersey homeowners for decades.
Christie, who took office in January 2010 promising to fix state finances without increasing the burden on residents, has accused Democrats of ignoring pocketbook issues such as taxes and job creation while spending the past month on approval of a gay-marriage bill. Christie vetoed that measure on Feb. 18.
Rising pension costs and a slow recovery from the longest recession since World War II led Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings to lower the state’s credit grade last year. While revenue in the first half of this fiscal year rose 3 percent compared with the year-earlier period, it was $326 million less than targets in the current budget.
Christie’s $29.7 billion budget for fiscal 2012 funds only 14 percent of the pension payment recommended by actuaries, even after his benefit changes enacted last year, Fitch said in a Jan. 31 report. Pension demands will rise if the state fails to achieve its 8.25 percent assumed return on investments, the company said.
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