New Jersey lawmakers approved Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s $33 billion budget, with Democrats - who had previously criticized the plan - providing the votes for passage.
Democrats, who control both chambers, had initially panned Christie's spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 as one that overlooks the working poor and unemployed. They passed his budget with few changes. Christie, 50, and all 120 members face re-election in November.
The budget is 2.8 percent higher than the 2013 plan and the biggest since 2008, according to state documents. Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo, a Democrat from Woodridge, said his party secured $97.2 million in additional spending that was offset by a reduction in anticipated healthcare costs.
"Nobody should be declaring victory here today," Sarlo said. "I always have maintained that revenues are very, very optimistic, but at the end of the day the treasurer has made it clear he's the only one who certifies the revenues. Once he locked down the $32.9 billion number, we began crafting a spending plan to match it."
The fiscal 2014 budget passed the Assembly 52-25 with little debate, after clearing the Senate 29-11 earlier today.
The last time New Jersey's budget was greater than $32 billion was in fiscal 2008, under Democrat Jon Corzine. Christie, the first Republican-elected New Jersey governor since 1997, took office in January 2010. The budget has increased every year of his term as the economy recovers and tax collections increase.
Standard & Poor’s rates New Jersey AA-, three steps below the top, and has had a negative outlook on the state since September over concerns that reality may not reflect Christie's budget forecasts.
Christie was forced to lower revenue estimates for this fiscal year by about $500 million after taxes arrived lower than forecast. For the 10 months ended April 30, collections are 0.2 percent above revised projections, according to the state's Treasury Department.
The governor's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 projects that revenue will climb 5.2 percent from its revised target to $32.8 billion, according to William Quinn, a spokesman for Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff.
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