There’s nothing in the sliver of restorations secured in last night’s budget deal that thrills state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth).
“I’ve made it clear from the beginning that a budget which doesn’t have enough revenue because we won’t tax the millionaires is a budget I won’t support,” Lesniak told PolitickerNJ.com.
He also said he is baffled by Gov. Chris Christie’s refusal to restore $7.6 million in family planning funding.
While other legislators quietly bad mouth Democratic Party leadership as anemic in the face of a rampaging Republican governor whose tactics have already collapsed Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Newark Mayor Cory Booker into point/counterpoint poses, Lesniak refused to criticize.
“We’ve had no option as long as we didn’t want to run the risk of shutting down goverment,” said Lesniak, when asked if the Democrats folded too quickly and secured no great concessions from Gov. Chris Christie.
“Closing down government was an option we were not willing to consider, and so once that option was off the table, there was not much more we could have done,” added the veteran Democratic Party lawmaker.
Lesniak said he understands the worry expressed by state Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) and others about the new way in which $48 million in Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) funding would be distributed if Chrisite’s $29.4 billion budget passes.
“We’re looking at the language to assuage concerns of the UEZ mayors that that money will be held over their heads in a political manner by the governr,” said the senator. “We’re looking for ways to avoid that. That money belongs in the muncipalities.”
Regarding the Sweeney versus Booker bang-up over a cap on property taxes, Lesniak gave the round to Sweeney.
“The Sweeney proposal is more flexible and makes more sense,” he said of the senate president’s proposed 2.9% cap on annual propoerty taxes, compared to the governor’s 2.5% hard cap, which Booker supports.
“The Christie proposal (which would require voter approval every time a government entity wants to exceed the annual 2.5% hard cap on property taxes) runs the danger of turning New Jersey into California, a fiscal disaster,” Lesniak said. “I can’t imagine why the mayor would endorse that. I totaally disagree with Mayor Booker on that. I don’t think he thought it through enough. It was a decision that Mayor Booker made, and I think it was totally unrealistic and unsustainable. I’m hoping the mayor will change his position.”