TRENTON – After nearly four hours of testimony, the state Assembly passed, 46-32, the Democratic Party-drafted $30.6 billion budget, just a few hours after the state Senate gave its approval.
Like the Senate vote, the Assembly vote was strictly along party lines, and is likely to be vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has called it, among other things, “pie in the sky.” His treasurer, Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff went so far as to call the plan unconstitutional. Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-12) of Red Bank, went so far as to call it a “Ponzi scheme.”
The Democrats’ budget relies on the $914 million revenue projection from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, which is much higher than the $511 million predicted by the state treasurer in late May. However, Gov. Chris Christie ultimately certifies the numbers.
Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-6) of Voorhees, who chairs the Budget Committee, described the budget, which is $1.2 billion more than the one unveiled by the Christie Administration, as a responsible bill that restores aid and services for senior citizens, schools and women’s health care.
Greenwald was highly critical of Christie, saying that when working-class and middle-class families saw devastating cuts in services and higher taxes, the state’s 16,000 true millionaires received “a sweet, sweet tax break.”
“When it comes down to it this has been a very painful year,” he said.
He described the governor as uncompromising, more intent on generating “sound bites on YouTube” than true bipartisanship, by working with Democrats on coming up with a responsible spending plan.
“I wish the governor would have sat down with us.”
However, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-12) of Little Silver, the party’s budget officer, said the Democrats’ budget is intent on spending every dollar available by dipping into surplus funds for various expenditures.
Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) said New Jersey was a “basket case” in fiscal matters, but with good budgeting, the state unexpectedly got a windfall in tax revenue.
“We are turning the corner and coming back,” he said.
Now, he said the Democrats want to spend it all, and then some. He described the Democrats’ plan as “out of whack.”
“It wipes out all the gains,” he said.
Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-29) of Newark, another Budget Committee member, described the plan as compassionate.
“We have serious problems in our state and this budget addresses that,” he said.
Assemblyman Anthony Bucco described the Democrats’ spending plan as a bad bet, relying heavily on overly rosy projections.
“This is not Atlantic City,” he said.