TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie returned from his trip out West and made short order out of a restoration of $139 million in Transitional Aid to cities. The measure still needs Legislative approval.
The funding, with another $10 million that remained in the FY12 budget when it passed the legislature almost three weeks ago, equals the $149 million that Christie included in his original budget proposal. A Democratic amendment removed an appropriation of 1 percent of awards to fund oversight to the program from the Department of Community Affairs.
The $10 million was left in the budget because it had already been awarded to cities, he said. The restoration comes from the state’s surplus, which resduces the state’s coffers to $225 million. “I’m not thrilled about the number,” Christie said of the surplus. “I’m going to restore this aid because the cities need it.”
He called the past use of state aid to cities a “give-away” to centers of “fraud, waste, and abuse”: “The piggy bank for Democratic bosses to give out jobs.” His program is an exercise in building “self-sufficient” cities, and in doing so, “making sure the money is spent in the manner it was intended to be spent.”
He received the budget “in a hurried way,” he said, and there was no easy way to make sure that the money was spent in the way he wanted it to be spent.
He said he is sending a bill to create “statutory” assurances for the funding of oversight, as well as a supplemental spending bill that restores the aid. “I want it in statute so they can’t play this game in the budget,” he said. “Whenever the legislature wants to come back and pass this bill, they have my commitment that I will sign it…I can’t imagine that they would not provide appropriate oversight for this money.”