Christie unveils $32.1B budget

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie today unveiled a $32.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 – a 3.7 percent increase over this fiscal year’s adjusted budget – that anticipates an improving economy that will allow the state to give more money to schools, make its largest single-year pension payment ever, hikes the earned income tax credit from 20 to 25 percent, and preserves hospital funding at its current level.

In addition to renewing his call for a 10 percent, across-the-board, income tax reduction, Christie’s budget is predicated on an economy that at least in New Jersey will be on the upswing.

“The economy in the state is experiencing a comeback,’’ Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said. “We are essentially on track.’’

The budget hikes no taxes, and envisions a closing balance of about $300 million.

Among other things:

The budget will hike education aid by $213 million, although the state could not immediately specify which districts will benefit and which will lose funding.

The state intends to make a pension payment of $1.07 billion, its largest ever and the largest since it made $1.04 billion in 2008.

The state will increase the earned income tax credit by 5 percent, estimating that it will provide an average benefit of $495 for working families in the first year of the expansion, which would be 2014.

Hospital funding would remain the same at $986 million, and is related to an overall reform of documentation of charity care spending.

Among other things, the budget outlines a realignment of several state departments.

Senior Services would move from the Department of Health and Senior Services to a new Division of Aging Services.

Children and Youth Programs would exit the Department of Human Services, and the Division of Women would move from the Department of Community Affairs, and both would come under the Department of Children and Families.

Hospital funding would shift from Human Services to the newly named Department of Health.

The Sports and Exposition Authority would become the main agency in charge of attracting sports and entertainment events.

Some categories of funding will take a hit.

The Transitional Aid category, a political football this past budget season, will drop from $170 million to $113 million, but a related category, Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief, will grow from $1.29 billion to $1.34 billion.

This is part of the state’s intention of transitioning towns toward self-sufficiency, Sidamon-Eristoff explained.

In addition:

The state will use savings from the closing of the Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital as well as new funding to advance the cause of new community placements.

As far as higher education goes, the state plans to spend $108 million more in support.


Christie unveils $32.1B budget