Christie Meets With Sweeney, Prieto on State Budget

N.J. Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto. Observer

Gov. Chris Christie met with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto Tuesday afternoon, but there’s no deal yet on a state budget.

Christie and legislative leaders have until July 1 to pass a budget for the next fiscal year. At the center of negotiations is school funding, with Sweeney saying he won’t pass a budget without an agreement on the issue.

Tom Hester, a Prieto spokesman, confirmed the meeting but said he had no new information on the budget negotiations. Spokespersons for Christie and Sweeney didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Prieto has called an emergency caucus meeting for 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the budget, a source close to Prieto said.

Sweeney and Prieto have proposed a plan to provide $100 million in additional school aid than what Christie has proposed and an extra $25 million for preschool education. The Prieto-Sweeney agreement would also redistribute $46 million in so-called adjustment aid, redirecting some money from districts considered to be overfunded under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 and giving it to underfunded districts. The agreement caps adjustment aid cuts in affected districts at no more than 1.5 percent of their school budgets.

But Christie has concerns about the proposal. Earlier Monday, he said parts of the Democratic school funding proposal are “discouraging and unfair” and said he has questions about “where money is going and how it’s distributed.”

Unions and education advocacy groups have asked lawmakers not to take away state aid from school districts for the coming fiscal year since many schools have finalized their budgets. Adding to the chorus of criticism on Monday were Senate Republicans, all 16 of whom signed a letter urging Christie to reject the Democrats’ proposal. The letter called the plan a backroom deal that fails to fix the “systemic gaming of school funding.”

“While we support the additional funding for the under-funded school districts as we have called for, there are major flaws to this scheme,” the Republicans wrote.

Christie Meets With Sweeney, Prieto on State Budget