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New Jersey governor to test budget plan at town hall

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a crowd in this photo provided by the Associated Press.
March 18, 2014 6:00:10 AM PDT
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is taking his not-so-splashy state budget plan on the road with a town hall-meeting in the friendly territory of Republican-dominated Morris County.

The possible 2016 presidential contender laid out his budget proposal Tuesday. He said he would make a required $2.25 billion pension contribution and do it without raising taxes. But after meeting the pension obligation and others, there was little room left for other big programs.

In his address, he returned to criticizing an old enemy: those growing pension costs.

Christie said that the state's 2011 pension system overhaul did not go far enough.

In the 15 years before that, the state had often skimped on and sometimes skipped entirely its required payments for public employee pensions. Under the deal he made with the Democratic-controlled Legislature three years ago, the state agreed to ramp up its contributions over 7 years until it hit the full funding amount. New employees would not be able to retire early without penalties. All employees would have to contribute more to their own retirements, and retirees would have their cost-of-living increases suspended.

"Without additional reforms, New Jersey taxpayers still owe $52 billion to fully fund the pension system," Christie said.

He did not offer specific proposals to change the system and Democratic lawmakers balked at changing anything.

"We've done what we need to do with the pension system," State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said after Christie's address. "We need to stay the course."

Christie also did not announce plans for a tax cut. He called for a cut two years ago but was thwarted by Democrats. He has often promoted the idea but has not made a formal pitch since then.

His spending plan offers slight increases in aid for public schools and municipal governments and hikes higher education funding by $159 million, or about 8 percent.

The budget also includes $5 million to allow some districts implement longer school hours.

He also included funding to expand mandatory drug courts for certain offenders.

Property tax rebates would be maintained at current levels for those who are elderly, disabled or earn less than $75,000 a year.

A balanced budget must be approved by the Legislature before July 1.

Christie will discuss the budget proposal at a town hall meeting Wednesday morning in Stirling.


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