There are competing plans to close the state budget gap, with Gov. Chris Christie proposing cuts to the pension payment and Senate Democrats suggesting increasing taxes instead. Assemblyman Gary Schaer told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that when forming the state budget, the first priority has to be meeting the needs of the people.
Schaer said that Senate President Steve Sweeney and the Senate Democrats have been crafting an alternative and he is working in the Assembly closely with his colleagues in the Senate in order to respond to a proposal from the government which he says does not make fiscal sense. He said that Christie’s proposal seems to be that the state is short about $2.4 billion and the way to meet the shortfall is by not paying bills, specifically not paying bills to the pension, and that is not fiscal responsibility or fiscal prudence.
“I agree with my Republican colleagues that the last thing I want to do is raise taxes. The first thing that I want to do is meet my obligations, as a state, to the people of New Jersey. Those obligations in this budget, Christie’s proposed budget, have not been met,” said Schaer. “I think we need to realize that and I think we need to realize also that this budget, despite Republican apprehension, not withstanding, there are over 43 tax increases that Christie has proposed, accounting for over $270 million worth of new revenue that Christie is proposing through new taxes. I am not saying that is the way to go, but what I am saying is our first priority must be to meet the needs of the people of New Jersey and the eminent priority must be to fill the obligations that we have to the people of New Jersey.”
Schaer said that he thinks that since Christie was elected five years ago, lawmakers have joined with him in an attempt to bring in new businesses throughout the state but unfortunately the New Jersey economy has not grown at the rate at which anyone anticipated or the rate that Christie had proposed in budget after budget. Schaer said the problem being looked at now is the result of five years of forecasts by Christie’s office, which have not been met from an economic point of view. He said that has brought New Jersey to where it is today.
Schaer said that his response to being in that reality has got to be to meet obligations and recognize that growing New Jersey means answering the needs of the people, more money for roads and bridges, more money for higher education and more money to give people the opportunity to succeed. He said that all needs to be part of the budget and unfortunately those items were lacking, as well as an essential commitment to the workers of New Jersey that their pensions would be intact.