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Senate President Expects Budget Line Item Vetoes

6-26-12

The Senate and Assembly passed the proposed state budget Monday. The Senate did not have Republican support and now officials are waiting to see what Gov. Chris Christie will do with the proposed spending plan. Senate President Stephen Sweeney told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he expects Christie to line item veto portions of the budget like he did last year. In addition to the state’s spending plan, Sweeney also talked about county prosecutors.

Sweeney said his discussions with Christie didn’t fall apart, as some have said. He said money was reserved in the budget for a tax cut and he had to listen to members of his party. “My members wanted to be ensured that the numbers are going to be there to provide the tax cut,” he said.

While Christie’s revenue projections may be optimistic, Sweeney said he hopes they’re correct. “I’m actually rooting that the numbers work out and the economy turns so that we see more people working in this state,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said he spoke to Christie after the budget vote, but declined to disclose the content of the discussion. “My conversations with the governor honestly stay with the governor,” he said. “I’m the opposite party and if we can’t talk to each other in confidence without it being repeated, it makes it very hard to advance anything.”

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Sweeney said he expects some line item vetoes because the budget wasn’t negotiated with Christie. “We advanced what we felt was a very reasonable, sound budget,” he said. “There wasn’t much argument from anybody about the budget itself. The only argument that really came about the budget was giving a tax cut now and the real concern was making sure the revenues will be there.”

Sweeney explained that a tax cut would take time. “We want people to realize if we passed a tax cut bill three months ago, it doesn’t go into effect until next year,” he said. “Regardless of when we take action, if the revenues are there, we’ll take action come the end of this year so the tax cut will be in place when it was going to be in place earlier.”

There are currently issues regarding county prosecutors, with the attorney general poised to take over two of them and Christie waiting for the Senate to approve his appointees. Sweeney said the Senate just received the nominations. “There’s a lot of work to do to vet them and see if we agree or not,” Sweeney said. “But as far as the attorney general’s powers, a lot of people are very concerned. I’m sure people in the legal world are going to be looking at whether the attorney general can do what he’s looking to do with the governor or it’s a very real possibility that there will be a disagreement on this.”

Sweeney said there are questions if the attorney general has the power to replace county prosecutors. “That discussion will come I’m sure in the days to come, especially if there’s an attempt to remove the prosecutors without cause,” he said. “If there’s cause, if there’s actions being taken in the prosecutor’s office where you would have cause to remove somebody that’s one thing, but if it’s just to replace somebody because one’s a Democrat and I want to put a Republican in, again, that’s a discussion for a different day and we have to find out on what legal ground you can do that.”