POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Assembly Dems say governor’s line-item vetoes break his budget promise

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

“I don’t want to use the word renege, however, it was not what the compromise was all about,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

Huttle is among the Democrats accusing Gov. Chris Christie of breaking this promise as the budget impasse was coming to an end.

“None of the additional spending items that they have added will be line-itemed down, that was what I’ve said for days,” Christie said the night the shutdown ended.

In the aftermath of getting some of what he wanted in restructuring Horizon, the governor has used his line-item veto pen to strike some of the language in those 70-plus Democrat priorities — the ones he waved around and threatened to veto if he didn’t get a Horizon bill.

For instance, in the bill to give $25 million for preschool education, the governor removed the phrase, “shall give priority to qualified districts having the highest concentration of at-risk pupils.” Assemblywoman Marlene Caride says unfortunately now the money can go to any school district.

Huttle says the governor’s veto pen also took a “let them eat cake” approach to heating and cooling costs for needy families and to increase funding for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families when another child is born.

“He did leave his mark on some of that language that I think heartless in a way to vulnerable and needy families,” Huttle said.

The issue of trusting the governor and trusting the Assembly speaker loomed large in the budget impasse. With the vetoes, the speaker said, “Anyone who contends Gov. Christie is an honest man has spent too much time sitting in the sun with him or in traffic on the George Washington Bridge.”

The governor’s response: “The Governor never agreed to sign an unbalanced budget by preserving every additional spending request sneakily tucked into the budget and not paid for by revenue. Speaker Prieto’s statement is false and all the honest parties to our agreement know it.”

“I guess the good thing about this is we have six months left of this governor. We have a new administration coming in. Whoever that is, I’m hoping that we can work together with the Legislature and develop a new trust and a new relationship,” Huttle said.

And what about paying state workers for the three day shutdown?

“Well, most of them it’s just a matter of today and we’ll have to go and take a look at that and talk to the Legislature about it because there is nothing budget enough for us to do that at the moment, but we’ll talk to the Legislature about what we can do about today,” Christie said.

Lawmakers say the governor could take care of it by executive order, and if not lawmakers will convene to address it. The governor caught international flack for vacationing on the beach he closed to the public during the shutdown, saying he didn’t care about the optics.

Now, a former gubernatorial candidate — Assemblyman John Wisniewski — has introduced bills to rent out the governor’s Island Beach State Park house to the public and prohibit the governor and his family from using it during a state budget government shutdown. It’s highly likely this would led to another veto if it ever reached the current governor’s desk.