POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Michael Aron: Review of Christie’s Budget Address

Gov. Chris Christie delivered the state’s annual budget address today and NJ Today Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron was in Trenton to hear what he had to say. He discussed the spending plan for Fiscal 2014 with Managing Editor Mike Schneider.

Aron said he was struck by the number of times Republicans stood and applauded the governor while the Democrats didn’t. He said there were a few occasions when Democrats did stand in praise of Christie, particularly when he said he would be at the Jersey Shore this summer.

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The $32.9 billion spending plan Christie introduced represents an increase of 2.3 percent over the current year budget, according to Aron. He said the budget diffuses some of the criticism he might have gotten. For example, Aron said Christie is fully funding the pension system, there is no borrowing in his budget and he has agreed to the Medicaid expansion, which is part of Obamacare.

“I think in this election year he has made some moves that are clearly designed to ward off criticism and ward off Barbara Buono,” Aron said.

Democrats are calling Christie’s homestead rebate plan a gimmick, but Aron said delaying payments isn’t new. In other years, he explained June school aid payments were delayed until July so that it would be scored against the following year’s budget.

“That’s what they’re doing here to help close a $407 million revenue shortfall in the current budget year — Fiscal ’13 — that ends June 30 and as we heard earlier in our live broadcast, the Assembly Democrats jumped all over that calling it a gimmick,” Aron said.

According to Aron, the budget usually ends up close to what the governor submits, with fighting occurring over 1 or 2 percent of the items.

He said one of the interesting aspects of the budget address is that Christie is renewing his call for a 10 percent income tax cut based on the amount of property taxes people pay and challenged the legislature, which didn’t give him the income tax cut last year. He said if they did not implement an income tax cut, it should go on the ballot.

“I think it has to pass the legislature to get on the ballot so that might be a hallow threat, but nonetheless the governor put himself still on the side of cutting taxes, notwithstanding where we are in this post-Sandy state,” Aron said.