In his budget address to the state legislature, Gov. Chris Christie outlined a 2011 budget proposal that relies on deep spending cuts and no tax increases to bridge a nearly $11 billion budget gap.
The $28.3 billion budget includes cutting $446 million to municipal aid, slashing 1,300 state jobs and eliminating $819 million to education.
“When someone stands up to protest the cuts we make ask them, ‘Are you going to double my income taxes in order to continue to pay for this government?’ Ladies and gentleman, I was not sent here to approve tax increases. I was sent here to veto them,” Christie says.
Frank Belluscio, director of the New Jersey School Board Association, says schools are going to feel the pain. “We're hoping that in the coming months that as the legislature deliberates over these budget recommendations that they will find some additional money to help school districts,” Belluscio says.
In his first address since becoming governor, Christie says that the pension system for state employees is too generous and has created a flood of liabilities.
“Our benefits are too rich, most public employees contribute too little, and the tax payers have had enough,” Christie says.
Hetty Rosenstein, director of the Communications Workers of America, New Jersey's largest union representing public workers, says the governor's budget proposal would unfairly punish the working poor and middle class.
“The governor talks a lot about tax cuts, but the only people who are getting the cut in taxes are the people who make over $400,000 a year,” Rosenstein says.
Christie says that if lawmakers pass his budget, the state will cut spending by 9 percent, calling that “change we deserve.”
The governor’s plans also include suspending a popular tax rebate, saving the state $850 million. From 2002 to 2008, pension payments in New Jersey grew 56 percent, triple the rate of inflation.
The deadline for next year's budget is July 1.