TRENTON, NJ (AP / CBSNewYork) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is proposing a $32.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year.
It includes a small increase in school aid, flat funding for municipalities and the modest amount needed to fund the first half-year of his 10 percent income tax cut.
Christie’s proposed budget, which he unveiled in a Statehouse address, represents a 3.7 percent uptick in spending to go with an improved economic forecast.
“Because we have made the tough choices in these last two years, we can make the right ones now,” the Republican governor told a joint legislative session in which he promised to veto any efforts by Democrats to raise taxes.
Though tax collections are lower than projected for the first six months of the year, Treasurer Andrew Eristoff said he expects a more robust second half. He has forecast revenue growth to top 7 percent in fiscal year 2013.
Christie’s proposal includes $212 million more for education. Most school districts would see modest increases in state aid.
The budget also contains $183 million to fund the first half-year of the governor’s 10 percent income tax cut and money to fund a 5 percent increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit for poor, working families. The increase would boost the average benefit to $495 per family.
Municipal aid would remain unchanged, though there would be less transitional aid money available to financially strapped cities and towns.
Christie’s budget also makes a $1.1 billion payment to the severely underfunded pension system, up more than a half-billion dollars from the current year’s contribution. The state agreed to phase in its annual contribution to the pension system after Christie signed legislation requiring government workers to pay more toward their retirement.
The proposed budget includes a $107 million increase to higher education, and recommends funding the Homestead Rebate and Senior Freeze property tax relief programs at current levels. Christie also proposed flat funding for hospitals, which were cut last year.
The Legislature must adopt a balanced budget by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
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