TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Chris Christie laid out his $32.9 billion budget for the coming year on Tuesday and in it he is proposing expanding a Medicaid program and helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
New Jersey’s governor gave his budget address on the heels of a poll showing he is more popular than ever. He pointed out he’s doing something federal lawmakers are not – reaching across the aisle to Democrats.
“It seems to me leaders in Washington, D.C., especially this week, could learn something from our example here,” Christie said.
However, the governor blasted state Democrats for not working with him to cut the state income tax by 10 percent. Democrats, though, fought back.
“If you have to move almost $400 million to seniors from this year to next year why would we be plan that benefits the 1 percent of the population?” Assemblyman Lou Greenwald said.
“I believe New Jerseyans are overtaxed, and obviously you do not. Many of you in this chamber repeatedly vote for tax increases,” Christie responded.
Christie had opposed President Barack Obama’s health care reform measure but now seems to see some benefits, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported. The Republican went beyond his comfort zone, saying he will participate in Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act to cover 300,000 uninsured New Jersey residents.
He said it will save taxpayers $227 million.
“Let me also be clear, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. It’s simple, we’re putting people first,” Christie said.
The governor is also proposing $40 million in Hurricane Sandy aid for victims who can’t get what they need from the federal government or their insurance.
“I love him … I always loved him. I think he’s the most natural, down-to-earth man. I think he cares about New Jersey,” hurricane victim Francene Cologna said of the governor.
Standing next to the hole that was once her house, Cologna said she could use the help.
“We didn’t have enough flood insurance to cover everything,” Cologna said.
There are no cuts in school aid in the governor’s proposal. In fact, there is a proposed 1 percent increase in spending, in addition to a scholarship program for low-income students in failing schools.
Legislators still have to vote on the budget.