Christie unveils FY 2014 budget

Gov. Chris Christie today outlined his proposed $32.9 billion budget, which calls for an expansion of the Medicaid rolls, historic school aid levels and a full contribution to the state’s pension program.

The budget calls for revenues of $32.8 billion, a 4.9 percent increase over the adjusted Fiscal Year 2013 revenues and leaves the state with $300 million surplus.  State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff called the projection “conservative.”  That number includes $1.073 billion – 3 percent of the total – in non-recurring revenue. 

Included in the plan is a $1.675 billion pension contribution – the full amount called for under the pension overhaul signed by Christie in 2011.  The budget also calls for more than $8.6 billion in school aid, a $97 million bump over the current budget.

Municipal aid will remain flat and according to Sidamon-Eristoff no town’s aid will be cut from last year.

Christie’s decision to expand the state’s Medicaid program is expected to both help cover 300,000 uninsured New Jersey residents and also shore up $227 million in the FY 2014 budget. The move makes the Garden State’s Republican governor the eighth GOP executive in the country to align himself on the issue with President Barack Obama.  The expansion is part of the president’s healthcare reform.

Christie, who has refused to participate in key components of the federal health care reform, first announced his decision to expand the Medicaid program during his budget address. According to reports, seven Republican governors have opted not to accept Medicaid expansion, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Gov. Rich Scott.

“The savings come in the fact that the federal government will now be providing a higher level of reimbursements,” Sidamon-Eristoff told reporters during a budget briefing.

The budget includes no additional taxes and no planned layoffs, though it maintains the Earned Income Tax credit at 20 percent of the federal credit.  It also delays by three months the state’s Homestead tax credit, worth about $400 million. 

Despite the governor’s push two years ago for more pay as you go transportation funding, this budget relies entirely on borrowing to pay for transportation funding.

Notably absent from the plan is the continued call for an income tax cut, which was the headline of last year’s budget address.  Christie and the Democrat-controlled legislature sparred over the cuts for months until Super Storm Sandy struck the state in October, all but ending the talk.  

Sidamon-Eristoff said the state expects the Fiscal year 2013 revenue shortfall to hit $407 million, about 1.3 percent below the governor’s projection.

"This meeting is entirely off the record. Until somebody leaks it."
—Michael Kempner, addressing a roomful of Democratic powerbrokers organizng for Hillary Clinton