Senate panel readying vote on budget compromise

TRENTON – Senate lawmakers are readying to vote a $32.9 billion budget plan out of committee Thursday morning.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued a statement indicating lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie have compromised on a budget proposal. The Democratic lawmaker said the plan “makes the best use of available resources,” but added it doesn’t achieve everything Democratic lawmakers hoped for under a stronger economy.

“This is a reasonable and responsible fiscal plan for New Jersey that reflects the difficult economic conditions that continue to require hard decisions on state finances,” Sarlo said in a statement.

“This is a negotiated budget. By coming to an agreement with the administration and our counterparts in the Assembly we are able to finalize a plan far in advance of the July 1 deadline and we avoid any contentious disagreements or any possibility of a disruption in state services,” he said.

The negotiated plan projects a $300 million surplus and reallocates $97.2 million in spending that is offset by $97.2 million in revised spending projections for Medicaid and state health benefits by the administration.

According to the proposal, the reallocated spending includes: $35 million for higher education reorganization; $20 million for cancer research grants; $13.2 million for a cost of living adjustment for community providers who care for vulnerable residents and the mentally disabled; $10.3 million for nursing home and specialized care facilities; $7.4 million in school aid and $6 million for tax relief for the Meadowlands communities.

"Sit down and shut up!"
—Gov. Chris Christie, to a Hurricane Sandy heckler