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Can NJ Afford The Budget That Passed Yesterday? [AUDIO]

The full State Senate and general Assembly approved a nearly $33 billion state budget yesterday.

Governor Chris Christie shakes hands with Senate President Steve Sweeney before giving the Budget Address. (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

Gov. Chris Christie has until midnight this Sunday to sign the spending plan into law. Despite giving more than enough ‘yes’ votes to pass the budget some top Democrats are worried that the Christie Administration’s revenue projections are far too rosy.

“OLS I believe said that we potentially have a $700 million difference (between what Christie projects and what the state might actually collect in revenue),” says Democratic Assembly Budget Committee chairman Vinnie Prieto. “OLS has shown that they have been better on target than the Administration.”

OLS is the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services. Senate Budget Committee chief Paul Sarlo, a Democrat also thinks Christie’s revenue estimates are overly optimistic. The ranking Republican on the Assembly budget panel thinks the Democrats are just playing election year politics.

“Their argument doesn’t hold water,” says Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.

“If they wanted to pass a budget that spends less than the governor suggested they could do that. If they have a serious concern about that, then they’re not doing their duty. They should have been talking about it the whole way.”

If revenues appear to be trending below Christie’s projections, Prieto knows the governor won’t raise taxes to keep the budget in balance so he hopes the Administration doesn’t wait until the 11th hour to let the legislature know that spending cuts are needed.

“It’s hard looking into the future without a crystal ball,” explains Prieto. “Right now what we have to work with is the Governor’s numbers.”

Republicans like O’Scanlon are confident in Christie’s revenues estimates.

“Nobody projects revenues down to the last dime,” says O’Scanlon. “No question, but this governor and this treasurer have been very good.”

The Assembly vote of 52-25 came with no discussion the week after a budget deal was worked out between the governor’s office and the legislature. The Senate passed the budget earlier, its 29-11 vote following an hour of party-line commentary.

The negotiated budget made changes of less than $100 million from the original proposal. County colleges and nursing homes got more money, while a $2 million school voucher program that Christie supported was dropped.

An additional $7 million kept 270 school districts from losing state aid in the coming year, but low-income, senior and disabled residents in line for property tax rebates in June will have to wait until August for the credit.

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