Little Drama Expected in Today’s Final NJ Budget Vote [AUDIO]
With very little fanfare, both houses of the New Jersey legislature are expected to pass the $32.9 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 State budget bill today.
The spending plan legislation is the product of negotiations that included the Senate, Assembly and Gov. Chris Christie's staff. Grandstanding for or against a budget bill in an election year is pretty much standard, but this year could be different.
"I don't expect contentious debate today, "says Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald. "It's a product that started well and finished well."
The spending plan includes more money cancer research, county colleges, nursing homes and the university merger, but defers property tax rebates for eligible residents for three months, does not fund women's health clinics and does not restore a tax credit for the working poor.
The Democratic head of the Assembly Budget Committee is on the fence about whether or not there will be any vocal opposition to the budget bill on the floor of either the Assembly or Senate today.
"I'm not sure," admits Assemblyman Vinnie Prieto. "Obviously I think this is a budget that hopefully everybody can live with. You're not going to love it or hate it."
The ranking Republican on the Assembly budget panel concedes that the budget bill isn't perfect, but he thinks it is the best that can be done given Jersey's current financial situation.
"It's hard for somebody to legitimately make a passionate argument against this budget," says Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon.
"It's a compromise as all budgets are. Folks who are going to argue against this budget, they should run for Governor and then they get to write it."
Even the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee predicts little excitement in either chamber this afternoon.
"It's a negotiated budget," explains Sen. Paul Sarlo. "It eliminates some of the drama that we've incurred here in Trenton over the past few years."
The compromise budget doesn't fulfill the school funding formula for public education, but it does keep 270 districts from receiving less aid than last year by appropriating an additional $7.4 million.
The spending plan also does not include $12 million for a special U.S. Senate election Christie set for Oct. 16. Funding for the special election likely will come from the Secretary of State's budget.