Christie's Cuts: How NJ Budget Affects State, Fall Elections

Friday, July 01, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie averted a shutdown of state government by axing $900 million from the budget Democrats handed him late last night. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, John Mooney, education writer and co-founder of, discussed the latest news and what it means for the Garden State.


Cuts to womens' health services

Of the $900 million Governor Chris Christie struck from New Jersey's budget, $7.5 million would have gone to state-supported womens' health centers. It's a small fraction of the pie, but among the most contentious, touching on issues like abortion access and government aid to the poor. Just what are these centers, and who usually benefits from them? John Mooney explained:

These are not clinics that conduct abortions. These are more womens' health and gynecological programs for low-income individuals and those who need them. [Christie] has contended that these could be provided elsewhere.

Christie has argued that the services provided by state clinics could be picked up by centers run by the federal government. How accurate is his assumption? Depends on who you ask. One caller said it didn't make sense for Christie to cut funding for the state-run clinics since the federal government previously offered matching funds for the program—a measure that Christie vetoed.

Mooney said it wasn't about the money.

There's a pretty strong feeling that this is part of a broader national agenda, and it has fed some of the talk that he has some national ambitions, but he's certainly reaching out to the pro-life side of the argument. New Jersey is more of a pro-choice state, but it's something he's been unwavering on.

School aid and the coming elections

Democrats in the state legislature proposed $1.5 billion in additional aid to New Jersey's public schools, hoping to fully fund all districts under the state funding formula. That measure became another victim of Christie's line item veto: though he agreed to abide by a State Supreme Court decision ordering half a billion in aid to the poorest districts, Christie scaled back elsewhere, giving Democrats far less than they asked for, but still about double what he would have proposed.

Mooney said that the legislature had to know they wouldn't be getting most of what they requested, but Christie's vetoes could turn into ammunition for the Left this fall. He said this is as much about Democrats positioning themselves for the coming legislature elections as it is about actual policy.

I wonder about whether specifically Christie or some of these Republican legislators are really going to bear the brunt of this...It's a tough time to be selling $1.5 billion in additional aid to schools, but certainly Christie's a very polarizing figure in this state. He's not on the ballot this year, but I think he's going to be felt in a lot of the elections.

Nothing much to lose

Ultimately, Mooney said none of the cuts were surprising. The timing was such that most institutions facing cuts were already prepared for them; because everyone saw it coming, nobody was penciling much state money into their annual budgets.

What's more, Christie's already had to deal with an entirely-Democratic legislature. The best thing that can happen to the governor this fall is that Republicans win one or both houses; the worst thing that could happen is that he gets stuck with the status quo—and Christie's shown he can still get his way over an opposing legislature. There's a lot to gain and not a whole lot to lose, said Mooney.

This was a pretty smart one; he hasn't disrupted things too much. Even the school cuts, probably the biggest ones of the budget, were already struck for the fall, and their tax bills are already going out. It's not like this was money that's going to lead to yet more layoffs in the schools.


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Comments [9]

rem mills from westfield

As a New Jersey senior citizen, I'm very concerned about Cristie's budget cuts on seniors. He has been devastating to our interests. To wit: cutting municipal aid so senior centers close, cutting senior homestead rebates, negatively changing eligibility for PAAD, Senior freeze, and Senior GOLD, raising transit fares by 25%. The list goes on and on. We seniors should connect the dots on Cristie's assault on our interests, values, and quality of life.

We seniors deserve some dignity and respect after a lifetime of hard work to build New Jersey. All we seem to be getting from Cristie is contempt and exploitation, while he protects the tax breaks of billionaires and millionaires. Our small fixed incomes are being plundered; our hopes for economic security in our old age dashed.

Jul. 20 2011 11:17 PM

Reading the reponses here it's clear NJ's fate is sealed. You just don't understand the debt burden NJ has in front of it. Everyone should pay their equal share of taxes in a democracy. Tax breaks for anyone is really nonsense.
A strong vibrant economy will lure business and individuals to the state. Higer taxes forces them to leave, taking revenue badly needed with them.
Rewarding teachers and school districts with failing students is a joke. Throwing good money after bad. Force them to earn it. Or let them become trash collectors and street sweepers.

The time is here to pay the piper and NJ is $120BL in debt and drowning. Get used to this, there is little money to pay for anything.

Jul. 04 2011 10:33 AM
Louis from Demarest NJ

Brian, please don't indulge junk economic theories. Giving rich folks tax cuts won't stimulate investment because the problem is not a lack of new investment when current capacity is already underutilized. In the case of an existing factory, it already is not being used because its owner believes no one has money to buy what it would produce. The reason is simple: buyers are unemployed. Meaning there is a lack of demand for goods. That's why rich folks and companies, who are already cash heavy are not investing anyway. When you don't tax the rich and cut government programs instead, you end up losing jobs and have even less demand. Hence, the signs of double dip recession. The economic argument is still relevant. Stop indulging ignorance and junk economics - it's destroying the world. Christie is just catering to the rich and hastening the economic collapse

Jul. 01 2011 10:52 AM
Jane Kleiman

When are we going to come right out and say what is going on with Republicans who insist on these cuts that affect poor people while refusing to consider raising more revenue where possible? If we applied the ""governor-as-CEO" model to Christie and others like him, show me one place where he has used the money from these cuts he has implemented to create a single job. Instead he flaunts his own income by agreeing to pay back the state for frivolous helicopter rides while poor women can't afford health care or birth control. The fact is they don't CARE about poor people or anyone other than their own "class", and until Democrats start saying it and Independents start hearing it, we will be on this treadmill forever.

Jul. 01 2011 10:40 AM

u voted for him!

Jul. 01 2011 10:37 AM
Amy from Manhattan

So he vetoed both the millionaires' tax & the earned income tax credit. Keep the financial burden off the rich & on the poor.

Uh-oh--now I (but not Gov. Christie, of course) might be accused of class warfare!

Jul. 01 2011 10:30 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

I don't live in NJ.
However, this 'expletive' might be president someday.
So, bearing that in mind, I look forward to seeing all 'honorable' Americans come together to form a new politcal party-like before the Civil War (which is due-150 Anniversary, no?)

Jul. 01 2011 10:28 AM
Edward from NJ

No one in NJ, including millionaires, is complaining about income taxes. They're complaining about property taxes. This will all come back in property taxes.

Jul. 01 2011 10:20 AM

Whether Christie's intentions are honorable or not, he can only talk about his fellow politicians as thieves and robbers for so long until it comes back to haunt him. Not often, but one day he's gonna need these advesaries to pass something, and then they're gonna stick it to him.

It's neither an honorable nor honest way to speak of another leader, scoundrel or not, who was elected by the people.

Jul. 01 2011 10:18 AM

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