New Jersey Governor Chris Christie presented his annual budget Tuesday. He pushed for a 10 percent income tax cut, which would be phased in over the next three years and cost almost $1 billion.
Christie's $32.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 includes the following, according to a Treasury Department briefing paper:
• 10 percent income tax cut across the board.
• Increases the Earned Income Tax credit for the state's working families from 20 to 25 percent for an average benefit of $495 per household.
• More than $393.2 million in higher ed student assistance.
• Funds the governor's initiative to require mandatory drug court alternativess for non-violent offenders.
• Christie will increase State Aid to education "to the highest level in NJ history." He will boost aid to the state's public schools by $213 million for a total of $8.87 billion.
• Higher education gets a $108 million boost for a total of $2.08 billion.
• Re-organizing how the state delivers social services for families, women, children and seniors.
Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said he was "generally happy" with the governor's proposal to increase school aid. He said it will help fund education programs and provide property tax relief.
“When there is insufficient state aid, districts find that they do have to budget up to the cap that's allowed by the state," he said. "Or, sometimes they have to ask voters to approve an expenditure over the cap. So state aid is very much a property-tax control vehicle.”
The governor also proposed expanding a program that focuses on long-term social and vocational rehabilitation for former service members.
Christie said he wants to use Hagadorn Psychiatric Hospital in Hunterdon County's Glen Gardner as the future location for the Veterans Haven North program.
The psychiatric hospital is due to close in June.
Christie says the program has proven successful so far. He has proposed providing additional money in the next budget for it to expand.
The governor and the legislature have until the end of June to reach a budget deal.
With reporting by Bob Hennelly and Annmarie Fertoli