WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Governor Chris Christie’s budget proposal calls for the highest spending increase in the nation, even as state revenue projections are below initial estimates, a new analysis shows.
A state-by-state analysis by the bi-partisan National Governor's Association shows Christie’s proposal increases spending by 7.2 percent. But Christie’s office said the actual increase is 3.7 percent. The national average is 2.2 percent.
Democrats, who control both houses, have seized on the number as evidence for why Christie’s proposed 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut should be tossed.
Both Assembly and Senate Democrats have drawn up their own tax relief plans that are aimed at property tax relief targeted for middle class households. In the Assembly's version, there would also be a re-imposition of the state's lapsed millionaire's tax.
Christie has vowed to veto any budget with that measure.
"When you compare these numbers to other states, Governor Christie’s spending spree really comes into focus,” Assembly Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto said in a statement. "It’s time for fiscal responsibility, and it’s more obvious than ever that the governor’s plan to borrow money for a tax cut that mainly benefits the mega-rich is irresponsible.”
The Senate and Assembly Democratic leadership have yet to reconcile their own competing tax relief proposals.
Christie spokesman Michael Dwerniak said Democrats were “rooting for failure” and said the analysis did not tell the full story.
“There are also independent analysts and surveys which agree with us that New Jersey’s economy is continuing to expand, which translates into increased revenues," he said.
Christie’s proposed budget was predicated on state revenues increasing by more than 7 percent. Current figures for this year are about $287 million below estimates, his administration said.
Last month, the state's non-partisan Office of Legislative Services said that the combined revenue short fall for the current year and next was over $1 billion.