The economic condition of New Jersey has declined significantly during the tenure of Governor Chris Christie, with the state reaching record levels of debt in 2013. Governor Christie is set to propose an annual budget to the state tomorrow, one the Star-Ledger suggests could sink the state deeper into fiscal trouble.
After a devastating 2013 for the state–one in which Moody’s lowered their outlook on the state and a study found it to be the least economically solvent in the country–Christie proposed changes in the State of the State address last year that may require workers to pay more money in pensions while trying to hold back the Democrats’ call for a tax increase. Christie and Republicans in the legislature are calling for a tax cut to stimulate the economy, something Democrats are fuming about as “irresponsible.” One Democrat the Ledger talked to insisted that “the roof is falling on us” and generating less revenue would devastate the economy. Moody’s listed insufficient revenue as a reason for lowering New Jersey’s outlook last year.
While Democrats call for increased taxes, Republicans are highlighting the many problems with the current administration, which appears to be simply spending too much money to be able to significantly lower the debt. As the Ledger notes, “the cost of education, health care and transportation programs is set to explode by billions of dollars over the next four years.” Christie appeared to be more concerned about the projects he proposed in his State of the State address than the rising debt, however. The paper notes that Christie has recently criticized the increase in state funding of pensions last year as a roadblock to developing other programs or paying for new initiatives like longer school days.
The public will not know what the New Jersey budget looks like officially until tomorrow. What residents do know is that all budgets, by law, must be balanced, and that New Jersey has bills to pay that it cannot let go unheeded. According to the Associated Press, the probability that Democrats will wholeheartedly approve this new budget is low, and the plan may stall in the legislature for some months. The budget being proposed tomorrow is set to take effect on July 1, as soon as the legislature approves it. Gridlock between Republicans and Democrats could escalate to a point that the budget is not passed in time in the worst case scenario, which would significantly damage the state’s fiscal situation and continue to inflate the debt.
Christie has not taken media questions on the matter, though the budget did come up in a town hall meeting with residents last week (budget concerns made smaller headlines than a resident demanding that Christie “throw out all your Bruce Springsteen CDs”). Christie has kept his head low and, for the most part, kept his public appearances to obligations for the Republican Governors Association since the story of his senior staff closing down the George Washington Bridge for political retribution became a major headline. On Thursday, Christie will travel to Boston for a joint fundraising event with 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.