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Christie: More Spending On Schools, No New Taxes

Governor unveils $34.4 billion budget that avoids a tax increase for the fifth straight year.

Gov. Chris Christie unveiled a $34.4 billion state budget proposal Tuesday that would include modest school spending increases while avoiding tax hikes for the fifth year in a row.

With his administration still besieged by investigations into the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal, Christie spoke somberly but pointedly, saying New Jersey faces a crisis if the state doesn't make changes to its retirement benefit system.

He said the budget plan includes a $2.25 billion payment to the public employees' retirement fund.

"That payment is nearly the equivalent of the total payments made in the 10 years before we arrived by five different governors," he said in prepared remarks to the state Legislature. "We’ve kept faith with our pensioners."

Christie's budget, which is 4.2 percent larger than last year's, would include $9 billion in direct aid to schools, which is $38 million more than the current year.

Under the plan, Medicaid funding will jump by $200 million, though the state and federal governments would split the costs. The state's surplus would be more than $300 million in the new budget, Christie said.

"This has truly been an era of fiscal restraint," he said in his prepared remarks. "But even with strong fiscal restraint, we continue to fund what matters most to New Jerseyans."

Even though the $34.4 billion budget represents an increase over last year's plan, 94 percent of that increase - virtually all of it - is taken up by three things: pensions, health benefits, and debt, Christie said. "Nine out of every 10 dollars of new spending this year goes to fund these three entitlements," he said.

"The looming crisis is clear," he said in his prepared remarks. "Due to our pension, health benefit, and debt obligations, only 6 percent of new spending can be focused on the areas where we really want to dedicate our resources: education, tax relief, public safety, higher education, drug rehabilitation, health care."

Leading Democrats in the Legislature said after the speech that they appreciated the "conciliatory" tone of Christie's speech but that they would not consider changes to the pension system beyond the overhauls Christie signed into law in 2011, according to NJ.com.

“We’re not doing it,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, according to NJ.com. “We made a commitment. We’re not breaking the commitment.”

According to the Christie administration, the budget also includes:

- $5 million to support preschool initiatives in New Jersey.

- Increasing funding for the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program by $4.8 million to almost $54 million, and protecting $12 million in charter school funding.

- $2.3 billion for higher education, an increase of $159 million, or almost 8 percent, above last year.

- An increase of $14 million for tuition assistance grants.

- $4.5 million in funding to expand New Jersey’s mandatory drug court program and funding for an innovative substance abuse treatment program that integrates employment services.

Robin B February 26, 2014 at 10:13 AM
"Why is it the fat man not doing something about all the double dippers in his administration?" Although I think Christie is generally making some progress, I agree it's not enough. When government budgets go up amid all the waste, and ineffective, useless and outdated programs remain while my taxes are not going down, that's just not enough. Government is a typically bloated and self sustaining bureaucracy. Bloated educational administrations in big NJ cities is an example how tens of thousands get on the state gravy train. There is little incentive to cut out programs that don't work unless taxes are cut which forces evaluations and prioritization of programs due to limited funding.
Maverick February 26, 2014 at 10:36 AM
Everyone should consider this, a best kept secret: Between 2000-2010 there were about 36,000 newly created positions added into school districts across the state, which is more than the entire body of law enforcement officers and paid firefighters in New Jersey. The majority of these positions were not teachers, but were administrators, directors, supervisors, councilors, aides, secretarial support, facility maintenance, transportation etc. Within 10 years, who would recommend 36K just in additional staff at a cost of roughly 2 billion dollars each year? Who approved them into their school budgets? The Governors? NO. Are the students billions and billions of dollars better educated? A suggestion: Attend a school board meeting and ask how many additional state funded, pension funded, full time positions have been created and added into your local school budget since the year 2000 and the cost to fund their salaries and benefits. Maybe you will receive an accurate, valid, truthful response. There is no funding crisis, people, there is a SPENDING crisis! Tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend. No one else receives 9 billion dollars of our state budget and billions of dollars more in local tax dollars. An investment of over 30 billion tax dollars each year and climbing. I am in support of funding education 1000%, but we do not fund education/academics. The solution: School Administrators need to get on board. PURGE the additional full time staff, who do not teach, out of their school budgets and let the state put an additional 2 billion dollars into the entire pension system instead, so it won't go bankrupt 10 years from now. Until then, all public pension funds take a double hit for each additional position, which is unfortunate for all pensioners. http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/
First Rate February 26, 2014 at 10:49 AM
Eliminate public unions. They are breaking the backs of middle income people who don't have big business pensions or the voting buying scam of public unions. We count too.
L.ofgalloway February 26, 2014 at 11:01 AM
There has been a lively and intelligent conversation on here until the union comment. Unions are not the problem. Countries like Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Germany all have well paying union jobs. They just don't have our political corruption. Let's not blame each other. Have members of Congress or otherwise taken forced furlough days which effects their families monthly food budget? Are they contributing to their free health care? Maverick(above) has pointed out the more core reasons for taxpayer distress.
L.ofgalloway February 26, 2014 at 11:05 AM
I left out important fact! The countries named above all have healthy economies while paying their citizens fair wages. They also do not have the child poverty we do. So in fact the two outcomes are possible, it's an issue of doing much research, asking a lot of questions, hold our politicians accountable and of course voting intelligently.
Mel Sharples February 26, 2014 at 11:17 AM
LoG...When bringing up Europe you are only allowed to cite Greece. This is, after all, Patch.
LT February 26, 2014 at 11:18 AM
Aha! So THATS where the Sandy money is going! Eufreakinreka!
Maverick February 26, 2014 at 12:45 PM
L. You are correct. The New Jersey public sector unions and their salary and benefit compensation are not the problem. The issue is with all of the additional public sector full time job creation, funded courtesy of the 20 year state pension holiday and unfunded on behalf costs and tax rebates. Billions of dollars of pension holiday funds were utilized by the municipalities, counties, public school districts, state unions, etc for new full time employment creation while the state public pensions went unfunded. Hence, the double hit to the pensions. Many of these additional positions were purged when the Governor redirected the pension holiday funds back into the state public pension system where they belong. But all public sector unions need to do their part, sacrifice and get on board. Many of the public school districts added their pension funded, full time job creation back into their budgets, while the other unions continue to sacrifice with fewer staff. Our student outcomes were remarkable without any additional positions. The point is, if funding the state's public sector pension system is the priority, then all additional state public sector unionized full time employment opportunities have to be tabled, otherwise the double hits continue. The federally funded pensions are a different story.
Robert February 26, 2014 at 12:52 PM
http://morris.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/3-former-twp-school-administrators-receiving-100k-yearly-pensions Hmmmm.....what say you?
John February 26, 2014 at 12:57 PM
Chris Christie is absolutely right about pensions. . They have come at a very high cost to the home owners of N.J.. Why should one man have to pay so much into another man's retirement fund when in most cases he can't even afford to save anything for himself ? I have no problem paying a borough worker a decent wage and benefit package while he is on the job but my gosh when you look around and see all these guys retiring at 48 yrs old and then getting other jobs on top of that it's time to say enough is enough . So what if Christie has wealthy friends . So what? It's the tax base that's crying out for help and he's addressing it. !!
Victor February 26, 2014 at 01:36 PM
and why are they not voting to stop the idiotic enormous sick day retirement payouts? Democrats and Republicans......it doesn't matter, they are all crooks.
Jarhead February 26, 2014 at 01:37 PM
Public sector workers need to be paying at LEAST 30% of their health care premiums. Not the 1.5% pittance they cry about paying now. And we will never get rid of public sector unions because they elect democrats that trade entitlements for votes. Look at Babs Buono's campaign promise to be an "education governor". Yeah, close chatters and give millions more to the public school cartel. More money down the rat hole in exchange for votes. " Progressives" progressing the taxpayers into the poor house. Oh, I forgot, it's for the children!
John February 26, 2014 at 04:01 PM
The pension shakedown on the tax base of this state has gone on way to long. I applaud Chris Christie for having the courage to address this . Finally !!
Politics.man February 26, 2014 at 04:20 PM
You guys have it all wrong, stop trying to attack the individual public sector worker for his benefits, thats why he/she took the job.. You need to attack the institutions that are hiring them.. Certain municipalities are operatiing with an excess amount of employees. First off, most towns can operate safely with out paid fire depts, with exception of few cities. they are there cause of politics and tradition only. Also, if you try to take away benefits or make their contracts worse, the quality of future services will be jeopardized. The real problem is excess jobs and theyre are numerous ways to rectify it, if politicians dont sell themselves for votes.
Mel Sharples February 26, 2014 at 04:28 PM
NJ mindset... You want us to close our firehouses? And police departments? HOW DARE YOU! You want us to pay for our own firehouses? And police departments? HOW DARE YOU!
Brian February 26, 2014 at 07:34 PM
Jarhead I'd give my left testicle to only pay 1.5% of the healthcare premium. Go read chapter 78 on pension and healthcare reform. Healthcare costs in this state is the issue. The same coverage in the middle of this country costs half if not more than half of what it costs us here. And as far as volunteer fire depts go politics, they still cost u money. Where I work it's less than $600 a year per household in this town to run our dept. And God bless volunteers but due to the nature of the business, they can't respond as fast as a paid dept because they aren't in quarters. Our response time is 3-4 minutes from the time a call comes in. But that's my own perspective I don't expect to change anybody's mind or opinion. I can't undo the damage CC has done by causing many private sector people to dislike and/or wish bad on the public sector.
letsgetreal February 26, 2014 at 07:51 PM
blahhhh blahhhhh blahhhhh blahhhhh...that is all I am hearing on here anymore....its sad. Now we have people fighting and dictating that some should not live as good or better than they do because its public employment? Really, how offensive. So because your doing poorly in the private sector its only fair that the public sector people also do poorly? And for you Union bashes I would bet dollar for dollar many of you had parents that worked in jobs that were labor union protected which helped to protect them and help to provide you with a good life and food on the table and health care. In fact I guarantee its probably like 85% of your on here. NJ was a very pro and heavy Union state 20 years ago. What now all of a sudden you forgot how many of you benefited from those unions while you were growing up. Come on folks...stop letting the Politicians BS with this crap. CC is using you sheep again to rally behind him because his numbers are in the crapper!! AND YOUR ALL FALLING FOR IT AGAIN!. I for one had parents that both worked and had Union jobs and THANK god, I benefited from that and I am thankful. I cannot be a hypocrite and complain now because others are now benefiting like both I and my parents did. At least not with looking like a fool. Sorry I am not gonna bash public workers just because CC says so....how convenient shortly after another one of his scandals....The clock is ticking on his future...
Joe Colls February 26, 2014 at 07:57 PM
I have read almost all of the comments above, although some were so mean spirited that I stopped half way down. Note to nasty uneducated windbags, you lost us at how wonderful you are. I am a teacher. I have taught in Camden, which I believe someone called a different less caring name, where children are there to learn. Children. Children who were born there, and certainly didn't choose in utero " hey I want to live in Camden". When I entered the profession, it wasn't for the money, nor have I complained when friends with the same degree in the private sector had higher salaries and bonuses. I still don't complain. Here's the education plan for NJ in a nutshell, because I attended a state roll out meeting. First, if you can't hold up your end of the pensions system, ok. Then refund my half of 20 years of contributions. Give me every cent I paid, with interest, and you can let it go. Benefits suck now anyway. 3 years ago we started paying into them. My paycheck decreased three years worth of 3% raises. However, remember that teachers have your children. All day. More awake hours per week than you do! Their future rests with me. If I were a hedge fund manager my job would be different. But the constitution guarantees all of our children the right to an equal education. That is changing in New Jersey. The governor has passed a bill that eliminates seniority in Camden and Newark. I know the slums. And now in Camden, we have renaissance schools opening. Which are basically charter schools. I was notified that due to the new law regarding seniority, the board will be laying off all of the teachers that make decent money, and pay the others lower salaries because they are newer. So 20 years of dedication leads to unemployment. The plan calls for all public schools to be replaced by charter schools by 2019. These schools are not under state guidelines, so your child's teacher may only have a high school diploma and be paid $15,000 a year. There are no requirements for hiring for teaching positions. But I suppose that doesn't matter because your children won't need to learn from an educated teacher anyway. You don't need to go to college to educate peoples children. However, let's see tax changes when I am collecting unemployment. TAXES! The plan for these 2 model cities is then projected to spread state wide with no board of educations, no elected positions, all charter schools with inept staff. Here's the kicker, tax relief! Yes, taxes will go down tremendously! If you don't have children. If you do, you will pay the education tax PER CHILD while they are in the subpar schools staffed with 18 year olds. And once the whole state is charters, students can go to school anywhere. So here in beautiful Collingswood, the schools could be filled with children from Camden, and you are paying the education tax per child. Gotta love America, the land of the free and democracy. And just for the record, politically I don't side with a party, I side with the best candidate. I still haven't seen either put up the best candidate. For those of you without children, enjoy! For those of you with children, you can come visit us in another state that believes in the constitution.
Joe Colls February 26, 2014 at 08:03 PM
Oh and just for the record, I don't know about state jobs surrounding Christies size able perimeter ( and I thought he had lap and surgery?) but public school teachers cannot retire until the age of 65, and may not hold another job while collecting a pension. FACT!
Jarhead February 27, 2014 at 02:39 PM
Get a 12 month a year job and call me back!
Joe Colls February 28, 2014 at 12:14 AM
First, the reason that we don't teach 12 months out of the year is due to children's attention spans, it's actually based in research. I have no problem with three mii breaks and going year rounds however, it's obvious from your uneducated response that either A, you don't have children, or B. You could care less who is teaching them. Adults like you are the reason children need teachers.
Jarhead February 28, 2014 at 08:51 AM
"Children" in high school have a short attention span? Such a pity. More like the teachers have the short attention span if they can't keep the students interested. I do have three grown kids. And I do care who is teaching them That's why I support Charted Schools! What's that? Time for another break? Or a conference in Atlantic City? Good time to go to Disney World. Oh, another snow day? Got to make it to the mall. Delayed opening? Still counts as a full day. I sure hope those poor saps in private industry make it to work. I need their tax dollars.
Diogenes March 01, 2014 at 06:11 PM
Jarhead, Your comments are not adding anything to this discussion other than revealing that you buy into the Christie strategy of telling public workers and non-public workers "Let's you and them fight!" It's a great strategy for distracting people from the real issues. Nothing will be solved by your obvious resentment against public workers. Consider this: Public school teachers are a bargain. Let's say that instead of a teacher, a person was a babysitter with a group of 25 kids that she charged the parents a not unreasonable $7.00 per hour to watch. She watches them six hours a day for only 180 days a year. She'd make $189,000 a year. Know any techer that makes half of that?
Social issues in Morristown Blog March 02, 2014 at 10:17 AM
http://socialissuesinmotown.blogspot.com/ please visit our blog on illegal immigration!
Jarhead March 02, 2014 at 02:57 PM
Diogenes, FYI, my issue is not with public workers. My son happens to be a police officer. the township workers do a superb job. The issue is that the public school, cartel extorts 65% of my property tax bill to support something I do not use and have not used for over 20 years. The school system!!! And you stepped on your own tongue equating public school teachers with babysitters. But there is a connection. Thanks for pointing that out. No wonder public schools fail the students.
Jarhead March 02, 2014 at 03:06 PM
Diogenes, FYI my issue is not with public workers. My son is a police officer. The township workers do a superb job. The issue I have is that 65% of my property tax bill goes to support the public school cartel. I don't use the school system and haven't in over 20 years. Paying for something I don't want is extortion. However, equating public school teachers with babysitters may be valid. No wonder the public schools fail the students. Babysitters indeed!
Robin B March 02, 2014 at 03:47 PM
"I have taught in Camden, which I believe someone called a different less caring name, where children are there to learn." Thanks for your service. Most people I think support teachers not so much the unions which get in everyone's way. "... nor have I complained when friends with the same degree in the private sector had higher salaries and bonuses. I still don't complain....." good because there are likely 5 million fewer of them since Obama took charge. ".... if you can't hold up your end of the pensions system, ok. Then refund my half of 20 years of contributions. Give me every cent I paid, with interest, and you can let it go..." Whoa, you better do that calculation...THAT would be 'cruel and unusual punishment...' " My paycheck decreased three years worth of 3% raises." That's because your overall compensation promised to you hasn't been sustainable. Taxpayers can't afford it. "..Their The governor has passed a bill that eliminates seniority in Camden and Newark..... " Excellent! Unions and their rules are virtually dead in the private sector and should NEVER have been allowed in public service. "... the board will be laying off all of the teachers that make decent money, and pay the others lower salaries because they are newer. So 20 years of dedication leads to unemployment. .." like the private sector! "..The plan calls for all public schools to be replaced by charter schools by 2019...." Good. The rest of your description sounds like extremism of some sort....
Joe Colls March 02, 2014 at 09:32 PM
You know, I was actually astonished, and disappointed in the posts that followed mine. However, in the United States of America, free speech is something that I enjoy. I don't mean my own, but I value everyone's ideas and opinions, and that we are allowed to publicly have them. That being said, I want to apologize if in my speaking my view, I in any way made someone else feel as if their opinion didn't matter or was wrong. Obviously, it is difficult for me to have 20 years of service in a career that I love diminished. For me it truly isn't even as much about income. Contrary to what the media thinks, after all those years, I wasn't making that much. The idea of saying goodbye to those families is painful. As far as our Governor, I really don't dislike him, I find anymore that I am not purely democrat or republican, I choose a candidate. As far as public education, to a degree I see why people have a negative view of us. There are many teachers in my school that I wouldn't let my daughter set foot in the room, but there are a bunch of us that take it very seriously. I do take serious that this country was founded on the idea that everyone is entitled to an education. Public school systems do indeed have way too many extra highly paid positions, but I can guarantee they aren't teachers. Even in our own districts we are the low man on the totem pole. It is what it is. However many charter schools and renaissance schools are the same way, except that their money isn't watched over, or approved by an elected board of people. They can use it however they want. The Governor has spoken out about doing away with salary steps (which police officers and firefighters get as well as a secretary in any state office) and going for merit pay. He'll yes! Bring it on. I would love to be paid on my performance because I work my ass off. I don't really think that we are all that different in our views, except that regardless of my results with uneducated children, or innovations that I have made in my classroom, I am losing my job based solely on someone blindly saying so. My household is only myself and my 7 year old daughter, so as a full time single father, I will be making it work. As far as what you said about unions, I also agree! Teachers unions don't have much say anyway truly. By law we can't strike, when they negotiate it never really works. Over the last three years we had no contract, we didn't get any raises for those years, which some of us might have deserved something, and received a $500 dollar raise for the next three years. I know it's $500 more than some others have, but it comes out to 25 dollars more before taxes. I have often wished we weren't unionized so that I could earn raises. Private schools, if chosen well are amazing in their enrichment programs, but they usually have high tuition rates. I have yet to see a charter school produce any high results or dramatic increases with low performing students. If I did, I would apply myself. There isn't a clear answer here, and truly I have no control over it anyway. I am looking towards the end of the year with a strong push in reading bad writing. I will pack my things in the meantime. My future is uncertain, however until I have proof that these private, public schools produce results, and hired trained certified teachers, I will pay tuition for a private school for my daughter, or we will just leave the state. Again, I apologize if I was combative, that wasn't my intention. However, state workers make a lot more than teachers, and the perks are more frequent. I have enjoyed some of the ideas thrown around on here, but not the low punches. I will miss the students, but something will open up. In the meantime it will be interesting to watch everything un fold. I won't be posting again, the board is your, enjoy.
Joe Colls March 02, 2014 at 09:35 PM
Reading AND writing, not bad. I dislike autocorrect. My apologies.
Robin B March 03, 2014 at 08:55 AM
"... after all those years, I wasn't making that much..." That's unfortunate; Welcome to the world of bureaucracies. 2/3 of my astronomically high taxes are for education. THAT is also unacceptable. "... I find anymore that I am not purely democrat or republican...." and yet your union dues supported democrats for 20 years. It's an unholy alliance. Unions have no place government service. Not local, not state, not federal,not the military, and of course not among elected opfficials. "... There are many teachers in my school that I wouldn't let my daughter set foot in the room...." Exactly the problem the public sees. Tenure? seniority? Union rules? Unions in government service? How about pay for performance, no unions. I know that would change my own views of educational expenditures a lot! Then we could hound elected officials directly. "... Public school systems do indeed have way too many extra highly paid positions...." Good point. Other teachers I know usually agree. ".... However many charter schools .... money isn't watched over..." That's a widespread problem in government and why government often has low approval ratings. It's called PORK! "... going for merit pay. .. Bring it on. .." A sure step in the right direction, but not a panacea "".. Teachers unions don't have much say anyway truly...." They obstruct teaching....for one thing union contracts limit the number of classroom evaluations of teachers by supervisors....and virtually assure tenure for mediocre performers. That's not what any responsible educator should want. Also, a recent former head of the AFT union said "WHEN CHILDREN PAY UNION DUES WE'll REPRESENT THEM" "...Over the last three years .... we didn't get any raises for those years...." BUT AT LEAST MOST HAD JOBS, while far too many in the private sector lost theirS! ".... Private schools.... usually have high tuition rates..." Yes, but only for the time a child is being educated there, not my entire life. "... I will pay tuition for a private school for my daughter, or we will just leave the state......" Joe, Why private and not charter? What do YOU think the difference? THAT's likely "the answer!" [I do not know.] Why not consider applying for a supervisory position in a charter school ...or teacher in a private school.....and see what you can do to make a positive change?

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