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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.

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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