Christie, lawmakers agree on forecast, differ on spending
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - For the first time in 21 years, a New Jersey governor and the Legislature agree on how much money the state will bring in as they work out a new budget for the next fiscal year.
But Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democratic-controlled Legislature don't see eye-to-eye on how to spend the estimated $33.8 billion they see coming in over the year that begins July 1.
State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff and Office of Legislative Services budget officer David Rosen laid out their forecasts Monday during an Assembly Budget Committee hearing. Rosen said the difference between amounts to 0.02 percent and hasn't been so slight since March 1994.
Last year, Christie's projections fell about $1 billion short of expectations while legislative estimates proved closer to receipts. The shortfall resulted in the governor cutting payments to the state's public pension fund, angering Democrats and spurring unions to file a lawsuit.
Here's a look at some of their differences on spending for the next fiscal year.
PUBLIC PENSION FUNDING
Sidamon-Eristoff said paying $1.6 billion into the public pension fund as Superior Court judge Mary Jacobson ruled last month would be practically difficult without spending cuts. Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton pressed the treasurer on what the governor's plan to make the payment would be, but Sidamon-Eristoff said he could not specify one.
Christie has proposed paying $1.3 billion into the fund this year, which he says amounts to more than any previous governor, but it's below what he and lawmakers agreed to in a 2011 law.
In 2014, Christie made a nearly $700 million payment to the fund but that was below the $2.25 billion specified in the law. Jacobson said in February Christie and lawmakers must make the $1.6 billion payment. Christie is appealing the decision.
ROAD AND BRIDGE FUNDING
The treasurer said the fund is not in danger of running out of money July 1, as some advocating changes in the transportation trust fund have said. To keep it solvent the governor plans to issue $627 million in bonds, plus a repayment of $242 million from NJ Transit. But beyond the next fiscal year, no plan is in the works to keep the fund solvent, Rosen said.
EXXON MOBIL AND NATURAL RESOURCES SETTLEMENTS
Christie's budget plans for $110 million in revenues in fiscal year 2016 from settlements, including the recent settlement with Exxon Mobil over polluted petroleum sites in Linden and Bayonne. The Exxon deal was for $225 million, which fell below an expected payout of $8.9 billion, angering Democrats and environmental groups. The treasurer did not say specifically how much money would come from the Exxon settlement, which still must be approved by a judge before becoming official.