Budget Talks in Limbo in New Jersey
The deadline for a signed and balanced spending plan for the state is midnight June 30 and it still remains unclear if budget talks will be happening.
The budget process runs more smoothly and things get done more quickly when Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the State Legislature's Democratic leaders negotiate.
"A lot of it depends on, are we negotiating a budget this year or are we not? I haven't gotten a clear indication," Christie said during the May edition of Townsquare Media's monthly 'Ask the Governor' program. "I don't know which way it's going to be yet this year. That's really a determination of the legislature. Do they want to negotiate or do they not want to negotiate?"
Three of the first five budgets during Christie's term have been negotiated. Agreements were reached before the deadline and the governor signed the spending plan that was approved by the Democrat-controlled legislature. Democrats have produced alternative budgets twice.
"Two of them have been ones where we couldn't agree and I had to engage in vetoing and line item vetoing items," Christie said.
A bill to increase the state income tax for millionaires is one item the governor has vetoed four times in the past. State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) has introduced another millionaires' tax hike bill that Christie vowed to veto again. That doesn't bode well for budget negotiations according to Sweeney.
"He (Christie) is not committing to a pension payment and a lot of other things that are important to us and I find it very difficult to think that we'll be able to do his budget. I don't know if we can negotiate a budget with the governor based on his priorities and what our priorities are," said Sweeney.
Negotiations are ongoing between Sweeney and other democratic leaders, most notably Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus). A formal decision about whether democrats will produce an alternative budget again this year has not been made.
"We're talking with the assembly right now," Sweeney said. "I'm looking at the budget and I can't pronounce that we're going to do our own."