New Jersey declared fiscal 'state of emergency,' by Gov. ChristieSubmitted by SteveMT on Wed, 02/17/2010 - 02:06
Chris Christie declares fiscal 'state of emergency,' paving way for N.J. spending cuts
By Claire Heininger
February 11, 2010, 12:12PM
TRENTON -- Calling New Jersey on "the edge of bankruptcy," Gov. Chris Christie today declared a fiscal emergency, seizing broad powers to freeze aid to more than 500 school districts and cut from higher education, hospitals and the Public Advocate.
"New Jersey has been steaming toward financial disaster for years," the Republican governor said in a speech to both houses of the Legislature. "The people elected us to end the talk and to act decisively. Today is the day for the complaining to end and for statesmanship to begin."
Along with eliminating programs "that sounded good in theory but failed in practice" across state departments, Christie is cutting $475 million in aid to school districts, $62 million in aid to colleges and $12 million to hospital charity care. He is pulling all funding from the department of Public Advocate, a longtime Republican target, and folding its functions into other parts of government. He is cutting state subsidies for NJ Transit, a move Christie said could lead to higher fares or reduced services but would force the agency to become "more efficient and effective."
Schools and colleges will be forced to spend their surpluses in place of the state aid, Christie said. His plan is an expanded version of one proposed by Corzine after he lost re-election but before he left office. Corzine said it would have required legislative approval to target only districts with an "excess surplus," but Christie said he can freeze the funds unilaterally.
The cuts -- which do not include municipal aid or unpaid furloughs of state workers -- are aimed at resolving a $2.2 billion deficit in the current budget created by falling revenue and increased costs for various programs. Corzine enacted some cuts before Christie took over. Christie says he was left with a $1.3 billion deficit.