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Christie Touts Recovery, Continued Momentum in Budget Address

The governor presented his $32.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2014.

Progress is evident. Momentum is building.

As he laid out his $32.9 billion proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 at the Statehouse Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie said the state’s future, both economically and in recovery following Hurricane Sandy, is moving in the right direction.

With talk of compromise and bipartisanship – as well as a few customary jabs at former governor Jon Corzine’s administration – Christie called on the state’s legislature to keep it going, to make the conscious decision to help New Jersey return to a position of prosperity it once knew.

Of course it will do so with the help of funding from the federal government.

Included in the governor’s proposed budget is just $40 million in supplemental aid for Sandy-related recovery efforts. And the Sandy funding is last resort funding, stopgap aid aimed only at bridging the delay gap between recovery projects and anticipated federal aid.

When it comes to making New Jersey whole again after being devastated by Sandy, the bill is being laid directly at the feet of the federal government with the hopes that its $50.7 billion in relief aid will cover the tab.

“In the past year, of course, our economy has been challenged by Superstorm Sandy. In the face of this unprecedented emergency, we have stood together,” Christie said during his address. “Recovering, rebuilding, restoring.

The proposed $40 million “contingency fund” will be used for expenses not reimbursed by the federal government. The funding, he said, will allow small business to reopen, and infrastructure improvements to go ahead as planned as the state waits for federal aid.

According to New Jersey Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, the supplemental aid could also be distributed to towns in need throughout the state by the Department of Community Affairs, though only as a final option. Municipalities have been instructed to send their requests for recovery aid or emergency cost reimbursements directly to the federal government.

In his 45-minute presentation, one that received several standing ovations from both Republicans and Democrats on occasion, Christie lauded what he said is a record amount of funding for schools, greater pension contributions, and the presentation of a balanced budget with no tax increase for residents.

Begrudgingly, Christie also announced the state’s expansion of its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Though he said he doesn’t approve of the bill, Christie said, as law, participation is necessary because it represents what’s best for New Jersey’s citizens.

Federal budget cuts could change plans

Praised by state Republicans but chided as unrealistic by state Democrats, Christie’s budget could be significantly altered, some say, based on the actions of President Barack Obama and the U.S. House of Representatives. Should Congress and the White House fail to reach a compromise on budget cuts by this Friday, March 1, the U.S. would enter a sequestration.

Sequester would prompt significant funding cuts in federal aid, including trimming the $50.7 billion Sandy relief package only just approved by Congress in January. Funding for programs like U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Community Develop Block Grant program, which will be used to help residents in New Jersey rebuild and elevate their homes after Sandy, would be reduced.

If that’s the case, some worry the $40 million in Christie’s budget for contingency Sandy aid might not be enough.

State Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14, said she believes the contingency fund is a good move by the governor. A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she said even if New Jersey sees every penny of the federal aid package its been promised, there might still be funding holes that need to be plugged. Seeing the aid package cut due to sequestration, however, could wind up costing New Jersey a lot more in its recovery effort.

“If sequestration goes through, no, (the $40 million) wouldn’t be enough,” she said. “I have a feeling if sequestration goes through we’re in some trouble.”

Christie did not acknowledge the issue specifically, though he did call on elected officials in Washington, DC to work together. Politicians need to show leadership and a willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion, he said, two attributes that are currently missing in the nation’s capital.

The issue of sequestration is especially significant as New Jersey attempts to recovery from Sandy. Though the $40 million funding is just a small fraction of the entire proposed budget, the storm had an immediate impact on revenue and will continue to have an impact on revenue moving forward.

Anticipated revenues in the last budget were off by more than $400 million, a figure Sidamon-Eristoff attributed to Sandy. For a couple of months immediately following Sandy revenues sagged, he said, though there’s been an increase in revenue as of late.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-13, whose district includes some of the areas hardest hit by Sandy, said revenues are trending in the right direction as the rebuilding efforts are underway. Cuts to the aid funding could result in a setback of New Jersey’s post-Sandy recovery.

Throughout his benign presentation of hope and recovery, Christie called for a spirit of compromise. Working together, he said, will ensure New Jersey’s recovery and repositioning as an economic leader.

Add rebuilding the Jersey Shore to that effort.

“The shore will come back – as I’ve said, it will come back stronger than ever,” Christie said. “And I will tell you this: I expect to go to the Jersey Shore every summer for the rest of my life, including this summer of 2013.”

boromom February 27, 2013 at 09:33 PM
@Tired of Status quo....right on...I did not tell them to buy on the water, so why? Should I bail anyone out...If that is the case I would have bought on or near the water. I don't want to bail anyone out. Everyone should take care of their own problems. @Proud...Yes I am equally passionate!
Blaze February 27, 2013 at 09:57 PM
I just drove over the bridge onto route 35 from Seaside north through Montoloking yesterday and I don't know what Christie is smoking but not only is it giving him a severe case of the munchies but his trippin' too. Sure, there's lots of local and state police all over the place and private contractors and plumbers working on those beautiful beachfront McMansions but I only saw ONE group of state workers directing traffic and taking building surveys and ONE truck on the beach moving sand with minimal movement in repairing of the Heights at all. Lots of men w/ hands in pockets on 35 standing around talking but as far as on the right track? This train is completely derailed. Christie isn't fooling anyone from the shore and he by no means has that 74% approval rating here.
proud February 27, 2013 at 10:55 PM
@boromom, then I'm sure we would agree on many things. But, let me ask you this: If a property owner with flood insurance was damaged less than fifty percent; used his or her savings to fix their home( because the NFIP had to go to Congress to be funded and are still jerking around); are not fully reimbursed for those repairs, and, are then told they have to elevate their home at a cost greater than it's value and undo the aforementioned repairs, would you consider that a bailout? The reason I ask is because that is one of the hundreds of nightmare scenarios happening around you every day. It's not all about the wealth and bailouts as the "room with a view" theorists would like to believe. It's about a completely dysfunctional federal government being in a business it has no right being in. Moreover, the longer term economic implications may very well prove to be more devastating than Sandy, and the yet again bungled relief efforts ever were. www.stopfemanow.com
John Eric Mangino February 28, 2013 at 05:00 AM
105 percent why not just raise peoples homes . But yet nowhere is the fact one there not paying the insurance to people with years of premiums paid . Two its a lottery to try and get mitigation money and why home owner have to compete with Governments asking for every penny as well . Three . Until there is massive banking and insurance reform this is all a Joke its a Open criminal act that our governor not only allows but supports . But lets build bridges and widen the parkway and fix route 35 why ?? there no homes left . They have stolen dredging money for years from these areas the silting that has gone un checked and run off from rivers and inland homes . We just had a mini nor'easter guess what . I have a whole new debris field Yea ..I dont have the heart to ask volunteers to clean these marshes Again . Again And Again . Thenly hing thats recovering here is the bullshit projects only union members get anyway . How that helping the ten of thousands that live in daily fear of lossing there homes . The Governor should sit down look at his kids eyes and tell them the same bullshit hes been selling us . Fema should be shut down and our own State design a coastal committee that disburses this money and the first thing fix the homes . Then the Business Then the Boardwalks . And any government projects like community clubhouses , parks they can wait. First and for Most condem the houses that will not sign the beach and dune replenishments . .Tired of being Lied too .
beverly April 29, 2013 at 09:44 PM
The govenor should ride by Sea Bright or Mantolocking NJ and then tell me Obama kept his ord or that Christie kept his word, where is the money raised by Bon Jovi and Springsteen and the money Mrs. Christie is holding and all the fund raisers that all the people did to help their neighbor, drive around NOTHING has been done????? we need answers

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