Transcript of the Governor Christie’s Opening Statement at the FY2012 Budget Press Conference on Thursday, June 30, 2011
Governor Chris Christie:
Good Afternoon. For the second year in a row, I proposed a constitutionally balanced budget that reduced spending, didn’t raise taxes and protected critical priorities for the people of New Jersey. It continued a marked departure from years past when establishment Trenton perpetuated irresponsible, autopilot spending that created a massive structural deficit and was ignorant to the devastating fiscal impact it was having on New Jersey’s economic health.
The reality was that Trenton’s spend at any cost mentality had allowed huge increases in state spending over the last eight years while recurring revenues continued to decline – leading to a gigantic structural budget deficit. I was sent here in January of 2010 by the voters, in part, to solve this huge spending and debt problem.
The budget gaps I had to close for Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2011 totaled $13 billion. This action, combined with the adoption of landmark bipartisan legislation to reform interest arbitration, impose a two percent cap on local property tax increases, and reform the public employee pension and health benefits system, has meant real progress towards lasting fiscal discipline.
This year, unfortunately, the Democratic Legislature decided it was time to go back to the future. To revert to more of the same unrealistic, fantasy budgeting that has plagued Trenton for years and is the reason New Jersey got into fiscal trouble in the first place. They have decided to deceive the citizens of this state with a budget that makes them look like Santa Claus in an election year. How shocking—politicians deceiving and pandering to voters to get re-elected. I was sent here to end this politics as usual.
Their unconstitutional budget – and let me repeat, unconstitutional budget - if signed in its current form, would step on the hard won progress made over the last year and a half to right New Jersey’s fiscal course over the long term and instead embraces Trenton’s previous addiction to spending.
In keeping with my commitment to approve a budget that does not break faith with New Jerseyans and a promise to reform, I have aggressively used the line-item veto and the absolute veto on this budget and accompanying bills to ensure that the state will go into the next fiscal year with a constitutionally balanced budget, without raising taxes on any New Jerseyans and still protecting critical priorities.
My budget is constitutionally balanced, putting New Jersey on stronger fiscal footing while still funding key commitments:
Remember, despite all the rhetoric you have heard and will hear, this budget is not only constitutionally balanced, but represents a commitment to the education of our children. As I said, this year’s budget increases education spending by nearly $850 million over last year, not only restoring all of last year’s cut, but increasing funding and importantly doing so with real revenue, not fantasy revenue supposedly found between the cushions of the couches down at OLS.
New Jersey continues to spend more money per pupil than any other state and now is the time to complement the dollars spent with real education reform. As I outlined in my State of the State address, the next big thing to tackle is education reform.
In contrast, the budget that passed out of the Democratic Senate and Assembly is a reckless and irresponsible homage to the past, putting election year politics ahead of reform and ahead of the taxpayers’ best interests. Their unbalanced, unconstitutional budget relied on phantom revenues, a penchant for political giveaways, unchecked spending and an unconstitutional approach that we will not go back to.
They are back to the tired old playbook that does nothing but threaten the state’s long-term fiscal integrity and denigrate the hard choices that we made together to shrink the structural deficit.
The Democratic budget in Trenton is history repeating itself; it embraces irresponsible spending and ignores the reality that all New Jerseyans seem to understand except for legislative Democrats—we are still in economic distress, government still spends and taxes too much and the people of the state need relief from the huge tax burden the Democrats thrust upon them in the first decade of this century. So, let’s look at their budget.
In sum, Trenton Democrats would rather allow New Jersey to drift back towards the edge of fiscal disaster by embracing the old way of doing things.
This is not the way forward, but a seismic reversal to Trenton’s unrepentant addiction to spending that I vowed to end when I became governor. It’s time we actually learn from past mistakes, instead of repeating them over and over again.
The good news for New Jersey taxpayers is that the constitution gives me the power of the line-item veto, the absolute veto and the support of all of our citizens to end this type of conduct. I will not allow all the hard work and tough decisions, made on the bipartisan basis over the last 18 months to be undone by last-minute political gamesmanship of the legislative majority.
Rather than returning to the old practice of skirting the difficult issues and embracing fiscal irresponsibility, I will continue to make the tough choices every day and set the foundation for reform that will lead to the long-term economic growth and fiscal health of our state. I do not do any of this with a sense of joy. I wish I could be Santa Claus sometimes too. But I know you sent me to Trenton to be the adult supervision in this building. To end the irresponsible spending, to put a stop to the never ending tax increases and to give you a chance to spend your money on your family, not on the pandering of every politician in this building. I will not be deterred on the mission you have given me to restore fiscal sanity to our state and economic growth to our families. The veto of today’s business as usual spending and taxing is another positive step on that long and challenging road.