- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey’s 2017 budget is now law, with Republican Gov. Chris Christie signing the $34.5 billion spending blueprint just hours ahead of the deadline this week.

He allocated his largest payment yet to the public pension and spending billions on education. The governor also slashed a number of Democratic priorities that were funded in the budget sent to him and took executive action aimed at forcing health benefit reform for public workers.

The spending plan did not address the state’s transportation trust fund, and Christie has ordered a plan to shutdown projects paid for by the account until a deal is reached.

Here’s a closer look at who loses and wins in the budget:

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LOSERS

Public sector unions: Christie took aim once again at the public pension and benefits system. He had initially called for cutting $250 million in health benefits that were to be identified by a panel of stakeholders but never were. The Democrat-led Legislature included the cuts from Christie’s budget but did not actually change the benefits in the budget it sent to him. In response, Christie issued an executive order ordering that half the aid to fiscally distressed towns and the funding the Legislature added to his budget be held in reserve until the cuts are made.

Towns unknown: Christie’s order means that aid to some towns will be held in reserve by the state until an agreement is reached to cut health benefits. The governor’s order did not specify which towns or how much cash they stand to lose. The 2017 budget allocates about $107 million for aid to struggling towns, known as transitional aid.

Rainy day fund: Christie faced an unexpected revenue gap, which he filled in part by dipping into the surplus. He had expected a nearly $800 million surplus but instead has a $613 million balance. The smaller the fund, the greater risk that the state might struggle to absorb unforeseen financial risks.

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WINNERS

Retirees: Even though he moved to cut health benefits for pensioners, Christie also funded the pension with nearly $1.9 billion in 2017. It’s the amount called for by the schedule he unveiled at the start of the 2016 budget season and accepted - although not without a fight - by Democrats.

College students: The budget provides about $404 million for the state’s Tuition Aid Grant program, which is about $18 million above last year’s budget. Christie says the change means about 68,000 undergraduates will get support from the program.

Property taxpayers: Christie’s budget increases the state’s property tax relief fund to roughly $15.2 billion from $14.5 billion in 2016. Most of that money is paid out to schools who account for the biggest share of property taxes in the state.

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