- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a $34.5 billion budget into law on Thursday just hours ahead of a deadline to enact a balanced spending plan.

He railed against Democrats for building into the budget nearly $300 million in funding for programs, money he said that is beyond what revenue projections support.

“In contrast to the legislative majority’s fiscal irresponsibility, my budget framework provides stability for New Jersey’s economy,” Christie said Thursday night.

Unlike previous years, there was little drama between Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature over the spending plan.

Christie and lawmakers are instead wrangling over transportation funding, which has yet to be resolved. The deadline to renew the transportation trust fund is set to lapse on Friday, without a deal in place to pay for it. The fund has enough cash to go until August, the Christie administration has said.

Christie’s budget leaves taxes unchanged.

He used his line item veto to cut the $300 million in funding called for by Democrats, including $25 million for preschool education expansion and nearly $14 million for environmental preservation.

He also scolded Democrats for including $250 million in budget savings from cuts to public employee health benefits but not enacting reforms.

Instead, Christie issued an executive order calling for funds from half of the state’s transitional aid to towns and funds from legislative changes made in the budget to be held in reserve. The order doesn’t specify how much that is or what towns’ aid would be affected.

The budget allocates about $13 billion for education and $1.9 billion for the public pension.

Democrats said the vetoes show Christie’s priorities are out of sync with the state.

“The governor had an opportunity before him to fund initiatives that would have enabled people to take better care of themselves and their families,” said Democratic Assemblyman Gary Schaer. “That opportunity has been squandered.”

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