- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie offered New Jersey residents a glimpse of how the state plans to spend their money for the next fiscal year.

Christie presented a plan Tuesday that calls for $34.8 billion in spending, including nearly $2 billion for the public pension. It’s an amount that’s less than a 2011 agreement between unions and lawmakers called for, but nonetheless a figure Democrats have accepted.

A look at some of what the Republican governor laid out:


Q: Are my taxes going up, down or staying flat?

A: Christie proposed no new taxes or tax cuts.


Q: So that includes the gas tax, right?

A: Maybe not. One question left unanswered after Tuesday’s speech regards the fate of the state’s transportation trust fund, which lawmakers say goes broke by July. Democrats have said an increase in the state’s 14.5-cent gas tax is needed, which Christie rejected by itself. But there appears to be some agreement that if the gas tax goes up while other taxes, including those on estates or retirement income, can be slashed then perhaps a deal could be reached.


Q: Is the pension problem I’ve heard so much about fixed?

A: Not entirely. Christie and Democrats have agreed on the fiscal 2017 payment, which amounts to about $1.9 billion. But Christie and Republicans say further reforms are needed, including cutting retirement health benefits, in order to keep the system solvent. Democrats and unions have balked at those ideas in the past. Democrats, meanwhile, say they plan to move forward with a proposed constitutional amendment to require quarterly pension payments. Christie opposes the idea.


Q: What is happening with funding for schools?

A: Christie is proposing an increase of roughly $550 million in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade funding, to $13.3 billion. The administration says all school districts will see a funding increase in 2017.


Q: This budget is $1 billion more than last year’s, so where’s that money coming from?

A: The growth is based on projected increases in the state’s key sources of revenue, income, sales and business taxes. The administration is expecting about 3.1 percent growth compared with the current year’s budget, which amounts to about $1 billion.


Q: Is there a deficit or a surplus?

A: Constitutionally, budgets must be balanced. But Christie also is penciling in a nearly $800 million surplus, above last year’s $350 million.


Q: How many more budgets will Christie be responsible for?

A: Christie’s second term goes through 2017, which means he’ll have one more budget to do after fiscal 2017. Christie pointed out that he has only 630 days left in office and urged lawmakers to work with him on the areas where they’ve disagreed.


Q: Did Christie talk about the presidential campaign when he unveiled the budget?

A: Yes. He said the campaign made him a better governor. Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney said it’s yet to be seen if that’s the case.

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