- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 16, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey state treasurer told lawmakers Tuesday that Gov. Chris Christie’s fiscal year 2017 budget is expected to be about $527 million shy of expected revenues.

Ford Scudder told the Democrat-led Senate budget committee that the Republican administration will account for the shortfall by spending less than expected in a number of programs. He also said it will divert $50 million from the Clean Energy Fund and defer homestead benefit payments to towns across the state.

The shortfall is smaller than in previous years when Christie at one point in 2014 faced a $3 billion gap across two fiscal years and was forced to slash payments to the state’s public pension to make up for the missed revenue projections.

Scudder also told legislators that revenue projections for the 2018 budget, which begins on July 1, are expected to be $191 million higher from those made earlier this year.

Scudder’s estimates contrast with the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, which has estimated a $687 million gap to close over the two fiscal years. The legislative analysts said they expected the 2017 revenues to dip by $274 million compared to earlier estimates and by $413 million for 2018.

These are Christie’s final two budgets as governor, as he is term-limited and expected to leave office in January. He’s proposing a $35.5 billion spending plan for 2018, which lawmakers are considering.

The biggest changes he proposed include overhauling the state’s education funding system, transferring the state lottery to the underfunded public pension and requiring the state’s largest insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, to pay for drug recovery programs.

There are few details on the education funding changes, which Christie has said is being discussed with lawmakers. He has proposed separate legislation to transfer the lottery to the pension, but it has not advanced, neither has his plan to require the insurer to pay for drug treatments.

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