Highlights of Christie's proposed NJ budget

By By The Associated Press

Highlights of the New Jersey state budget Republican Gov. Chris Christie proposed Tuesday for the year starting July 1:

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TOTAL SPENDING: $32.9 billion, up by $754 million but still almost $70 million less than the state government spent in the 2007-08 budget year.

PROJECTED REVENUE GROWTH: Nearly 5 percent; Christie built the current-year budget on a growth projection of more than 7 percent, which has since been adjusted downward. Treasurer expects state to end budget year June 30 with $400 million shortfall.

PROPERTY TAX REBATES: To cover shortfall, property tax rebates expected in May will be deferred until August.

MEDICAID: Christie decides state will expand Medicaid to more low-income adults as part of President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul, joining seven other GOP governors. Would take effect Jan. 1, 2014, if Legislature goes along. Christie projects 104,000 of estimated 1.3 million uninsured will be added to the rolls; some groups say number could be much higher. With the expansion, an adult without children earning up to $15,415 could be added to Medicaid, up from the previous earnings ceiling of $2,800.

EDUCATION: Funding for school districts would rise modestly, by $97 million, to nearly $9 billion. No districts will see state cuts. The aid would be a new high for state funding for public schools. In Christie's first budget three years ago, funding was cut.

SCHOOL CHOICE: Proposes $2 million be spent for scholarships up to $10,000 so that 200 low-income students in struggling schools could attend public schools in other districts or private schools. Billed as a pilot program, it's a scaled-back version of a scholarship program that lawmakers have long rejected.

STATE PENSION CONTRIBUTION: Proposes record $1.676 billion contribution, which Christie said meets the terms of a pension reform agreement enacted two years ago.

DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED: Christie announces lawsuit settlement with an advocacy group that said the state was keeping developmentally disabled adults in institutions even though group homes would be better for them. He proposes $42 million in additional state and federal spending to help develop community placements and services. Under the settlement, 600 developmentally disabled adults are to be transferred out of big institutions and into group homes over the next several years.

SANDY CONTINGENCY FUND: Proposes $40 million be added to current-year budget to cover Sandy-related expenses not reimbursed by the federal government. Christie says the fund will help ensure that "those things that fall through the cracks do not bankrupt families, businesses or local governments."

CHRISTIE ON WASHINGTON BUDGET GRIDLOCK:

"It seems to me our leaders in Washington, D.C. could learn from our example here. Their failure to take on the nation's budget challenges and address the unsustainability of the nation's long-term liabilities is nothing short of inexcusable.

"It's past time for Washington to get its act together. That will take two things: bipartisanship. And leadership. Unfortunately, both are missing today."

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