Budget debate: Round 2

The Senate's first budget hearing with Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff picked up Thursday in the same combative style as Wednesday's Assembly session.

Senate Democrats once again accused Gov. Christie of giving the wealthy a tax break while taking away property tax rebates for all residents, including nearly $1,300 average checks for senior citizens. Republicans said Democrats had run the state's budget into the ground, forcing the budget cuts Christie has proposed.

"For the past four weeks, the Governor has been talking about a budget that is based on a concept of 'shared sacrifice.' I would really like to know what budget he is talking about," said Senate Budget chairman Paul Sarlo (D., Bergen).

He also chastised the administration for not releasing detailed budget documents until late Tuesday.

"For a governor who campaigned on making Trenton more transparent, and an administration that promised unprecedented transparency from day one, the fact that this committee received a draft budget document at 6 p.m. Tuesday is embarrassing," Sarlo said.

Republicans said Christie had to deliver "harsh medicine" after years of Democratic tax increases and borrowing.

"Our State has been brought to its knees and we are on the brink of insolvency," said Sen. Anthony Bucco (R., Morris). "A recession was a major factor. But the policies of Democrat governors and past Democrat leaders of the Legislature made things worse. The problem is spending, even a former Democratic Treasurer acknowledged that this state has a 'spending problem' not a revenue problem."

Eristoff said revenues have fallen drastically, but that New Jersey's real problem has been increased spending. He again reiterated Christie's stand that the budget would include no major tax hikes.

Democrats control the Legislature and have until July 1 to approve a budget. It's early, but they appear to be on a collision course with the governor.

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