When Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D., Camden) asked the Christie administration to provide a list of spending reductions it rejected or didn't consider in trying to close a $2.3 billion budget gap, Greenwald received a list of about a dozen items "considered but not accepted."
One of the items took direct aim at Greenwald and his colleagues in the Assembly: $800,000, listed under "Return Assembly Salary Funds." The Democrat-controlled Assembly last year overspent its account for employee salaries by $800,000 but received a last-minute infusion of cash from the outgoing Corzine administration.
Greenwald said he had wanted to try to come up with alternatives to the proposed budget cuts, but that he was disappointed with the first response he received from the administration.
"It was an insult the way it was sent back to us," Greenwald said. "We asked for a comprehensive list."
Also on the list was reducing Corzine's transition funds by $250,000, eliminating Saturday hours at the Motor Vehicles Commission for certain holiday weekends, freezing children's enrollment in the state health insurance program for needy families, eliminating $20 million in aid to ailing hospitals and a larger cut to charity care for hospitals than the $12.5 million cut ultimately adopted.
Greenwald said the list was "basically worthless." "It was not an earnest attempt to find alternatives," he said.
Greenwald said he has since received a more complete list of items that were not proposed to be cut from the current budget, but the list still did not include account numbers, without which it is difficult to determine which department an item is in. He said that after conversations with administration officials, however, he is now hopeful the door remains open to "legitimate alternatives" to some of the budget cuts proposed by the governor.
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